MEXICO CITY – Gunmen dressed as clowns burst into a children’s party and shot to death the eldest brother of one of Mexico’s erstwhile largest and feared drug-trafficking families, Mexican officials and press said Saturday.
Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was killed in the Baja California city of Cabo San Lucas while attending the party at a local hotel on Friday, the reports said.
Arellano Felix was the oldest of seven brothers who ran the Tijuana drug cartel that once dominated that border city.
The group has been largely dismantled over the years, pushed out by the rival Sinaloa cartel and pressured by law enforcement; most of the other brothers have been jailed or killed.
Francisco Arellano served time in a Mexican prison in the 1990s for drug and weapons crimes, arrested after the slaying by traffickers of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo.
He was then extradited to the United States on similar charges. After his sentence there, he returned to Mexico in 2008 and had maintained a low profile since.
The state attorney’s office in Baja California confirmed that the dead man was Arellano, 63. News reports said three men in clown costumes entered a party attended by Arellano and shot him to death.
Federal authorities, who have sought to downplay drug-crime violence, declined to comment.
At one time, the Arellano Felix cartel controlled with brutal violence the lion’s share of drugs transiting Mexico to the U.S. via the border with California.