Police in El Salvador have rounded up 16 alleged members of the Texis Cartel, in the latest sign that authorities are edging ever closer to cartel kingpin "El Chepe Diablo."
Among the arrests made in a series of raids in various locations in the east of the country were former congressman Antonio Ascencio and several cattle ranchers, reported La Prensa Grafica.
The 16 stand accused of drug trafficking linked to the Texis Cartel and the recently arrested Roberto Herrera, alias "El Burro," who has been formally charged with running a car theft ring but is believed to be a leading Texis Cartel trafficker.
Police also raided three ranches and other residences, one of which belonged to Herrera.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of El Burro Herrera marked a breakthrough for the El Salvador authorities in their attempts to crack the Texis Cartel, a key link in the Central America drug trafficking chain, which for years has eluded authorities, mainly thanks to its high-level network of corrupt contacts.
Herrera was one of three key figures in the Texis Cartel, along with Juan Umaña Samayoa -- the mayor of Metapan, where the organization's power structure is centered -- and Jose Adan Salazar Umaña, alias "El Chepe Diablo," -- president of the first division of Salvadoran soccer, and owner of a business empire based around a chain of hotels.
SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel Profile
Salazar represents the most sought after scalp for the authorities, and with the fall of Herrera and now the recent round of arrests, it appears the Salvadoran authorities have begun to close the circle around him.
As with Herrera, if Salazar is captured it will probably be because authorities have managed to build a case not directly related to drug trafficking. The most likely line of investigation prosecutors will take will instead focus on his business dealings and financial crimes. However, as the recent troubles in finding a court to try three more cartel operatives demonstrates, bringing any case to trial will likely prove a stiff challenge in itself.