Hector Beltran Leyva, the purported head of a feared drug gang allegedly run by his family, became the fourth brother to fall when soldiers grabbed him while dining at a seafood restaurant in Mexico.
No shots were fired during the operation in San Miguel de Allende, a popular enclave for foreigners and artists in the central state of Guanajuato, federal criminal investigations chief Tomas Zeron said.
With the arrest, Mexico’s government landed another high-profile blow against the country’s cartels. At least nine capos have been killed or captured by security forces since 2009, including elusive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
US and Mexican authorities say the Beltran Leyva gang is responsible for trafficking drugs to the US and Europe, including cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine. It was originally part of Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, but broke with that group in 2008.
Mexican authorities have said Beltran Leyva, 49, assumed leadership of the family’s cartel after his brother Arturo was killed by troops in a gun battle in late 2009. Two other brothers are behind bars for their involvement in the cartel.
The Beltran Leyva gang terrorised parts of central Mexico for years, including Morelos state to the south of Mexico City. It declined somewhat after the brothers’ arrests and killing, but the US treasury department said last November the cartel appeared to be regaining some power.
“Obviously this is not the Beltran Leyvas’ organisation in its strongest moment... but it continues to be a criminal organisation capable of generating localised violence in some states,” Mexican security expert Jorge Chabat said.
Zeron said Beltran Leyva had adopted a “moderate profile” after becoming head of the cartel to avoid detection.
An 11-month investigation determined he had made his home in the state of Queretaro, where he passed himself off as a businessman selling art and property, Zeron said.
He said Beltran Leyva was tracked to San Miguel de Allende and captured along with a man suspected of being involved in the cartel’s finances.
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