Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico arrests a leader of Knights Templar drug cartel

Juan Gabriel Orozco Favela (L), alias "Gasca", is presented by a Mexican soldier to the media in Mexico City November 15, 2011.
Image caption Mr Orozco Favela allegedly abducted, tortured and killed 21 people in June

Mexico's military says it has arrested a commander of the Knights Templar drug cartel in western Michoacan state.

Juan Gabriel Orozco Favela is accused of leading the cartel's drug smuggling operations in the area and allegedly tortured and killed 21 people in June.

Officials said he was arrested on Sunday, during elections in Michoacan state that were marred by drug-related violence and voter intimidation.

The Knights Templar formed earlier this year as an offshoot of La Familia.

It now controls much of the methamphetamine and marijuana trade in western Mexico.

At least 40,000 people are believed to have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon first deployed the military to fight the cartels in 2006.

Critics of the policy say successes in capturing cartel leaders have not slowed the flow of drugs and may have exacerbated the violence by triggering power struggles within the cartels.

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