Mexico: Military catches another alleged Beltrán Leyva leader

Mexican marines escort Sergio Villarreal Barragán, who is suspected of being a top leader in the Beltrán Leyva drug cartel, after he was captured on Sept. 12. (Office of the Marines/Reuters)

Mexican marines escort Sergio Villarreal Barragán, who is suspected of being a top leader in the Beltrán Leyva drug cartel, after he was captured on Sept. 12. (Office of the Marines/Reuters)

By Diego Maya, Diego Gallardo and Olga Vélez for Infosurhoy.com—15/09/2010

MEXICO CITY – Marines have apprehended Sergio Villarreal Barragán, the alleged leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel and one of the country's most sought-after fugitives, during a recent raid in the central state of Puebla, officials said. Sergio Villarreal Barragán, who goes by the alias “El Grande,” was taken into custody without incident along with two other suspects as they were leaving a house in the city of Puebla, Alejandro Poire, a government security spokesman, said. “This is a new and resounding blow by the federal government against crime, given the high rank of this [dangerous] person inside one of the country's most extensive criminal organizations, which has now been deeply weakened,” Poire said in a statement. About 30 marines participated in the apprehension, which took about 30 minutes, according to The Associated Press. The arrest of Sergio Villarreal Barragán is a major milestone for President Felipe Calderón’s fight against narcotics in the past year. Felipe Calderón’s first big win occurred when marines killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva, the head of the Beltrán Leyva cartel on Dec. 16 of last year. About seven months later, soldiers fatally shot Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, the No. 3 leader of the Sinaloa cartel on July 29. Édgar Valdez Villarreal, one of the country’s most-wanted fugitives, was taken into custody on Aug. 30. Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office had offered a reward of about US$2 million for the capture of Sergio Villarreal Barragán, who is a key figure in at least seven drug trafficking and organized crime investigations, Poire said. The Beltrán Leyva cartel “had constituted one of the groups with the largest presence in the country,” Poire said, according to the AP.

Colombia: Navy seizes more than a ton of cocaine

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The navy recently seized about 1.2 tons of cocaine stashed in a cache on a motorboat in the Caribbean Sea. The boat was stopped off the coast of the department of Antioquia, but the three crew members fled before they could be apprehended, according to the navy. The navy made the seizure with the help of counter-narcotics agents and the Administrative Security Department (DAS). It is unclear who owned the cocaine, which had a street value of about US$28 million, officials said. The bust, however, was yet another victory for President Juan Manuel Santos, who has continued to wage a tough fight against narcotics trafficking – a stance taken by his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. Officials said they’ve seized about 21 tons of cocaine being transported via the Caribbean Sea so far this year, according to the Colombian news website El Espectador.

Guatemala: Police confiscate 296 kilograms of cocaine

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Counter-narcotics police seized 296 kilograms (651 pounds) of cocaine and two fishing boats and arrested an Ecuadoran during an operation in the Pacific Ocean, Pablo Castillo, a police spokesman, said. The narcotics, which were being shipped from Ecuador, were taken to the Pacific Naval Base about 120 kilometers south of the nation’s capital. Officials did not release the suspect’s name since they are in the process of verifying his identification, according to the Guatemalan news website Hoy.com. The operation is a success in President Álvaro Colom’s fight to keep Guatemala from being a hub in the trafficking of narcotics from South America to the United States.

Brazil: Police seize more than two tons of marijuana

ENTRE RIOS DO OESTE, Brazil – Federal Police seized more than two tons of marijuana near the border with Paraguay, in the city of Entre Rios do Oeste, in the state of Paraná in southern Brazil, officials said. The maritime police (Depom) confiscated 2,247 kilograms (4,953 pounds) aboard a boat on the waters of the Itaipu dam on Sept. 10. The crew managed to flee before they could be taken into custody, and officials said they haven’t determined the marijuana’s owner. Officials have seized 46 tons of drugs along the nation’s border this year, according to the Brazilian website Folha.com.

Brazil: Crack-filled car explodes

CURITIBANOS, Brazil – A car exploded while it fueled in a gas station, spewing crack and marijuana into the street in the city of Curitibanos, in the southern state of Santa Catarina this past weekend, officials said. Idesio Inácio Albino Filho, 36, and Fabiana Maria Fanton, 24, were arrested after police seized 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds) of drugs. They were travelling in a Ford Escort from Paraguay to the city of Blumenau, in the state of Santa Catarina, police said, when they stopped at a gas station. But the gas caused the crack, which was hidden in the car’s cylinder, to explode, according to the Brazilian website Folha.com. Filho and Fanton each suffered head injuries and were taken by police to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to The Associated Press.

Colombia: Police seize about US$24 million

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – National Police officers found $43 billion pesos (US$24 million) they suspect belonged to narcotics traffickers in the western area of the nation’s capital, police spokesmen and government officials said. The seizure “is linked to a very large operation that we are conducting with authorities from the United States,” Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera told Caracol Radio. National Police Director Gen. Óscar Naranjo would not divulge specific details of the operation because he didn’t want to “interrupt an ongoing operation of the highest impact against Colombian organized crime,” according to EFE. “In the next few weeks, U.S. authorities, Colombian prosecutors and the police will be giving the final result of the operation,” he said. The operation was at least the third major bust in the past three weeks in Bogotá, as police discovered US$12 million in a vehicle on Aug. 30 and US$16 million in another one on Sept. 1, officials said.

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