Pubdate: Mon, 27 Oct 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Richard Marosi, Reporting from San Diego

Mexico Under Siege


Eduardo Arellano Felix, an Original Member of a Notorious Cartel, Is
Nabbed After a Shootout in Tijuana.

One of Mexico's most-wanted drug trafficking suspects was captured
Saturday night at his Tijuana home after a fierce shootout with
authorities, providing some good news amid the border city's raging
drug war.

Eduardo Arellano Felix, an original member of the notorious Arellano
Felix drug cartel, was arrested in an operation by more than 100
federal and state police officers and soldiers, according to U.S. and
Mexican officials. They were acting on a tip supplied by U.S.
authorities, who had offered up to $5 million for information leading
to the arrest of Arellano Felix, said Eileen Zeidler, a spokeswoman
for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Arellano Felix was a key figure in the early years of the cartel,
which grew into one of Mexico's most powerful organized crime groups
by smuggling tons of cocaine into the U.S., starting in the late 1980s.

The cartel has been decimated in recent years by arrests and killings,
including the capture and deaths of four siblings of Arellano Felix.

The suspected kingpin had been in hiding for several years and was
living at his home under an assumed name, authorities said.

"He was the last of the brothers. This was another significant blow to
what's left of the Arellano Felix organization," Zeidler said.

The U.S. attorney's office in San Diego named Arellano Felix in a 2003
indictment that accused him and 10 cartel associates of racketeering,
drug trafficking, money laundering and several killings.

No injuries were reported in the shootout. The suspect was flown to
Mexico City after his arrest, and U.S. authorities will seek his

The Mexican government claimed a major victory in its offensive
against the country's organized crime groups. Facundo Rosas, deputy
minister for strategy and police intelligence, described Arellano
Felix as a "historic and moral figure in the Tijuana cartel" at a news
conference in Mexico City.

But some experts and U.S. officials said his role in the organization
had diminished in recent years and it was unclear whether his capture
would have much of an effect.

Arellano Felix, nicknamed El Doctor because he was once a medical
student, took a much lower profile after the 1993 killing of
Guadalajara Archbishop Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, which was blamed on
cartel gunmen.

"That was a very pivotal moment in how the Arellanos were perceived in
Tijuana and in Mexico in general," said John Kirby, a former federal
prosecutor who co-wrote the original indictment against several of the
Arellano Felix brothers and associates.

"All of a sudden everybody was their enemy," Kirby

Though he became somewhat of a recluse, Arellano Felix became a mentor
for the current leader of the cartel, his nephew, Fernando Sanchez
Arellano, who is under attack by rivals inside and outside the
organization, Zeidler said.

The drug war has claimed more than 150 lives in Tijuana since late
September, and federal authorities have been criticized for not
sending enough federal agents and troops to quell the violence.

President Felipe Calderon's anti-drug offensive seems to have stalled
in recent months, with violence flaring across the country and some
critics questioning his commitment.

Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos, who has criticized the federal government
in the past, hailed the arrest, saying it was the kind of action the
city had been waiting for. "The message is clear. . . . There is
nobody that can escape the law," Ramos told reporters in Tijuana.