Pubdate: Sun, 10 Mar 2002
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2002 The Star-Journal Publishing Corp.
Author: John Rice


MEXICO CITY - Soldiers raided a house in central Mexico on Saturday and 
captured the alleged leader of a drug cartel accused of spreading terror 
across much of the country. They also found evidence that his brother, the 
gang's alleged co-leader, was dead.

With Benjamin Arellano Felix under arrest and his brother Ramon presumed 
dead, "the cartel of the Arellanos has been completely dismantled," 
Attorney General Ramon Macedo de la Concha told a news conference.

"It seems that this is a great triumph for justice," President Vicente Fox 
said as he congratulated the army and the Justice Department.

U.S. and Mexican authorities say the brothers led a Tijuana-based operation 
that smuggled tons of cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana into the United 
States and murdered hundreds of people over the past 15 years.

"We've been seeking his apprehension for years," U.S. Drug Enforcement 
Administrator Asa Hutchinson said Saturday of Benjamin Arellano Felix. "It 
was our top priority."

Ramon Arellano Felix is on the FBI's 10 most wanted list, with a $2 million 
reward for his capture.

Still, the breakup of other major gangs in the past has had little or no 
long-term effect on the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

"Tomorrow there will be another substituting for them for one simple 
reason: While there is consumption, demand in the United States, there will 
be drug trafficking in Mexico," said Tijuana journalist Jesus Blancornelas 
in an interview with Mexico's Formato 21 radio station.

Benjamin Arellano Felix was captured without gunfire at about 1 a.m. as 
police raided a house in an upper-middle class neighborhood of Puebla, a 
city 65 miles east of Mexico City, Mexican Defense Secretary Ricardo 
Clemente Vega Garcia said at a news conference.

He said an altar to Ramon Arellano Felix was found in the house, suggesting 
he was killed a Feb. 10 police shootout in Mazatlan.

Officials released a videotape of Benjamin confirming his brother's death 
and Macedo said other new evidence confirmed it, though the government 
statement issued at the news conference merely called the death a 

Mexican and U.S. officials have been awaiting the result of DNA and other 
tests before formally declaring Ramon Arellano Felix dead.

The body of the man killed in Mazatlan, identified as Jorge Perez Lopez, 
was retrieved from a funeral home a day after the shootout by a man 
claiming to be his cousin.

In Puebla, neighbors said Benjamin Arellano Felix had been living quietly 
and unostentatiously since August on a small, gated street called La 
Cerrada Escondida - "The Hidden Cul de Sac."

A handful of local reporters visited the yellow house early Saturday and 
found a few packed suitcases left behind. Neighbors later ordered a 
security guard to close off the street.

Prosecutors say the Arellano Felix group rose from remnants of the 
Guadalajara-based Pacific Cartel, run by Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo until 
his arrest in 1989.

They quickly seized control of operations in Tijuana and waged a bloody war 
against former colleagues in the Pacific Cartel while allegedly paying 
millions of dollars in bribes each year.

Benjamin, who is to turn 50 on Tuesday, allegedly handled finances and 
strategy while Ramon, 37, allegedly oversaw a murderous security and 
enforcement operation whose victims included rivals, farmers, police and 
innocent bystanders - including Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas 

One DEA report said the gang was believed to have killed at least 300 people.

Posadas was shot to death in a fusillade of bullets at the Guadalajara 
airport in 1993. Prosecutors say gang members confused his car with that of 
their target, rival drug gang leader Joaquin Guzman Loera.

In 1996, gunmen shot a state prosecutor more than 100 times outside his 
home and then drove their van over his body dozens of times. Several other 
siblings also are alleged to have roles in the gang. They include Francisco 
Javier, 32; Eduardo, 46; and Francisco Rafael, 52, who is imprisoned on 
drug and arms charges as well as for complicity in Ocampo's slaying.

Vega said Benjamin Arellano Felix had been taken to "a safe location" in 
Mexico City. His wife and a child were found at the house and were not 

He said Arellano Felix had been using the alias of "Licenciado Sanchez." 
"Licenciado" is a common honorific here, referring to a person's 
professional degree, Vega said.

Also captured was Manuel Martinez Gonzalez, who Mexican officials said was 
an aide to the brothers involved in laundering drug money and protecting 
the gang leaders.

On Friday, U.S. officials announced the arrest of 22 people in Denver, San 
Diego and the Minneapolis area believed linked to the Arellano Felix group. 
Charges included conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine.d conspiracy 
to distribute and possess cocaine.
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