Mexican Drug Cartel Violence: Mexican Marines arrest presumed leader of Beltran Leyva Cartel – Sergio Villarreal Barragan taken into custody

Sergio Villarreal Barragan captured in Sunday raid officials say

Mexican marines captured Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a presumed leader of the embattled Beltran Leyva cartel who appears on a list of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, in a raid Sunday in the central state of Puebla, officials said.

The presumed capo known as “El Grande” did not put up any resistance when he was arrested along with two alleged accomplices, a Navy official told The Associated Press. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, said federal officials would announce the capture shortly.

Mr. Villarreal appears on a 2009 Attorney General’s Office list of Mexico’s most-wanted drug traffickers and has a reward of just over $2-million for his capture.

He is listed as one of the remaining leaders of the Beltran Leyva cartel, whose top capo, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in December in a raid by marines outside Mexico City.

Drug Cratel Violence. Young Woman Murdered & Mutilated By Cartel

Mr. Villarreal’s capture comes about two weeks after the arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, or “The Barbie,” another alleged capo linked to the Beltran Leyvas.

The once-powerful Beltran Leyva cartel split following the death of Arturo — known as the “Boss of Bosses” — which launched a brutal war for control of the gang involving mass execution and beheadings in once-peaceful parts of central Mexico. The fight pitted brother Hector Beltran Leyva and Villarreal against a faction led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal. Hector Beltran Leyva remains at large.

Mr. Villarreal’s capture is the fourth major blow delivered to drug cartels by Mexico’s government in the past year. First came the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva on Dec. 16, 2009, then soldiers killed the Sinaloa cartel’s No. 3 capo, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, on July 29. And on Aug. 30 federal police announced the capture of “The Barbie.”

Drug Cartel Victims - Decapitated Bodies Dumped in Plaza

More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against the cartels soon after taking office.

In the central state of Morelos, police discovered nine bodies in clandestine graves Saturday in the same area where four more were recently found.

The Public Safety Department said in a separate statement that all 13 victims were believed to have been killed on the orders of “The Barbie” in his battle for control of the cartel.

Also Sunday, the military announced that it filed charges against four troops for the Sept. 5 shooting deaths of a man and his 15-year-old son along the highway linking the northern city of Monterrey to Laredo, Texas.

Authorities have said soldiers opened fire on the family vehicle when it failed to stop at a checkpoint, though relatives who were also in the car say they were shot at after they passed a military convoy.

The mother and wife of the two victims was also wounded in the shooting.

Cartel Violence - Decapitated Head Left in Plaza

A captain, a corporal and two infantrymen are in custody in military prison and have been charged with homicide, the Defence Department said in a statement.

Mexico’s military was already under scrutiny for this year’s killings of two brothers, ages 5 and 9, on a highway in Tamaulipas, a state bordering Nuevo Leon.

The National Human Rights Commission has accused soldiers of shooting the children and altering the scene to try to pin the deaths on drug cartel gunmen.

The army denies the allegations and says the boys were killed in the crossfire of a shootout between soldiers and suspected traffickers.

The scandal renewed demands from activists that civilian authorities, not the army, investigate human rights cases involving the military.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/americas/mexican-marines-arrest-presumed-leader-of-beltran-leyva-cartel/article1704715/?cmpid=rss1

Reputed Mexican Cartel Boss Captured: Edgar Valdez Villarreal (the Barbie) Taken Into Custody

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "the Barbie", taken into custody

MEXICO CITY—Texas-born fugitive Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “the Barbie,” is the third major suspected drug lord to fall in Mexico in the past 10 months and a coup for President Felipe Calderon in his embattled war on powerful cartels.

Valdez, who got his improbable nickname from his fair complexion, is wanted in the United States for allegedly smuggling tons of cocaine and inside Mexico is blamed for a brutal turf war that has included bodies hung from bridges, decapitations and shootouts as he and a rival fought for control of the divided Beltran Leyva Cartel.

Calderon called Valdez “one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and abroad” in a Tweet. He vowed that operations to bring down the rest of his gang will continue following his arrest Monday in Mexico State, an area that borders Mexico City.

The arrest was the culmination of a yearlong intelligence operation, the Public Safety Department said in a statement.

