Zetas Drug Cartel Communications Dismantled By Mexican Navy

09/09/2011 01:42 pm ET | Updated Nov 09, 2011

VERACRUZ, Mexico -- The Mexican navy dismantled a telecommunications system set up by the Zetas drug cartel in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz and arrested 80 people, including six police officers, officials announced Thursday.

Navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said forces confiscated 13 antennae the cartel set up in several cities in Veracruz to provide communication for the gang's two-way radios.

The 26-day operation also netted seven amplifiers, power supplies, batteries, solar panels and wiring and seven trailer trucks carrying medical kits, clothing and groceries. The system was operated from a central base in Veracruz and reached part of neighboring Tabasco state, Vergara said.

Most of the 80 detainees have prior arrests for extortion, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder, he said.

Veracruz, which lies on drug- and migrant-trafficking routes north, has experienced a spike in violence as the Gulf and Zetas cartels fight an intensifying turf war in the state.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began deploying federal police and troops to some regions in December 2006 to fight drug traffickers. Other groups put the death toll at 40,000.

On Thursday, Finance Secretary Ernesto Cordero announced that the federal government's 2012 budget will allocate $11.8 billion to agencies in charge of battling drug cartels, an increase of 11 percent from 2011.

In the northern state of Chihuahua, authorities said Thursday that they found weapons and drugs in three tunnels dug under a state prison in the city of Chihuahua.

Authorities found six automatic rifles, 18 hand weapons, hundreds of bullets, cell phones, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, state prosecutors spokesman Carlos Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said authorities found the weapons while searching the Aquiles Serdan prison for evidence that inmates were running an extortion network from there.

He said police are investigating whether the group had help from prison officials.

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