May 14, 2011 in Nation/World

Troops capture alleged kingpin

E. Eduardo Castillo Associated Press
 

MEXICO CITY – Soldiers have captured the nephew and suspected successor of a Sinaloa drug cartel leader who was killed last year in a gunbattle with troops, a Defense Department official said Friday.

Martin Beltran Coronel, alias “The Eagle,” was arrested along with four other people in an exclusive neighborhood of Zapopan, a suburb of the western city of Guadalajara, said Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas.

It is the same suburb where his uncle, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, died in a battle with soldiers who raided his mansion in July 2010. The elder Coronel had been considered one of the top three leaders of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, along with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who remain among the world’s most-wanted men. Ignacio Coronel’s death was the biggest blow against the Sinaloa gang since President Felipe Calderon intensified a crackdown on cartels in late 2006.

Martin Beltran took over trafficking operations in a promotion approved by “El Chapo,” Villegas told a news conference. He oversaw cocaine trafficking from South America through Mexico’s Pacific routes, Villegas added.

One of Beltran’s alleged lieutenants, Juan Francisco Lopez Coronado, was also captured. The three others arrested, including two women, were in charge of Beltran’s security, Villegas said. Nine guns, six cars, jewelry and $400,000 in cash were seized at the house.

Although Villegas said Beltran had reached the top ranks of the Sinaloa cartel, the Mexican government had not publicly mentioned him before his arrest. Villegas, however, said soldiers had been searching for Beltran for months.

Drug-gang violence has surged as increasingly fractured cartels fight gruesome turf battles, claiming at least 35,000 lives since late 2006.

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