The statement offered no other details, but included a photograph of Valdez sporting stubble as he kneels on the ground, a police officer’s hand on his shoulder.

SEE: Mexican Drug Cartel Violence: Mexican Marines arrest presumed leader of Beltran Leyva Cartel – Sergio Villarreal Barragan taken into custody

Valdez was charged in May in U.S. District Court in Atlanta with distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine from Mexico to the eastern U.S. from 2004 to 2006.

U.S. authorities had offered a reward of up to $2 million for information leading to his capture, and the Mexican government offered a similar amount.

There was no word from Mexican authorities on any extradition plans.

Aturo Beltran Leyva

Mexican authorities say Valdez has been battling for control of the Beltran Leyva Cartel since its leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a December shootout with marines in Cuernavaca, a favorite weekend getaway south of the Mexican capital.

The fight against Hector Beltran Leyva — a brother of Arturo — has made a battleground of what was once a relatively peaceful pocket of the country and brought the drug war ever closer to Mexico City. Their fight has spread westward toward the resort city of Acapulco.

The U.S. State Department says Valdez headed a group of assassins for the Beltran Leyva gang. He “is the person most responsible for pushing the battle into central and southern Mexico,” the department says on its website.

Carlos Beltran Leyva

Valdez’s capture is the government’s latest victory against the crumbling Beltran Leyva Cartel. Two other Beltran Leyva brothers have been arrested under President Felipe Calderon, who in 2006 deployed thousands of federal police and soldiers to fight drug traffickers in their strongholds.

Drug-gang violence has surged since the offensive began, claiming an unprecedented 28,000 lives. But the crackdown has brought down several major traffickers.

Aside from the Beltran Leyvas, drug lord Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel was killed in a gunbattle last month when soldiers raided his home in Guadalajara. Coronel was the No. 3 in the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking gangs.

Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel - The "King of Crystal"

Valdez, 37, was born in the border city of Laredo, Texas, and belonged to the Sinaloa cartel until its split from the Beltran Leyvas in 2008 — one of many divisions among Mexican cartels in recent years that have fueled the country’s gruesome gang violence.

Experts said Valdez’s capture could be especially valuable because of the intelligence he might provide on other top traffickers, including Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord.

“Because they caught La Barbie alive, he will be a very important source of information against El Chapo,” said Raul Benitez, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who studies the drug trade. “La Barbie was once the bodyguard of El Chapo Guzman.”

Much of the most recent violence in central Mexico has been directed at Valdez’s allies.

The decapitated bodies of four men were hung from a bridge in Cuernavaca last

Joaquin Guzman, El Chapo

week, along with a message threatening allies of “La Barbie” and signed by the gang led by Hector Beltran Leyva. Two more bodies were hung from bridges near Acapulco later in the week, although no gang claimed responsibility.

Benitez said the violence in the region could drop over time, as the government has disrupted Valdez’s crusade to create a new cartel from his split with the Beltran Leyvas. But it won’t initially, he added, because the lieutenants in the gang always fight for control immediately after a big boss is brought down.

And Mexico’s violence overall is not expected to drop because other, more powerful gangs are fighting in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and along the northeastern border with the U.S., where 72 migrants were found massacred last week in what is believed to be the deadliest drug cartel attack to date.

La Barbie’s “arrest will be a public relations coup for the Mexican government, even though it will do little to quell the violence in places like Juarez and Monterrey,” the U.S.-based security think tank Stratfor said in a report.

U.S. prosecutors say they used a federal wiretap of a related case in Atlanta in January 2008 to identify Valdez as the source of thousands of kilograms of cocaine that were imported into the U.S. from 2004 to 2006.

Cartel Beheadings in Baja

Gamaliel Aguirre Tavira

Witnesses said some truckloads traveling from Laredo to Atlanta carried more than 650 pounds of cocaine. The workers sent shipments of money, often containing several million dollars in cash, back to Mexico in tractor-trailer trucks, according to the court records.

Mexican authorities had been closing in on La Barbie’s allies in recent weeks. On July 10, marines raided a house in Acapulco and captured Gamaliel Aguirre Tavira, suspected regional chief of the Valdez faction.

http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2010/08/31/mexico_says_drug_lord_the_barbie_captured/?page=1

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