Authorities on Thursday captured one of Mexico’s most wanted men, the leader of the resurgent Juarez Cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, bagging the second major alleged kingpin this month.
Federal police arrested Carrillo Fuentes, 51, also known by his nickname of “The Viceroy,” in the northern city of Torreon, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said. Rubido provided no details of the arrest except to say that Carrillo Fuentes intially gave police a driver license with a false ID but later admitted his identity. No shots were fired.
Amid a light drizzle in the early evening, masked security agents marched the bearded Carrillo Fuentes, who wore a blue shirt and jeans, from a helicopter to a hangar in Mexico City. Agents clasped his neck so tightly that he hunched over.
Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said months of “splendid work” pursuing leads led to the capture. A second man, Jorge Sanchez Mejia, was also arrested.
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The U.S. government had offered a $5 million reward for Carrillo Fuentes’ arrest and Mexico had offered a separate $2.2 million bounty.
Carrillo Fuentes, who is under federal drug trafficking indictments in Texas and New York, also faces five pending criminal charges in Mexico, Rubido said, making it unclear whether he would ever be extradited for a U.S. trial.
The alleged kingpin headed a crime group that at its height smuggled multi-ton shipments of cocaine each month across the U.S. Southwest border into Texas, Arizona, California and on to the Midwest and Northeast.
After a decade of dominance, the cartel ran into hard times in 2008, clashing with the rival Sinaloa Cartel for control of Ciudad Juarez and sparking one of the most violent criminal conflicts in Mexico’s modern history. More than 10,000 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, earning it the dubious distinction as “Murder City.”
The conflict ebbed in 2012 and the Juarez Cartel has regained territory in north central Mexico, crime experts said.
Chalking up a victory earlier this month, security agents on Oct. 1 swept into a seafood restaurant in the colonial retirement haven of San Miguel de Allende and arrested Hector Beltran Leyva, head of a crime group bearing his name.
The Beltran Leyva and Juarez cartels were allies along with another powerful and hyper-violent crime group, Los Zetas.
Carrillo Fuentes took over the cartel founded by his late brother, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as “Lord of the Skies,” on his brother’s death in 1997 due to complications from plastic surgery.
In the early 1990s, the Carrillo Fuentes clan struck up direct ties with two Colombian crime groups, the Norte Valle Cartel based north of the Colombian city of Cali, and a paramilitary group known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
The group would use airliners to bring multi-ton shipments of cocaine from the Andes to northern Mexico.
The group grew rapidly until 2008, controlling one of three main cocaine smuggling corridors into the United States.
Drug analysts said the arrest of the Sinaloa Cartel’s leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in February accelerated deterioration of that group, allowing the Juarez Cartel to make inroads into Sinaloa state beyond its traditional area in Chihuahua state.
Three major drug groups – the Juarez and Beltran Leyva Cartels and Los Zetas – are believed to have begun cooperating following a meeting of their leaders in June. But with the capture of Carrillo Fuentes and Beltran Leyva in a span of less than two weeks, that alliance looks weakened.