Pubdate: Sun, 10 Mar 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Section: Page A12
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Kevin G. Hall, Knight Ridder News Service


Officials Say The Group Has Killed Hundreds. It Is Responsible For Much Of 
The Cocaine In The U.S.

MEXICO CITY - Soldiers captured the alleged leader of Mexico's most violent 
drug cartel early yesterday, putting "out of business" the organization 
believed responsible for smuggling as much as 40 percent of all cocaine 
consumed in the United States, Mexican officials said.

Benjamin Arellano Felix, 49, was described by a U.S. law enforcement 
officer as the chief executive officer of the cartel, which officials say 
has killed more than 300 rivals, police officers, judges and politicians.

Arellano Felix was the most wanted drug trafficker in the United States and 
Mexico. He was captured at 1 a.m. in a house in Puebla, 65 miles southeast 
of the capital, Defense Secretary Ricardo Clemente Vega and Attorney 
General Rafael Macedo de la Concha announced. No shots were fired.

The officials also confirmed the death of Ramon Arellano Felix, 37, one of 
Benjamin Arellano Felix's five brothers and the cartel's enforcer. Named on 
the FBI's 10-most-wanted list, Ramon Arellano Felix is believed to have 
been killed last month by a rival.

The cartel "is totally out of business," Macedo said.

Mexican President Vicente Fox said the arrest proved that his government 
was "working with seriousness" in cracking down on the drug trade.

In Washington, Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson said the 
United States wanted Arellano Felix extradited to face drug and 
money-laundering charges in California. On Friday, 22 people suspected of 
working for or with the cartel in the United States were arrested in 
Denver, San Diego and Minneapolis.

The arrest of one brother and the apparent death of another represent "one 
of the biggest victories Mexico has seen for law over lawlessness," 
Hutchinson said.

U.S. officials have targeted the Arellano Felix organization for years, but 
Hutchinson said yesterday's arrest was "a Mexican government operation all 
the way." Neighbors in Puebla's exclusive Escondida neighborhood, which 
translates to The Hidden, said Arellano Felix moved in last August and was 
known to them as Manuel Trevino.

The Arellano Felix brothers began trafficking drugs more than two decades 
ago, moving marijuana grown in mountains near the Pacific coastal resort 
city of Mazatlan. They later partnered with Colombian cocaine traffickers 
and grew to control the largest portion of the illicit trade into the 
United States.

"Benjamin is the CEO," said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on 
condition of anonymity. "These guys have lasted a long time. They rule by 
terror. They pay a hefty sum in bribes. We feel, conservatively, that they 
probably give out $75 million annually in bribes."

Few believe that the arrest means the end of drug trafficking along the 
U.S.-Mexican border. The apparent death of the previous top Mexican drug 
trafficker, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, leader of the drug cartel in the city 
of Juarez, did little to stem the flow.
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