Mexican federal police said on Wednesday they detained one of the US’ most-wanted drug traffickers, Luis Rodriguez Olivera, at Mexico City’s international airport.
US authorities had offered a reward of up to US$5 million for Rodriguez Olivera, who is known by the nickname “Blondie,” according to Mexico’s Public Safety Department.
Olivera and his brother Esteban are accused of smuggling tonnes of cocaine and methamphetamine into Europe and the US, mainly through Texas. Esteban was extradited to the US in March.
Luis Rodriguez Olivera, 39, was indicted in US federal court in 2009 on cocaine-smuggling conspiracy and related charges. The red-haired suspect was arrested on Tuesday, officials said.
His gang, known as “The Blondies,” formed temporary allegiances with bigger Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, officials say. He is being held until a hearing on a US extradition request.
Also on Wednesday, Mexican authorities seized 120 tonnes of a precursor chemical used to make methamphetamines at the Pacific coast port of Lazaro Cardenas, the fifth such large shipment seized so far this month.
The Attorney General’s Office said the shipment, like the previous four, came from China and was destined for Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala.
The chemical, which filled eight shipping containers, was identified as methylamine.
The latest bust brings to almost 675 tonnes the amount of meth precursors seized in Mexico this month, more than half of the entire amount — 1,200 tonnes — seized in Mexico in all of this year.
Experts familiar with methamphetamine production call the seizure a huge amount of raw material, noting that under some production methods, precursor chemicals can yield about half their weight in uncut meth.
Authorities said they seized 205 tonnes of the chemical at Lazaro Cardenas over several days early this month, and on Dec. 19 they announced the discovery of almost 100 tonnes. On Dec. 23, authorities announced the seizure of 229 tonnes of precursor chemicals at the port, and on Dec. 26, another 21 tonnes were found at another port.
Authorities have not said which cartels the shipments may have belonged to.
The port of Lazaro Cardenas is located in the home territory of the Knights Templar drug cartel, but the Sinaloa and Zetas cartels have been more active in Central America. Officials say the Sinaloa cartel in particular has moved into meth production on an industrial scale.
Mexico has busted a few huge meth laboratories and traffickers could be looking for other locations to install production.
“When controls over precursors were strengthened in the United States, manufacture shifted to Mexico,” according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2011 World Drug Report.