Pubdate: Fri,  1 Aug 2003
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2003 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Susana Hayward, Knight Ridder


U.S., Mexico Say Raids Caught Network Leaders

MEXICO CITY - U.S. and Mexican officials announced Thursday that they
had captured the alleged kingpin and many top deputies of a major drug
cartel believed to be behind the 1985 torture and slaying of an agent
from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In joint news conferences in Mexico City and Washington, Mexican
Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha and U.S. Attorney General
John Ashcroft said agents had virtually dismantled a major cell of the
organized-crime group allegedly led by Ismael Zambada Garcia.

Cocaine Supply Line

They said the cartel had smuggled and distributed large quantities of
Colombian cocaine from Sinaloa, Jalisco and Sonora states in Mexico to
Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and other U.S. cities.

The gang allegedly controlled a cross-border tunnel that was
discovered last December in Nogales, in the state of Sonora, bordering

Macedo de la Concha said the cartel used boats, trucks, planes and
cars to smuggle not only cocaine but also heroin, marijuana and
methamphetamines into the United States.

"The entire cell has practically been captured," said Macedo de la
Concha, saying the cartel had links with Colombian traffickers who
provided them in the past 18 months with more than 60 tons of cocaine
destined for the United States. "I don't intend to say that we've
destroyed the entire cartel . . . but it means a severe hit to this

The bilateral action, called Operation Trifecta, has arrested more
than 240 people since it began in December 2001 with the seizure off
Mexico's Pacific coast of a vessel carrying 10 tons of cocaine. This
led to more than 80 investigations into U.S. distributors, Colombian
cocaine providers and Mexican smugglers.

Thursday, U.S. officials arrested 63 people, and Mexican police
arrested four. Among the four detained in Mexico were the cartel's
alleged leader and Manuel Medina Campos, said to have been in charge
of transporting and distributing drugs in the United States.

U.S. arrests were in New York City; Buffalo, N.Y.; Youngstown, Ohio;
Phoenix; Nogales, Ariz.; Los Angeles; Salt Lake City; Miami; and
Providence, R.I.

"Today, the United States and Mexico, working together, have achieved
a significant victory against the purveyors of illegal drugs, death
and violence," Ashcroft said in Washington.

Linked to Slaying

The cartel was on a U.S. list of the world's most dangerous
traffickers and was linked to the slaying of DEA agent Enrique
"Kiki" Camarena, who was kidnapped in Guadalajara, the capital of
Jalisco, and tortured and killed.

Ashcroft said the investigation, still ongoing, was part of a Bush
administration drive "to not only work on things from the demand
side, but also to try to dismantle organizations."

Ashcroft said the investigation was aided by the use of 200 telephone
wiretaps and other eavesdropping techniques.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake