The Mexican authorities say they have arrested one of the country’s most wanted drugs traffickers.
Sergio Villarreal – known as “El Grande” – was detained by navy marines in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City.
He is alleged to be a top lieutenant in the powerful Beltran Leyva cartel.
His arrest comes two weeks after the capture of another drug kingpin, Edgar Valdez, known as “Barbie”, who led a rival faction of the same cartel.
The navy said Mr Villarreal was arrested “without a shot being fired” following an intelligence operation.
Makes you wonder if La Barbie had been talking, doesn’t it?
A raid involving 30 soldiers, five armoured vehicles and a helicopter has led to the capture of a suspected member of a drugs cartel in Mexico.
The 2nd capture of a high level suspected drug lord in two weeks – this time Sergio Villarreal Barragan, alias “El Grande” – again boosts Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
This is the fourth high-level arrest in less than a year, and comes amid public fatigue over the strategy to root out drug trafficking. Since President Calderon sent thousands of troops and federal police in December 2006 across the country to fight organized crime, more than 28,000 have died in drug-related violence.
“This is a new and resounding blow by the federal government against crime, given the high rank and dangerousness of this person inside one of the country’s most extensive criminal organizations which has been deeply weakened,” national security spokesman Alejandro Poire said Sunday night.
The cartel and the fighting
Authorities blame the Beltran Leyva cartel for responsible for escalating violence in central Mexico, bringing to this once peaceful part of the country the mass graves and torture once largely limited to the US-Mexico border. The cartel has allegedly been weakened by infighting since the founder Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed on Dec. 16 during a military operation. Hector Beltran Leyva, still at large, and Sergio Villarreal Barragan were believed to be fighting a faction led by Edgar Valdez.
Analysts do not expect the cartel’s internecine feuds to wane, as territories remain in dispute. “This is not the case of criminals ascending to be Roman emperors in which they only fight between the principal figures, but brutal gangsters that, with their paranoia, would execute even the pet if they believed it to be a potential internal enemy,” says Erubiel Tirado, a security expert at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. ”There is an undetermined number of potential bosses disputing the leadership of each group.”
Villarreal Barragan was one of Mexico´s most wanted criminals. And Mr. Poire said he now faces at least seven investigations involving drug trafficking and organized crime.