Mexico captures man suspected of 200 murders

Mexican police have arrested a man in the western state of Jalisco suspected of orchestrating a string of crimes including more than 200 murders, the country's interior ministry said.

Felipe Viveros, 30, was captured alongside Jose Bernabe, 43 and Froylan Barrera, 40, the interior ministry said in a statement that did not indicate when they were apprehended.

All three are suspected of being involved in crimes including kidnapping, extortion and arms trafficking, but only Viveros is thought to have ordered the homicides, the statement said.

"It is presumed that Viveros ordered and participated in more than 200 murders committed against kidnapping victims, members of rival gangs and drug dealers. He has also been identified as one of the heads of a group extorting various authorities in Jalisco," the statement said.

Viveros was said to have committed the crimes in the states of Jalisco and Guerrero to the south, and he has been directly linked to at least 10 kidnappings. Bernabe and Barrera are alleged to have supplied information, security and communication to various criminal groups, the statement said.

The western states of Jalisco, Guerrero and Michoacan have become the bloody epicenter of Mexico's drug war in recent months, harboring drug cartels and vigilante groups engaged in regular conflict with the country's security forces.

On Monday, Mexican authorities found the bodies of eight kidnap victims, some dismembered, on a highway in Guerrero.

The state, home to the resort city of Acapulco, is one of Mexico's most violent, and drug cartels are battling for lucrative trafficking routes to the United States while also fighting over territory for kidnapping and extortion rackets.

Security in the state has been ramped up at various times over the past few years, including after the discovery of dozens of bodies in clandestine graves, battles between rival groups and the burning of entire villages.

But the violence has not ceased and 2012 ended with more than 2,600 killings in Guerrero.

More than 80,000 people have died since former President Felipe Calderon sent in the troops to tame the warring gangs in early 2007.

The number of homicides has fallen slightly since new President Enrique Pena Nieto took office last year.

Nonetheless, roughly 1,000 people are still killed each month in drug-related slayings, and the kidnapping and extortion rates have risen dramatically, leading some critics to question Pena Nieto's tactics for ending the violence. (Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Eric Beech)

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