Top Mexican Drug Lord Killed In Gunfight

By Dialogo
December 17, 2009

Arturo Beltran Leyva, a Mexican drug kingpin nicknamed the "boss of bosses," was killed in a dramatic shoot-out with the navy south of Mexico City, the government said Thursday. Beltran Leyva was Mexico's third most wanted man, with a 1.5-million-dollar (one-million-euro) reward on offer for information leading to his capture. The leader of a breakaway faction of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel was killed late Wednesday, along with six cartel members, after a months-long manhunt, said the office of President Felipe Calderon. "An intense battle between presumed members of Beltran Leyva's criminal cartel organization and members of the Mexican Marine infantry in the city of Cuernavaca resulted in the death of seven members of the Sinaloa cartel," a statement read. Beltran Leyva, 47, led a feared drug-trafficking operation of international reach and shared blame in drug violence that has left more than 14,000 dead in Mexico in the past three years. One soldier died during Wednesday's operation at a block of flats in Cuernavaca, a popular weekend retreat outside the capital with a population of 350,000. The firefight was so intense that many residents had to be evacuated to a nearby sports stadium, local radio reported. The operation had been planned for months after extensive intelligence work, admiral Jose Luis Vergara, a Navy spokesman, told a local television station. The Beltran Leyva cartel was formed after a split with the powerful Sinaloa cartel headed by fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 and appears in Forbes magazine's world billionaires list. Arturo Beltran Leyva reportedly worked with the Colombia Norte Del Valle cartel to distribute cocaine and other drugs in the United States. In August 2008, the US Justice Department unsealed indictments against him and 42 other defendants in connection with drug trafficking. The indictments claimed they had imported and distributed nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine and large amounts of heroin in the United States and smuggled cash proceeds of up to 5.8 billion dollars through the United States and Canada. He was also accused of hiring hitmen "who carried out hundreds of acts of violence in Mexico, including murders, kidnappings, tortures and violent collections of drug debts." Calderon's office described Beltran Leyva as an ally of the "Zetas" -- former paramilitaries working with the Gulf cartel. One of Arturo Beltran Leyva's brothers, Alfredo, was arrested in January 2008 in the first major drug capture for the Calderon administration. The conservative Mexican president has staked his office on tackling the drug cartels with a controversial crackdown involving some 50,000 security forces across the country. Drug gang influence extends throughout Mexican society, infiltrating even the police and politicians. Bloody violence between drug gangs, particularly struggles over lucrative smuggling routes into the United States, has left the region along Mexico's border with the United States one of the most dangerous in the world.