April 3, 2009 in Nation/World

Mexican cartel suspect arrested

Capture marks milestone in country’s two-year war on drug trafficking
Ken Ellingwood Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

A federal police officer escorts alleged Mexican drug trafficker Vicente Carrillo Leyva in Mexico City on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

MEXICO CITY – Mexican authorities Thursday announced the capture of Vicente Carrillo Leyva, a suspected top leader of a family-run drug gang based in Ciudad Juarez and one of the country’s most-wanted figures.

Federal law enforcement officials said Carrillo Leyva, the son of deceased drug kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes, was arrested Wednesday while exercising in a wealthy neighborhood of Mexico City.

The younger Carrillo was listed among the country’s 24 most-wanted drug suspects last week when the federal government offered $2-million rewards for each. Authorities described him as an heir to the organization once led by his father, who was known as the “Lord of the Skies” for his use of aircraft to move drugs.

The announcement came as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were preparing to meet outside Mexico City on Thursday afternoon with top Mexican security officials to discuss how to stanch southbound smuggling of weapons to drug cartels from the United States.

The arrest of Carrillo Leyva, 32, represents a significant victory for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s two-year-old war against drug traffickers. But it leaves in place the younger Carrillo’s uncle, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, known as “the Viceroy,” as leader of one of the four largest trafficking organizations in Mexico.

Carrillo Leyva, considered the Juarez group’s No. 2 figure, helped manage the gang and launder proceeds from its drug sales, authorities said.

Officials said Carrillo Leyva was living in Mexico City under an assumed name, Alejandro Peralta Alvarez. Authorities said they were able to find him in part because his wife, Celia Karina Quevedo Gastelum, kept her name.

Marisela Morales Ibanez, who heads the organized-crime unit of the Mexican attorney general’s office, said Carrillo Leyva’s capture reflects the “absolute commitment of the federal government to combat all organized crime groups that attack the peace, tranquility and security of the population.”

The Juarez gang has been locked in a turf war with a band of traffickers based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa and led by Joaquin Guzman, the country’s most-wanted fugitive.

The bloodletting left about 1,600 people dead in Ciudad Juarez last year. Violence continued in the border city during the first two months of 2009 but has dipped since Calderon sent 5,000 more troops and hundreds of additional federal police there in recent weeks.

At least 10,000 people have died nationwide since Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime groups soon after taking office in December 2006.

The visit of Napolitano and Holder comes amid a flurry of diplomacy between the two neighbors. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spent two days in Mexico last week in a visit that focused heavily on border security. President Barack Obama is scheduled to come April 16 and 17.


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