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Drug cartel manager pleads guilty to conspiracy

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A former manager for Mexico's Gulf cartel has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy charges in federal court in Brownsville.

The U.S. Attorney's office announced that Jose Luis Zuniga Hernandez, also known as "el Wicho," pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to import cocaine and marijuana between 2002 and 2013.

The 46-year-old Zuniga had stints managing cartel operations in Matamoros and the nearby border community of El Control. He had been sentenced to seven years in prison in January 2013 on immigration and weapons charges. He and several others were arrested by the Border Patrol after escaping cartel rivals and crossing the Rio Grande in 2011. At the time, they had cash, drugs and a jewel-encrusted handgun bearing his nickname.

Zuniga's second-in-command, Armando Arizmendi Hernandez, pleaded guilty to the charges Tuesday.

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