Francisco Javier Gómez Meza, the warden of the federal maximum security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco was arrested by Mexican Interpol agents at the Mexico City airport and held on drug trafficking charges. Specifically, he is charged with providing protection to the Beltrán Leyva cartel. Prior to his recent appointment as head of the prison, Gómez Meza was a senior official in the federal police and AFI, and is a close colleague of Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna. In 2006, he was given an award by the U.S. DEA for his work against drug trafficking. The Puente Grande prison is best known for the 2001 escape of El Chapo Guzmán, Mexico’s most wanted narcotrafficker. Today, a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence to continue to hold him. (Universal 10/29, 11/3, Reforma 11/3)
The rollup of the Beltrán Leyva cartel continued with the arrest in Puebla of another senior figure, Sergio Villarreal Barragán, by Marines. Villareal is believed to be the #2 in the cartel under Héctor Beltran Leyva, who has tried to assume leadership since the killing of his brother Arturo by marines last December. In addition, several Colombian liaisons of the cartel in Mexico were arrested. (Universal 9/13)
Of the eight Beltrán Leyva cartel members for whom the PGR offered rewards last year, six have now been captured or killed. None of the other cartels has been hit as hard by the security forces.
As widely reported, Federal Police captured Édgar Valdez Villarreal, aka “La Barbie” in Lerma, Mexico State, in an operation that involved 1,200 police officers. The Ministry of Public Security said that they had started tracking Valdez in June 2009. He was said to be the chief enforcer of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, and one of the figures who was trying to assume leadership of the cartel after Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed by Navy marines in Cuernavaca last December. Valdez is a U.S. citizen and is under indictment in the U.S. The Mexican Government offered a Ps. 30 million reward for his arrest, and the U.S. government had a US$2 million reward out for Valdez. (Excelsior 8/31)
The Justice Ministry (PGR) arrested Gregorio “Greg” Sánchez, the PRD-PT-Convergencia candidate for governor of the state of Quintana Roo. Sánchez is the mayor of Cancún, and was charged with violation of drug laws, racketeering, and use of illicit funds. PGR sources said he was linked to the Los Zetas paramilitary gang and the Beltrán Leyva cartel. His administration has been under suspicion at least since the kidnapping and murder of General Mauro Enrique Tello in February 2009. PRD Senate leader Carlos Navarrette angrily denounced the arrest in a press conference as a political provocation. “As president of the Senate, I consider it completely unacceptable to use the PGR for purely electoral and political ends….This situation will have an enormous cost for democracy in Mexico,” he said. (Universal 5/26, Reforma 5/26)
Most businesses in this normally vibrant city and popular weekend getaway shut down by 8pm on Saturday night, as rumors and threats of drug-gang violence spread on Twitter and Facebook. Commented El Universal: “By the afternoon, the collective psychosis was such that scores—hundreds—of businesses closed their doors. The city seemed to become a ghost town that night. The Army staged patrols, and the police were on maximum alert. Ultimately, nothing happened.” The number of gang killings and fire bombings of businesses in Cuernavaca and the state of Morelos has soared in the wake of the government’s killing of Arturo Beltrán Leyva last December, as the Beltrán Leyva cartel’s former enforcer, Édgar Valdez Villarreal, “La Barbie,” tries to take control of the market from what’s left of the family. Many of the bombings have been marked by the initials of a new group, the ‘South Pacific Cartel (CPS).’ (Universal 4/18)
Naval Marines arrested Alberto Mendoza Contreras, aka El Chico Malo (“Bad Boy”), alleging that he controlled trafficking for the Beltrán Leyva cartel in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro. Controversial San Pedro mayor Mauricio Fernández Garza said that he paid El Chico Malo as an informant (and credited him for fingering 50 corrupt cops), but denied that he had any knowledge of his trafficking activities. He added that Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont approved these activities, setting off a firestorm. The Ministry of Government issued an immediate statement in response: “It is unacceptable, under any circumstances, to exchange intelligence information for tolerating impunity or protecting criminals.”
In a second incident, the body of a drug dealer was found handcuffed and with signs of torture the day after he was photographed being detained by police in the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina. He was one of two suspects wanted for trying to ambush the local police chief. The police transferred him to Naval marines for transport to a hospital for treatment of injuries, but both the police and the marines deny responsibility for the suspect’s killing. (Excelsior 3/26, Reforma 3/24, 3/27)