theguardian.com, Wednesday 1 October 2014 22.27 EDT
Mexican special forces have seized alleged cartel leader Hector Beltran Leyva during a raid at a restaurant, federal officials said, announcing the latest in a string of high-profile drug arrests in the country.
The purported head of the Beltran Levya drug gang was captured in a seafood restaurant on Wednesday in San Miguel de Allende, a city in the central state of Guanajuato popular with foreigners.
No shots were fired in the brief operation, which followed an 11-month investigation, federal criminal investigations chief Tomas Zeron said at a news conference.
The arrest comes just months after the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the elusive boss of the Sinaloa cartel, which is considered the most powerful drug gang in Mexico. He was caught in February after more than a decade on the run following his escape from prison.
Hector Beltran Leyva, 49, is said to have assumed leadership of the Beltran Leyva cartel after his brother Arturo was killed by Mexican troops in a shootout in late 2009. Two other brothers are behind bars for their involvement in the cartel.
The gang terrorised parts of central Mexico for years, including Morelos state to the south of Mexico City, although it declined somewhat after the brothers’ arrests and killing. Last November, the US treasury department said the cartel appeared to be reorganising and 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.
Beltran Leyva has been indicted in courts in the District of Columbia and New York. US authorities have offered a reward of up to $5m for information leading to his capture. Mexico had offered its own bounty of 30m pesos, about $3.7m.
According to the US state department, Beltran Leyva, alias “The H” and “The Engineer”, was born on 16 February 1965, in the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, a cradle of drug trafficking.
The Beltran Leyva cartel was originally part of Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, but broke with that group in 2008.
The US government says the Beltran Leyva gang is responsible for trafficking cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine.
At least eight leading Mexican cartel figures have now been captured or killed since 2009, including Guzman, who was arrested in the Pacific coast resort of Mazatlan.
In 2013, authorities in northern Mexico arrested Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias “Z-40”, leader of the brutal Zetas cartel. Fellow Zetas leader and founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” was killed by marines the previous year.
Police pictures of alleged Mexican drug boss Hector Beltran Leyva after he was seized on Wednesday. Photograph: Alex Cruz/EPA