Mexico arrests Juarez drug cartel leader

2014-10-10 12:36
Alleged Mexican drug trafficker Vicente Carillo Fuentes is escorted by a police officer in Mexico City. (Ronaldo Schemidt, AFP)

Alleged Mexican drug trafficker Vicente Carillo Fuentes is escorted by a police officer in Mexico City. (Ronaldo Schemidt, AFP)

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Mexico City - Mexican police arrested Juarez drug cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes on Thursday, catching a man known as "El Viceroy" whose gang's turf wars with enemies were blamed for thousands of deaths.

Wearing a short-sleeve blue shirt and jeans, Carrillo Fuentes was hauled in front of television cameras at Mexico City's airport and escorted into a helicopter by a masked federal police officer holding him down by the neck. On TV, he later denied killing anyone.

The hulking 51-year-old suspect had grey hair and lacked the thin black moustache that he sported in old pictures.

His capture gives President Enrique Pena Nieto another victory against major drug traffickers at a time of national outrage over fears that 43 students were killed by a police-backed gang in Guerrero state.

Carrillo Fuentes was arrested by federal police at a checkpoint as he drove in Torreon, a city in the northern state of Coahuila, thanks to intelligence work, said National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido.

He was with a bodyguard who was also arrested. No guns were fired in the operation.

The drug baron was found after the discovery of homes in Torreon that he used "in a discreet way," Rubido said.

The United States had offered a $5m reward for information leading to the capture of the 51-year-old drug lord, while Mexico offered $2.2m.

Carrillo Fuentes was wanted on charges of organized crime and drug trafficking, Rubido said.

After his arrest, the TV channel Televisa broadcast part of an interrogation of Carrillo Fuentes by a senior official of the attorney general's office.

In the footage the official sat next to the suspect and questioned him politely. Carrillo Fuentes denied having killed or ordered the killing of anyone.

Weakened cartel

His arrest came just a week after the capture of Hector Beltran Leyva, head of the Beltran Leyva crime family. Carrillo Fuentes' nemesis, Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was arrested in February.

US Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart congratulated Mexico for catching "one of history's most notorious drug traffickers."

"Carrillo Fuentes was the leader of the Juarez cartel and facilitated murder and violence in Mexico while fueling addiction in the United States and across the world", Leonhart said.

But Raul Benitez Manaut, a Mexican security analyst, said the Juarez cartel was a shell of its former self.

"It has some active cells at the border, but with no specific weight", he told AFP.

Based in Ciudad Juarez, a city on the border with the US state of Texas, the Juarez cartel fought against the Sinaloa cartel for control of the major drug transit route.

More than 10 000 people died in gang wars in the past eight years in Ciudad Juarez, making it a symbol of Mexico's relentless drug violence.

The city was once known as the world's murder capital, but the homicide rate has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Analysts believe violence has tapered off in the city because the Sinaloa cartel won the war, though officials credit police action and a crime prevention programme.

'Lord of the Skies'

The Juarez cartel was founded by Carrillo Fuentes' brother.

Amado Carrillo Fuentes, also known as "The Lord of the Skies," was considered one of Latin America's biggest drug traffickers until he died during plastic surgery in Mexico City in 1997.

But some in Mexico believe that he is still alive. He earned his nickname by flying his own drug-filled planes.

Pena Nieto's government has killed or captured more than 80 of the 122 most wanted men in Mexico in the past two years.

The president came into office in December 2012 vowing to bring down violence that left tens of thousands of people dead under his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

While the murder rate has fallen, Pena Nieto is now facing a human rights scandal after local police allied with a gang attacked busloads of students in the southern state of Guerrero on 26 September.

Six people died in the shootings while 43 of the student teachers have vanished amid fears they were executed by the Guerreros Unidos gang, an offshoot of the Beltran Leyva cartel.

Read more on:    mexico  |  mexico drug war

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