Saturday, June 05, 2004 > News > Mexico -- 2 more leaders of cartel arrested > News > Mexico -- 2 more leaders of cartel arrested

Detentions 'further gut' Arellano Félix drug group
By Sandra Dibble
June 5, 2004

One was one of the most powerful remaining members of the Arellano Félix drug cartel, in charge of moving loads of cocaine and marijuana across the border, U.S. officials say. And the other, they say, was his chief lieutenant.

The arrests of Efrain Pérez Pazuengo, "El Efra," and Jorge Aureliano Félix, "El Macumba," in Tijuana on Thursday "further guts their organization," John Fernandes, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego, said yesterday. "The significance is the continued erosion of Arellano Félix."

Fernandes confirmed their detentions, already widely reported in Mexico, even though the Mexican Federal Attorney General's Office still had made no formal announcement late yesterday.

The arrests are the latest blows to the violent Arellano Félix drug organization, which has long controlled the flow of drugs through Tijuana but has taken hits in recent years. In February 2002, its top enforcer, Ramón Arellano, was killed by police in Sinaloa, and a month later, Benjamin Arellano, said to be the cartel's chief executive, was captured in Puebla.

Pérez and Aureliano Félix face numerous charges in San Diego federal court, including conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana and money laundering. An indictment unsealed last July lists the two Mexican citizens along with nine others as key members of the organization who negotiated with Colombian traffickers to bring cocaine into Mexico, then smuggled it into the United States.

Also named in the indictment are Benjamin Arellano and two surviving brothers, Javier and Eduardo Arellano. Benjamin Arellano is behind bars in Mexico, but the two brothers remain at large. The U.S. State Department has offered up to $5 million for information leading to their arrests.

Pérez and Aureliano Félix are among seven suspects – including the brothers Javier and Eduardo Arellano – whose photographs appear on a wanted poster hung on the northbound car crossing lanes at the San Ysidro border. The U.S. government offered up to $2 million apiece for information leading to the capture of Pérez and Aureliano Félix.

The Mexico City newspaper Reforma reported yesterday that Aureliano Félix was wanted on drug trafficking charges in Mexico. John Kirby, one of two lead federal prosecutors on the U.S. case, said it is likely both suspects face charges in Mexico, but his office had not received any official confirmation.

If so, they would first be tried in Mexico before being brought to the United States. Under an addendum to the U.S.-Mexico extradition treaty, they could be tried in Mexico, then taken to the United States for trial. If convicted in both countries, they would serve their sentences consecutively, first in Mexico, then the United States.

Fernandes and Kirby said the arrests stem from coordination among law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border.

"It shows that Mexico is serious about capturing these people," Kirby said. "It is also going to make it very difficult for the Arellano Félix organization to continue to dominate Tijuana."


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