Mexican security forces arrested José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, the infamous extortion gang leader and fuel thief and alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. Ortiz, more commonly known as "El Marro" — the Sledgehammer, was arrested by federal and state authorities during a raid at a house on Sunday morning in the central state of Guanajuato, according to the authorities.

Ortiz, 40, is accused of fanning a sharp rise in crime and violence in the country, which had become a major challenge for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's government over the past few years. Ortiz's arrest comes at a time when Mexican cartels have once again started exercising their power, which has resulted in a spike in smuggling activities across the border into the United States.

A Big Catch

José Antonio Yépez Ortiz
José Antonio Yépez Ortiz is accused of fanning a sharp rise in crime and violence in the country, which had become a major challenge for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government YouTube Grab

Mexican authorizes had long been looking for Ortiz and his arrest was part of a planned raid. Five other people along with Ortiz were arrested from the hideout, while a businesswoman who was kidnapped was rescued during the raid. Ortiz was detained through an arrest warrant for "organized crime and fuel theft." The operation was jointly carried out by the federal authorities and state police, a joint statement said.

Police were looking more aggressively for Ortiz over the past few months, with Mexican authorities even targeting his family and close circle amid escalating violence in Guanajuato. News of Ortiz's arrest was first confirmed by Mexico's Security Minister, Alfonso Durazo, via Twitter. Later in a video posted on his Twitter account, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador praised the arrest.

Mexico's Struggle Continues

José Antonio Yépez Ortiz
José Antonio Yépez Ortiz after his arrest Guanajuato State Attorney's Office

Fuel theft and extortion have seen a spike in Mexico over the past few years, with Guanajuato becoming the hotspot of gang violence. The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel makes most of its money from fuel theft and extortion.

Ortiz, who has been one of the most dreaded names in the region, has been engaged in a bloody struggle for supremacy in Guanajuato with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), one of Mexico's most powerful and violent gangs. This turf war for control has seen a spike in crimes in the region, with at least 10 homicides being reported every day. According to government data, the state has recorded at least 1,691 homicides in the first half of the year, making it the deadliest state in Mexico.

Ortiz definitely is a prized catch for the Mexican authorities, and also perhaps the highest profile gang lord to get arrested since Obrador came to power. Obrador and his government had lately come under fire for the non-combative approach to organized crime, after introducing a strategy he dubbed "abrazos, no balazos," or hugs, not bullets. Instead, violence and homicides have only increased since then.

Last year, Obrador's government came under serious criticism after the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán, son of former Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, as he had to be released within hours because the cartel gunmen took several security officers hostage and paralyzed the northern city of Culiacán.