Pubdate: Fri, 3 Apr 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ken Ellingwood, Reporting from Mexico City
Bookmark:  Mexico Under Siege (Series)

Mexico Under Siege

Mexico Arrests Suspected No. 2 in Juarez Drug Cartel

Vicente Carrillo Leyva, Son of the Late Kingpin Amado Carrillo
Fuentes, Is Arrested in Mexico City.

Mexican authorities on Thursday announced the capture of Vicente
Carrillo Leyva, a suspected top leader of a family-run drug gang based
in Ciudad Juarez and one of the country's most wanted figures.

Federal law enforcement officials said Carrillo Leyva, the 32-year-old
son of deceased drug kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes, was arrested
Wednesday while exercising in a wealthy neighborhood of Mexico City.

The younger Carrillo was listed among the country's 24 most wanted
drug suspects last week when the federal government offered $2-million
rewards for each. Authorities described him as an heir to the
organization once led by his father, who was known as the "Lord of the
Skies" for his use of aircraft to move drugs.

The announcement came on the same day U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder
Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met outside
Mexico City with top Mexican security officials to discuss how to
stanch the southbound smuggling of weapons to drug cartels from the
United States.

The arrest of Carrillo Leyva represents a significant victory for
Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 28-month-old war against drug
traffickers. But authorities say the younger Carrillo's uncle, Vicente
Carrillo Fuentes, known as "the Viceroy," remains in place as the
leader of one of the four largest trafficking organizations in Mexico.

Carrillo Leyva, considered the Juarez group's No. 2 figure, helped
manage the gang and launder proceeds from its drug sales, authorities

Officials said Carrillo Leyva was living in Mexico City under an
assumed name: Alejandro Peralta Alvarez. They said they were able to
find him in part because his wife, Celia Karina Quevedo Gastelum, kept
her name.

Mexico is seeing a crop of younger, university-educated narcojuniors
emerging as leaders of drug-trafficking organizations that are bound
primarily by family ties. Carrillo Leyva was paraded before news
cameras in a white Abercrombie & Fitch sweatsuit and stylish glasses
- -- a far cry from the narco archetype decked out in cowboy boots and
oversized jewel-studded belt buckles.

Two weeks ago, Mexican authorities arrested the 33-year-old son of
Sinaloa-based suspected trafficker Ismael Zambada in another wealthy
section of Mexico City. He was presented to reporters looking chic in
jeans, dress shirt, jacket and fashionably stubbly face.

Marisela Morales Ibanez, who heads the organized crime unit of the
Mexican attorney general's office, said Carrillo Leyva's capture
reflects the "absolute commitment of the federal government to combat
all organized crime groups that attack the peace, tranquillity and
security of the population."

The Juarez gang has been locked in a vicious turf war with a band of
traffickers based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa and led by
Joaquin Guzman, the country's most wanted fugitive.

The bloodletting left about 1,600 people dead in Ciudad Juarez last
year. Violence continued in the border city during the first two
months of 2009 but has dipped since Calderon sent 5,000 more troops
and hundreds of additional federal police there in recent weeks.

At least 10,000 people have died nationwide since Calderon launched
his crackdown on organized crime groups soon after taking office in
December 2006.

Thursday's meeting of top U.S. and Mexican officials near the city of
Cuernavaca produced fresh pledges on both sides of common action
against gun trafficking. But there were few specifics beyond creation
of a binational working group to recommend strategies.

The visit of Napolitano and Holder comes amid a flurry of diplomacy
between the neighboring countries. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton spent two days in Mexico last week on a visit that
focused on border security. President Obama is scheduled to visit
April 16-17.

Last week, Napolitano unveiled a border security plan aimed at
attacking the cartels and keeping serious violence from spilling into
the United States. The plan envisions sending hundreds more federal
agents and intelligence analysts to the border region.

Clinton said the White House would seek funding to provide Mexican
authorities with $80 million worth of Black Hawk helicopters. Some of
those funds would come out of $700 million already approved under the
three-year security aid plan for Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.

U.S. and Mexican military officials have discussed greater cooperation
against drug-trafficking groups, but Calderon this week ruled out
joint operations on his country's soil.

U.S. lawmakers have proposed boosting aid to Mexico, which already was
to receive a total of $1.4 billion under the Merida program, now in
its second year.

Mexican officials have urged U.S. authorities to clamp down on the
smuggling of drug money and the thousands of assault rifles and other
weapons that fortify the cartels' arsenals.

U.S. law enforcement agencies estimate that Mexican and Colombian
traffickers make $18 billion to $39 billion in the U.S. each year --
much of it smuggled back into Mexico.

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives says 90% of weapons seized in Mexico and reported to the
agency can be traced to the United States.

"There's no question that the vast majority of weapons, and especially
high-powered weapons, that are found here in Mexico . . . come from
the United States," Holder told reporters. "That's the reality we have
to face." 
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