Mexican army arrests 167 cartel members in ‘biggest op ever’ – but it backfires

Mexican military personnel reportedly arrested 167 armed members of a regional self-defense group on Saturday (April 13) – but the operation didn't quite go as planned.

The army apprehended the members of "Pueblos Unidos", which has links to a number of Mexican drug cartels, in one of Mexico's largest ever round-ups that also saw them seize more than 200 weapons including hand grenades and grenade launchers.

Michoacán governor Alfredo Ramírez said: "Thanks to the hard work of the National Guard, the Mexican Military and State officials, we managed to arrest 167 armed men that pretended to destabilize the region."

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But the successful mission was soon met with retaliation.

Armed members of Pueblos Unidos led a convoy through the streets of Uruapan, Michoacán state, demanding the release of those who had been arrested.

More Pueblos Unidos group members blocked six National Guard patrol vehicles and trapped the 25 officers inside, kidnapping them just hours after the group members had been kidnapped, authorities revealed.

Soon negotiations began between a Pueblos Unidos leader and authorities, which fortunately led to the officers' release.

Details of the negotiations have not been revealed.

Those arrested on Saturday include Raymundo Gallegos, also known as "La Maseca." He is thought to be a member of the criminal organisation Caballeros Templarios, which formed from La Familia Michoacana, another "self-defense" group turned drug cartel.

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Gabino Cornejo, who works for the Carteles Unidos criminal group, was also reportedly arrested on Saturday.

"Pueblos Unidos" was initially created in 2021, they claimed, as a "self-defense group" fighting Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

However it is also believed the group could just be a different iteration of the “Carteles Unidos”, who have links to La Familia Michoacana and other cartels and criminal organisations including Caballeros Templarios, Los Viagras and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Ex-Pueblos Unidos leader José Artemio Maldonado, or “El Michoacano”, was arrested last year after establishing a reputation for himself as one of the biggest fuel thieves in Mexico.

In December, four months after his arrest, he escaped from prison along with eight other gang members, but he was shortly arrested once more in Mexico City the following April

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