ONE of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords has been captured by soldiers at a seafood restaurant in a central Mexican town.
Hector Beltran Leyva’s arrest is a serious blow to his gang, the Beltran Leyva cartel, which had previously waged a bloody turf war against former ally Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman.
Beltran Leyva was caught in the picturesque town of San Miguel de Allende, a three-hour drive north-west of Mexico City, and had been living in the nearby city of Queretaro posing as a businessman dealing in art and real estate, the government said.
Beltran Leyva, 49, and an associate were carrying military-issue handguns, but he was arrested on Wednesday without a shot being fired. His rival Guzman was previously captured in Mexico in February after a shoot-out.
Beltran Leyva now faces charges of trafficking cocaine to the United States and Europe and a host of other crimes. In November, the US treasury department said the Beltran Leyva gang was responsible for “countless murders” of Mexican anti-drugs and military personnel.
His capture is a major victory for president Enrique Pena Nieto, who has sought to shift the focus away from the violence that fighting the drug gangs has spawned in recent years and on to the economic reforms he has pushed through.
Mr Pena Nieto on his Twitter account touted the capture of Beltran Leyva, who had bounties on his head of $5 million (£3m) in the US and 30 million pesos (£1.3m) in Mexico.
Beltran Leyva is said to have branched out into selling synthetic drugs.
When Mexican special forces arrested his brother Alfredo in early 2008, the brothers suspected Guzman had sold them out, sparking a war with the boss of the Sinaloa Cartel based in the northwest state of that name.Over the next three years, the rupture ushered in a new brutality to the violence that overshadowed the 2006-12 administration of then-president Felipe Calderon.
By 2010, the Beltran Leyvas had lost several leaders and Hector, alias “The Engineer,” was in control.
The Beltran Leyva gang has had a reputation as one of the most ruthless in the business. When Hector’s older brother Arturo was killed by Mexican marines in December 2009, the government honoured one of the young marines slain in the raid and images of the family funeral were broadcast.
The next day, gunmen swept into the family home and killed the marine’s mother, sister, brother and an aunt.
For years, the Beltran Leyva brothers had worked with other Sinaloan gangsters, notably Guzman, helping to manage his network of hitmen. After the break with Guzman, the brothers forged alliances with former rivals in the Gulf Cartel as well as the Zetas.
After Arturo’s death, the Beltran Leyva organisation was weakened by infighting as a split emerged between Beltran Leyva US-born Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie,” whom Mexican authorities arrested in August 2010.