bY Peter Orsi
Federal police have arrested another drug cartel suspect linked to last month's attack in Mexico that killed one U.S. agent and wounded another, authorities said Wednesday.
Mario Jimenez Perez, 41, alias "El Mayito," oversaw finances for the Zetas cartel in the northern state of San Luis Potosi, the Public Safety Department said in a statement. He allegedly ran payroll for cartel assassins, managed income from drug sales and acquired properties and communications equipment for the gang.
Federal police arrested him March 5 along with 16 other suspects who purportedly worked for the Zetas.
This "heavily armed group provided protection to leaders of the criminal gang ... and presumably worked as extorters, kidnappers and killers in addition to transporting, buying and selling drugs," the statement said.
Four of the suspects were hospitalized immediately, but officials did not say whether there was a shootout or provide information on their condition. Police seized firearms, drugs, vehicles, cell phones and radios.
The Public Safety Department did not give any details on Jimenez's alleged involvement in the Feb. 15 killing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, who was shot dead by gunmen after they stopped his vehicle on a highway in San Luis Potosi. A second agent, Victor Avila, was wounded.
Mexican authorities have previously arrested a number of purported Zetas operatives allegedly involved in the attack. One of the suspects who allegedly took part in the shooting said gunmen mistook the agents' SUV for a vehicle used by a rival gang, the Mexican military said.
San Luis Potosi borders two northern states where the Zetas and the Gulf cartel have waged bloody turf wars. Zapata and Avila were temporarily detailed to the ICE attache office in Mexico City and were driving from the northern city of Monterrey to the capital when they were attacked.
Though it is rare for U.S. officials to be attacked, the U.S. government has become increasingly concerned about the safety of its employees in Mexico amid soaring drug violence.
In March, a U.S. employee of the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, her husband and a Mexican tied to the consulate were killed when drug gang members fired on their cars after they left a children's party in the city across from El Paso, Texas.
In all, more than 35,000 people have died nationwide in drug violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out offensive against cartels.