MEXICO CITY – Mexican marines captured Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a presumed leader of the embattled Beltran Leyva cartel who appears on a list of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, in a raid Sunday in the central state of Puebla, the government said.
The alleged capo known as “El Grande” did not put up any resistance when he was arrested along with two accomplices as they left a residence in Puebla city, according to government security spokesman Alejandro Poire. The raid involved 30 Navy marines, five vehicles and a helicopter.
“This is a new and resounding blow by the federal government against crime, given the high rank and dangerousness of this person inside one of the country’s most extensive criminal organizations which has been deeply weakened,” Poire said in a statement.
Villarreal’s capture is the fourth major blow delivered to drug cartels by the government of President Felipe Calderon in the past year.
First came the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva, the top leader of the Beltran Leyva cartel, in a raid outside Mexico City on Dec. 16, 2009. Then soldiers killed the Sinaloa cartel’s No. 3 capo, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, on July 29. And on Aug. 30 federal police announced the capture of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie.” The two men are not related.
Villarreal, “El Grande,” appears on an attorney general’s office list of Mexico’s most-wanted drug traffickers, with a reward of just over $2 million offered for his capture. He faces at least seven investigations for alleged drug trafficking and organized crime, Poire said.
He is listed as one of the top remaining leaders of the Beltran Leyva cartel following the death of Arturo, who was known as the “Boss of Bosses,” and the arrest of “La Barbie,” a former Beltran Leyva hitman and operative.
Poire said the Beltran Leyvas “had constituted one of the groups with the largest presence in the country,” conducting operations in 32 Mexican states, including the capital.