Cartel hurt by arrest?

March 12, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

The Arellano Felix drug cartel has fallen on hard times.

On Feb. 10, Mexican authorities reported a man thought to be Ramon Arellano Felix, the cartel's enforcer, was killed in a gun battle with police in Mazatlan.

Now Mexican authorities have reported the arrest of another brother, Benjamin Arellano Felix, who was taken into custody Saturday in Puebla, about 70 miles southeast of Mexico City.

Benjamin Arellano is considered the brains of the operation, the one who handled the day-to-day business of the cartel.

Both Benjamin and Ramon Arellano were considered the heads of the cartel, which has control over drug trafficking through Tijuana and Mexicali.


An FBI spokesman said this morning the hit to the family could be significant, if the reports of Ramon's death are true — which could be determined this week — and with the arrest of Benjamin.

"There is no question that when you remove the most influential members of the organization, it is a big hit," said Keith Byers, a special agent with the FBI based in San Diego.

Still, there are other brothers in the family — Ramon, Eduardo and Javier — which means the cartel could maintain its control over its territory, Byers said.

However, he said it is possible rival cartels could see the family has been weakened and attempt to take control of the drug trafficking in the area.

"It is very possible rival cartels could see this as their opportunity to take over," Byers said.

He added he had little information on the arrest of Benjamin Arellano, stating it was a unilateral operation of Mexican authorities. He said U.S. law enforcement agencies were not involved in the arrest.

U.S. authorities will now watch to see how Mexico moves ahead with the prosecution of Benjamin Arellano.

At some point, he said, after Mexico does its prosecution, the U.S. Attorney's Office could seek extradition of Arellano to this country to face charges related to drug trafficking.

On the issue of Ramon Arellano, Byers said the blood test being conducted in the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., could produce answers within days.

The difficulty in determining whether the man killed in the gun battle in Mazatlan is Ramon Arellano stems from the fact the body was cremated before authorities could positively identify him.

The body, carrying identification with the name of Jorge Perez Lopez, was taken from a morgue, reportedly by family, and cremated.

However, authorities did have blood samples from the body and those samples were turned over to the FBI for analysis.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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