The Mexican authorities have captured an alleged drug trafficker identified as the "second in command" within the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, said to be the fastest growing criminal organization in the country.
National Security Commissioner Enrique Galindo said Ivan Cazarín Molina was detained early on Wednesday along with three other alleged members of the group in a town just south of the city of Guadalajara, the capital of the western state of Jalisco.
"Federal police surprised the armed criminals who, at that moment, were drinking alcohol and playing soccer in the street," Galindo told a press conference on Wednesday evening. "There were no shots fired."
While he did not mention the New Generation Jalisco Cartel by name, the commissioner said Cazarín reported directly to the group's alleged leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias El Mencho.
Galindo said Cazarín, who also goes by the name of Victor Hugo Delgado Rentería, was wanted in connection with a handful of criminal investigations involving drug trafficking, oil theft, kidnapping and murder. He added that the arrest operation included the seizure of five assault rifles, four handguns, four vehicles, communications equipment of various kinds and a bag of white powder resembling cocaine.
The New Generation Jalisco Cartel was formed about five years ago from the remnants of other groups broken up following previous government operations that lead to the capture or death of their leaders.
While it was previously treated as minor partner of the Mexico's biggest trafficking organization — the Sinaloa cartel — the group has recently be accepted as an independent force to be reckoned with. The government named the New Generation Jalisco Cartel as a priority target earlier this year following a series of direct attacks on the security forces.
Commissioner Galindo said that Cazarín was "probably" behind the shooting down of an army helicopter on May 1 that killed nine soldiers during a major show of cartel force that also included multiple coordinated roadblocks across Jalisco and in several neighboring states.
The importance of the detention was greeted with some skepticism by New Generation Jalisco Cartel watchers. The government periodically claims to have captured or killed key capos who turn out to have not been as central to criminal operations as implied.
"It can look a big like wishful thinking to say they have detained the second in command," Jesús Pérez, a close watcher of the Jalisco group for the website Insight Crime told VICE News, stressing that he did not expect the arrest to have much of an impact on daily operations.
"The structures used by these organizations allow them to continue operating without much problem," he said. "The Jalisco cartel is formed from a network of family cells that operate independently."
Duncan Tucker in Guadalajara contributed to this report