Hector Beltran Leyva, the purported head of a feared drug gang allegedly run by his family, became the fourth brother to lose his freedom when soldiers grabbed him while he was dining at a seafood restaurant.
No shots were fired during the operation in San Miguel de Allende, a popular enclave for foreigners and artists in the central state of Guanajuato, said Tomas Zeron, the federal criminal investigations chief.
The Beltran Leyva gang terrorised parts of central Mexico for years, including Morelos state to the south of Mexico City. It declined somewhat after the arrests and killing of three of Hector Beltran Leyva’s brothers, but the US Treasury Department said last November that the cartel appeared to be reorganising and regaining some power.
“Obviously this is not the Beltran Leyvas’ organisation in its strongest moment but it continues to be a criminal organisation capable of generating localised violence in some states,” said Jorge Chabat, a security expert.
An 11-month investigation determined he had made his home in the central state of Queretaro, where he passed himself off as a businessman selling art and real estate. Mr Beltran Leyva was tracked to San Miguel de Allende and taken into custody along with a man suspected of being involved of the cartel’s finances.
According to the US State Department, Mr Beltran Leyva, whose aliases included “the H” and “the Engineer”, was born 16 February 1965, in the northern state of Sinaloa, a cradle of drug trafficking.
He has been indicted in courts in the District of Columbia and New York. US authorities have offered a reward of up to $5m (£3.1m) for information leading to his capture, and Mexico had offered a reward of 30m pesos (£1.4m).
“This action proves the effectiveness of the public policy of security and law enforcement to achieve the Mexico at peace that we desire,” President Enrique Pena Nieto said via his Twitter account.