Cartel leader accused in deadly casino attack arrested

Oliva Castillo, accused of overseeing criminal operations in three Mexican states, has been captured in Saltillo, Mexico.

Story highlights

  • Mexico says it arrested Zetas regional boss Carlos Oliva Castillo
  • He was as high as third in the organization
  • Cartel members tried to rescue him from authorities
A top Zetas drug cartel leader -- who allegedly ordered the attack and arson at a casino that killed 52 -- has been captured, Mexican defense officials said Thursday.
Carlos Oliva Castillo, alias "La rana," or frog, was arrested Wednesday at a safehouse without a single shot being fired, the country's Ministry of Defense said.
Possibly the No. 3 man in the criminal organization, Oliva Castillo allegedly oversaw criminal operations for the cartel in three Mexican states. He was captured in Saltillo, Mexico.
Though he was arrested without incident, the cartel tried to distract troops by attacking security forces in different parts of the city, the defense ministry said.
The Zetas' rescue ploy failed.
According to officials, Oliva Castillo was "the principal manager" of the ruthless Zetas in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. He was also described as a confidant of Zetas boss Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano.
Oliva Castilo began working for the Zetas in 2005 in Tamaulipas, the defense ministry said, and rose through the ranks quickly. By 2009 he was in charge of the cartel's finances in Nuevo Leon, before taking charge of all operations in that state, the ministry said. This year he assumed a wider role, the ministry said.
The three northeastern states that Oliva Castillo allegedly oversaw are some of the Zetas' strongest-held territory. Authorities say that much of the violence registered in these states is the result of the Zetas fighting rival groups such as the Gulf cartel and Sinaloa cartel, for access to lucrative smuggling routes.
But the Zetas -- especially in their strongholds -- have branched out from drug trafficking and into extortion of businesses, kidnappings, and human smuggling.
The deadly attack that Oliva Castillo is accused of ordering is the casino arson in the city of Monterrey where 52 people died. Officials allege that the attack happened because the casino owners did not comply with payments to the cartel.
Last year, the bodies of 72 migrants from Central and South America were discovered at a ranch in San Fernando, located in Tamaulipas state.
The Zetas have been blamed for the mass graves and for the deaths of the migrants.