DNA Tests Confirm Death of Mexican Drug Lord
A hearse that carried the remains of alleged Mexican drug cartel chief Arturo Beltran Leyva to the Gardens Humaya cemetery in Culiacan, northwestern Mexico, remains parked outside the cemetery's church Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009.
Culiacan, Mexico — Genetic testing has confirmed that a man killed in a shootout last week with marines was drug cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva, the Mexican government said Sunday as a lavish but heavily guarded memorial service took place in this drug-plagued northern city.
Dozens of army troops stopped and checked vehicles in streets leading to an upscale funeral home in Culiacan, the capital of northern Sinaloa state, where Beltran Leyva's body was buried Sunday under the watchful eyes of army soldiers.
Comparisons of DNA samples taken from the dead kingpin and from his imprisoned brother, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, show the two are related, the Attorney General's Office said in a statement Sunday.
While there are other brothers in the Beltran Leyva family, authorities have said that they have other evidence to convince them the body is that of Arturo Beltran Leyva. They did not elaborate, but it is likely they have other photos of the cartel leader.
Beltran Leyva was riddled with bullets in a shootout Wednesday in the central city of Cuernavaca, but his face was still largely recognizable.
Relatives claimed the body and flew it back to Sinaloa, home to many of Mexico's most powerful drug lords.
A hearse driving the remains of alleged Mexican drug cartel chief Arturo Beltran Leyva leads a car convoy to the Gardens Humaya cemetery in Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009.
Enormous wreaths - some so large they had to be carried by several men while others didn't fit inside the building - were delivered to the Funeraria Moreh, while soldiers watched from patrol vehicles stationed out front.
"You were like a father to me. You will always be in my heart. Attentively, your brother, Alfredito," read a banner stretched across one of the wreaths.
A funeral home employee who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation said each floral arrangement cost about 50,000 pesos (almost $4,000). There were more than a dozen such wreaths at the closed-door viewing ceremony.
The funeral home has four memorial chapels where ceremonies can be held simultaneously, but relatives of the fallen capo appeared to have rented out the entire facility to avoid sharing the space.
Mexican authorities seldom raid or otherwise interrupt funeral services for drug cartel leaders, in part because they are rarely attended by top suspects or fugitives. But attacks by rivals cartels on such events are not unknown.
While many thought Beltran Leyva would be taken back to his mountain hometown of Badiraguato, Sinaloa, for burial, he was instead interred in the Culiacan cemetery, which is studded with marble-clad tombs of drug lords.
Soldiers in trucks followed the funeral cortege to the cemetery, where more soldiers were posted at the entrance to search vehicles for weapons. About 50 mourners, mostly women, gathered at the graveside and sang songs of farewell to one of Mexico's three most wanted cartel suspects, and one of the most violent.
Beltran Leyva, nicknamed the "boss of bosses," is the highest-ranking figure taken down in President Felipe Calderon's 3-year-old drug war. U.S. and Mexican officials say Beltran Leyva's gang carried out heinous killings, including numerous beheadings, and had great success in buying off public officials and police to protect his cartel.
Mexico's government was embarrassed by photographs published shortly after the shootout showing Beltran Leyva's half-naked body covered by bloodstained money.
Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont said Friday the photographs were "unnecessarily offensive to the family of these people" and would be investigated.
Mexican marines found Beltran Leyva's body after storming an upscale apartment building in Cuernavaca and demanding his surrender. Gunmen fired on the marines, who then launched an attack that lasted nearly two hours, authorities said. Six gunmen and one marine died.
Beltran Leyva was the most powerful of several brothers in charge of the crime syndicate named after them. Mexican authorities arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008.