March 26, 2010 in Nation/World

Mexico’s ‘King of Heroin’ arrested

Medina led smuggling operation for drug cartel
E. Eduardo Castillo Associated Press
 

MEXICO CITY – Federal police have arrested Mexico’s “King of Heroin,” a powerful drug trafficker allegedly responsible for running thousands of pounds of heroin into Southern California each year, authorities said Thursday.

Jose Antonio Medina, nicknamed “Don Pepe,” was arrested in the western state of Michoacan on Wednesday and is being held for prosecution, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the anti-narcotics division of Mexico’s federal police.

Medina, 36, ran a complex smuggling operation that hauled 440 pounds of heroin each month across the Mexican border in Tijuana for La Familia drug cartel, Pequeno said.

Heroin production in Mexico rose from 17 pure metric tons in 2007 to 38 tons in 2008, with the increase translating to lower heroin prices and more heroin-related overdoses and more overdose deaths, according to U.S. government estimates in a report by the National Drug Intelligence Center.

Mexico and the U.S. are working together to counter increasingly violent drug cartels that supply most of the illicit drugs sold in the U.S. The arrest came the day after top U.S. Cabinet officials, led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, visited Mexico to underscore their shared responsibility for the country’s drug-related violence.

Nearly 17,900 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an assault on cartels after taking office in December 2006.

The bloodshed continued Thursday, when Mexican marines on patrol in the small town of Cerralvo, north of the city of Monterrey, came under fire after ordering a convoy of gunmen traveling in six vehicles to stop.

Six of the assailants were killed in the ensuing battle, the navy said. The marine patrol, which was supported by two navy helicopters during the firefight, seized 15 rifles, 10 pistols, 2 grenades and ammunition from the vehicles.

In Ciudad Juarez, a border city of 1.3 million people just south of El Paso, Texas, police found a decapitated man lying in a shopping center parking lot, his head inside a black plastic bag nearby.

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