More than a year and a half since the disappearance of New York resident Harry Devert, the leader of the drug gang accused of his murder has been arrested in a resort town in the crime-afflicted state of Guerrero.
The alleged leader of the Guerreros gang, Adrian "El Tigre" Reyes, 25, was arrested last Tuesday and charged with kidnapping and murder charges related to Devert's death.
Devert, a 32-year-old traveling blogger who documented his trips on his website A New Yorker Travels, disappeared last year on January 25 while riding a motorcycle across Mexico on his way to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.
After a six-month search, Devert's dismembered corpse was found in bags about 40 miles from the tourist town of Zihuatanejo, with an unspecified amount of cocaine and marijuana near his body.
The day Devert disappeared, he told his family he had met a few setbacks because of "crazy military stuff," and explained that a "military escort" had removed him from an area near Michoacan that was too dangerous for him to be in, and would be taking him to meet a second "escort." It's not clear what Devert meant by his reference to military escorts. Some Mexican gangs use counterfeit military or police vehicles in order to move around their areas, but there is no evidence that this is what Devert was referring to.
"Like most things that I do in my life, I tend to take things to an extreme," Devert, who gave up a career as a stock trader to travel the world, wrote in his final blog post. "I've never ridden a motorcycle before, know a bunch of people who have gotten seriously hurt on them and unfortunately a few who have died. But there's no time like the present."
An unnamed official told reporters that French-born Devert had been murdered because he was believed to be an undercover US government agent by members of the Guerreros drug gang — an offshoot of the Knights Templar cartel, which took hold in the region following the decline of the infamous La Familia cartel.
In addition to Devert's murder, Guerreros gang leader Adrian "El Tigre" Reyes has been charged with drug trafficking, money laundering and extortion, in addition to the 2014 kidnapping of an Italian businessman, and the disappearance of two federal Mexican officials.
Federal authorities also arrested a man believed to be in Reyes's protection, Mariano Sierra Santana, who is a founding member of the Viagras drug gang, a group comprised of former self-defense militia members who tasked themselves with taking out the Knights Templar cartel.
The two men were found in possession of nine firearms, according to Mexico's interior ministry.
A self-defense militia leader turned drug gang boss, Sierra fled the troubled neighboring state of Michoacan after a dispute with Luis "El Americano" Torres, who also led a self-defense militia before allegedly forming ties with the Knights Templar cartel.
Sierra was wanted for crimes similar to Reyes, in addition to rape, and charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a June 2014 shootout in Apatzingan, Michoacan, which left seven dead.
Following the arrest of Templar cartel boss Servando "La Tuta" Gomez in March, and the dismantling of the ruling structure of La Familia, these armed gangs have fought for territory once dominated by the powerful cartel.
VICE News spoke exclusively with Sierra's brother, Nicolás "El Gordo" Sierra in March, and while the confessed Viagras leader did not deny their group's involvement in methamphetamine production, he claimed the government was criminalizing him and his men, working to turn self-defense militias against each other. Days after La Tuta's arrest, Sierra told VICE News that he and the Viagras would be next on the list.
"The government's strategy is to turn leaders into criminals," Nicolás Sierra said in March from his hide-out in Michoacan. "I haven't forgotten something La Tuta said: 'You're all going to get fucked.' That's what he said, and that's what has happened."
Despite multiple high-profile arrests made by Mexican authorities in recent years, it is still unclear whether the government's strategy of cartel dismantlement will prove successful in the ongoing war to restore order in violence-afflicted Mexico, or if it will create further chaos in the region.
"There is so much good and so much to love in this world I sometimes can't understand how people find time to hate things or even find enough things to be upset about," Devert wrote in the About Me section of his website. "I believe life is short and that we need to make the most of it, and while many people say this, I truly try and live my life accordingly."
Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter: @MetabolizedJunk
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