San Jose - Costa Rican authorities arrested a 37-year-old Mexican on Thursday, accusing him of running drug trafficking operations in Central America for Mexico's Gulf Cartel.

Judicial police arrested Juan Manuel Garcia in a hotel in downtown San Jose hotel along with Francisco Gonzalez Rangel, 57, also Mexican and suspected of belonging to the same criminal group, officials said.

“This is a major suspect in the trafficking operations of this cartel,” Francisco Segura, head of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Organism, told a news conference.

“Juan Manuel Garcia, a Mexican who leads this organization, is wanted in all Central American countries, but never before had any country built up enough proof to form a case against him until now,” Segura said.

Eleven people were arrested in total, all believed to be working in the same gang. Police said they seized 45 kilograms (99 pounds) of cocaine, cash and a gun.

Five of those arrested were Mexican and the rest Costa Rican truck drivers accused of moving drug shipments from Panama to Mexico.

Costa Rica, a quiet tourism hub known for its ecology reserves, has increasingly become a transit point for Mexican cartels.

Authorities have reported seizing almost six tons of cocaine this year and $8 million in cash over the past two years.

Officials also blamed a spike in violence in recent years on drug gangs operating in the country. The government approved a security tax on businesses to raise an extra $70 million in 2011.

Security officials have said the funding paid off, as Costa Rica now has the lowest homicide rate in Central America, with 10.3 murders per 100 000 inhabitants. - Reuters