Police raided a church service in western Mexico and arrested a man known as "The Truck" who is suspected of moving a half ton of crystal methamphetamine into the United States each month, federal officials said Monday.
Authorities detained Miguel Angel Beraza and another drug suspect after surrounding a church in Apatzingan in drug-plagued Michoacan state, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the Federal Police's anti-drug unit. About 40 others at the Mass were brought in for questioning.
DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart said Beraza is a high-ranking lieutenant in the La Familia drug cartel, and that his arrest is the result of the "resolute partnership" between the U.S. and Mexico.
"Together with our Mexican counterparts, we will continue attacking the La Familia Cartel, which not only controls the methamphetamine supply in several U.S. cities, but also has been the source of unprecedented violence in Michoacan," she said.
Beraza was in charge of the La Familia drug cartel's methamphetamine shipments to the U.S., hiding the loads in fruit trucks, Pequeno said. Authorities also seized $13,000, two assault rifles, several grenades and 130 cell phones as part of the operation.
Authorities made the arrest based on information gathered last month after 18 federal agents were killed in a string of attacks blamed on La Familia, which controls much of the U.S. methamphetamine supply, Pequeno said.
Drug cartels have unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence since President Felipe Calderon launched his national crackdown on organized crime in Michoacan, his home state, after taking office in 2006. Since then, more than 11,000 people have been killed by drug violence nationwide.
Federal authorities say most of those are drug smugglers killed in turf battles with their rivals over the lucrative drug routes into the United States.