US nabs Tijuana cartel kingpin

They’ve been after this guy for a long time. But if similar busts in the past are any indicator, his demise will merely set off a violent succession struggle—and do absolutely nothing to to reduce the flow of drugs into Gringolandia. From AP, Aug. 16:

Federal law enforcement agents arrested Mexican drug lord Francisco Javier Arellano-Felix, a leader of a major violent gang responsible for digging elaborate tunnels to smuggle drugs under the U.S. border, a Justice Department official said Wednesday.

The federal law enforcement official added that Arellano-Felix, 37, was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard Monday while he was deep sea fishing abroad a sport fishing boat, the Dock Holiday, off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

He is wanted in both the United States and Mexico for his role as a leader in the violent and sophisticated Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix gang, which includes seven brothers and four sisters from the Arellano family.

The law enforcement official said two suspected assassins for the gang were among the eight adults and three juveniles on the boat.

The Justice official and the federal law enforcement official requested anonymity because the arrest had not yet been officially announced.

The Arellano-Felix gang is one of the three large Mexican drug cartels, along with the Gulf Cartel and the Federacion. The Arellano-Felix gang is believed to be responsible for the massive, sophisticated drug tunnels discovered last January.

The tunnels ended in a warehouse in Otey Mesa, Calif., just south of San Diego. The DEA says the gang is also responsible for multiple murders and the smuggling of tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines over the last decade.

Federal agents began preparing for the operation 14 months ago after learning that Arellano-Felix was planning to go fishing aboard the vessel off La Paz, Mexico, the law enforcement official said. They enlisted the help of the Coast Guard in mounting the operation.

The Justice Department called an afternoon news conference with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, and Drug Enforcement Administration Chief of Operations Michael Braun to announce what it called “the arrest of a high-profile narcotics target.”

Arellano-Felix was named in a federal indictment that was unsealed in California in July, 2003. The indictment charged him with participating in a drug trafficking conspiracy. The State Department has offered $5 million rewards for the capture of him or his brother Eduardo.

Javier Arellano-Felix was charged in Mexico in 1993 with conspiring to assassinate Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo, U.S. officials said.

The suspected Arellano-Felix assassins captured with Javier were identified as Arturo Villareal-Heredia and Marco “El Catoro” Fernandez, the law enforcement official said.

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle for the borderlands.