Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico navy smashes Zetas cartel communications network

A member of the Mexican navy with telecoms gear of the Zetas drug cartel in Veracruz, Mexico, Thursday 8 Sept
Image caption The operation was carried out by marine special forces

The Mexican navy says it has broken up a sophisticated communications network used by the Zetas drugs cartel in the eastern state of Veracruz.

The navy said it seized mobile radio transmitters and encryption equipment that the gang was using to coordinate its criminal activities.

At least 80 suspects have been arrested over the past month.

Founded by former army commandos, the Zetas are considered one of Mexico's most violent cartels.

Last month, the gang was blamed for an arson attack on a casino in the northern city of Monterrey which killed 52 people.

The Mexican navy said the operation against the Zetas in Veracruz was carried out by marine special forces after months of work by naval intelligence officers.

It said the gang had installed secure radio communications systems in at least 10 towns in Veracruz.

Command 'disrupted'

The network was being used to coordinate drug trafficking, kidnap, extortion and murder across much of the state.

The equipment seized included high-powered transmitters, computers, radio scanners, encryption devices and solar power cells.

The immediate result of the operation was the disruption of the Zetas' "chain of command and tactical coordination" in Veracruz, navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said.

The Mexican navy has been playing a growing role in the Mexican government's campaign against drugs gangs, and marines have captured or killed several of the most wanted suspected drugs barons.

In recent months Veracruz state has seen an upsurge in violence blamed on a struggle between the Zetas and its rivals, the La Familia and Gulf cartels, for control of drug smuggling routes.

Around 40,000 people have died in drug related violence in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon began deploying the armed forces to combat the cartels.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites