CARACAS, Venezuela, July 23 (UPI) -- Venezuela has arrested two former military members accused of drug trafficking, including one linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel wanted by both Interpol and the United States.
Retired Capt. Vassyly "El Potro" Villarroel, 43, leader of "The Cartel of the 40" criminal gang, and Retired Lt. Robert Pinto Gil were arrested in separate operations on Monday, according to Venezuela's Ministry of Popular Power for Interior, Justice and Peace.
Villarroel is wanted by Interpol for drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy. He is also wanted by the United States for money laundering and drug trafficking.
Villarroel has confirmed links to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel's financier and money launderer Fran Tello, known as "The Black Fran," who is currently being held in the United States.
"It was learned that the retired captain is also responsible for facilitating the delivery of large quantities of cocaine from Mexico into the United States," Venezuela's Interior Ministry said.
Pinto Gil, accused of being the head of criminal gangs linked to drug trafficking in the Venezuelan states of Anzoátegui and Sucre, was also arrested. He was wanted on charges of drug trafficking, conspiracy and resisting arrest.
Pinto Gil previously escaped from the Carabobo Prison Complex in 2012.
The arrests are part of Venezuela's nationwide "Liberation of the People" security operation, in which hundreds of suspected criminals have been arrested.
Venezuelan officials are attempting to tackle an economic and security crisis as the country has one of the highest levels of inflation in the world and is also one of the most dangerous. The country is also deeply divided politically, where the country's opposition accuses the government of massive corruption and inefficiency.
The official murder rate estimate in Venezuela was 39 murders per 1,000 people in 2013, but independent nonprofit groups argue the figure to be much higher.