By Jeff Bliss
U.S. authorities arrested 100 people and seized more than $4 million in a nationwide sweep against Mexican drug cartels sparked by the killing of a U.S. immigration agent last week, Drug Enforcement Administration officials said.
The operation also “dovetails with our primary mission” of shutting down networks for illegal drugs, said David Levey, a DEA spokesman, in an interview. The crackdown, which is being coordinated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, began yesterday and is continuing, DEA officials said.
Yesterday, the Mexican army detained a main suspect and five others tied to the Feb. 15 killing of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in San Luis Potosi state.
The suspects, led by Julian Zapata Espinoza, were captured in a safe house and belong to the organized-crime gang known as the Zetas, said Ricardo Trevilla, a spokesman for Mexico’s Defense Ministry, in a televised news conference yesterday in Mexico City.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico late yesterday and thanked him for the efforts to investigate the case and the arrest of suspects, the White House press office said in a statement. Calderon is scheduled to meet Obama in Washington during a trip next week.
Jaime Zapata was driving an armored sports utility vehicle along Mexico’s Highway 57 when 12 to 15 armed men in two vehicles forced him to stop, according to Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of a U.S. Homeland Security subcommittee who was briefed on the incident. After Zapata and Avila identified themselves as U.S. agents, the gunmen opened fire and fled, said McCaul, a Texas Republican.