Suspected drug trafficker Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental is arrested in Mexico on suspicion of involvement in at least 300 murders.
La Paz, Baja California - Federal troops stormed a seaside vacation home and captured one of the country's most brutal drug lords Tuesday, the second time in less than a month that Mexico has taken down one of its most powerful traffickers.
The arrest was considered another victory for enhanced electronic surveillance techniques that are being cultivated with the assistance of the United States. American anti-drug officials had been helping Mexican authorities track Teodoro Garcia Simental for more than five months.
Garcia, known as "El Teo," was arrested before dawn near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, where his gang had been bringing in planeloads of drugs to smuggle across the U.S. border, said Ramon Eduardo Pequeno, head of the federal police's anti-drug unit.
Garcia, in his mid-30s, is connected to the deaths of at least 300 people, authorities say, and ordered his rivals disposed of in especially grisly ways: beheading them, hanging their bodies from bridges or dissolving them in caustic soda.
He is also believed to be behind many of the dozens of assassinations of Tijuana police officers over the last two years. Pequeno said Garcia had recently stepped up efforts to kill Baja California's attorney general, Rommel Morena, and Tijuana's public safety chief, Julian Leyzaola.
President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out war upon taking office in December 2006, sending thousands of troops out to combat the drug gangs. But until recently the government had little success in taking down the top kingpins, and Mexicans have been growing increasingly frustrated with a war that has left more than 15,000 casualties.
That changed on Dec. 16, when another drug lord, Arturo Beltran Leyva, was killed in a raid by Mexican marines in the colonial city of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City. Authorities said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials had been helping them track Beltran Leyva as well. On Jan. 2, federal officials arrested his brother, Carlos Beltran Leyva.
"The government is being more subtle with regard to its pursuit of drug traffickers," said George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. "It's relying much more on electronic techniques, eavesdropping, inspection of one's lifestyle. It's also paying pretty good money to informants."
U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual said Garcia's arrest shows the sharing of information between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement is producing results.
"Mexico's operational capacity is growing," Pascual said in a statement. "We continue to improve our sharing of information. The Mexican government is unrelenting in its determination and commitment."
More than 150 federal troops raided a two-story, vacation home near the city of La Paz, shooting at the door and then barging in, said a neighbor who asked not to be identified out of fear the gang could retaliate. The troops quickly escorted Garcia and another man out of the home and into SUVs.
Police seized two rifles, 19 mobile phones, two laptop computers and more than $35,000 in Mexican and U.S. currency, Pequeno said.
Garcia appeared with authorities in Mexico City looking much heavier than in the two photos that have been widely circulated. Another alleged trafficker, Diego Raymundo Guerrero, was also detained.
Garcia rose through the ranks of the Arellano Felix cartel in Tijuana but later broke from the group and forged his own operation, Pequeno said. The break set off a battle with his former gang members that plunged the city into a period of unprecedented violence, with more than 1,500 murders since the beginning of 2008.
In Tijuana, he ruled by ordering the killings of drug dealers who betrayed him, and buying off corrupt officials.
The arrest marks one of the most significant blows to Mexico's Sinaloa cartel under Calderon – assuming that the Mexican government's claims linking Garcia to that cartel are correct, said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego's Transborder Institute. Mexican officials say Garcia was the cartel's point man in wresting control of the Baja California peninsula from the rival Arellano Felix cartel.
Garcia represents a new generation of Mexican drug traffickers who are much more savage than their predecessors, Shirk said.
"They play by a different set of rules, or maybe no rules, in terms of how they relate to their rivals," he said.
Shirk speculated that the arrest of Garcia could be a result of intelligence gleaned from the capture of Arturo Beltran Leyva and other leaders of that organization.
"It's quite possible that Beltran Leyva – no friend of the Sinaloa cartel – gave up information that helped track down El Teo," he said.
He said the arrest could also reflect a strategy to hit several cartels at once. That could also bolster public support for Calderon's fight among Mexicans who had been growing frustrated over the escalating violence.
Mexican Drug Kingpin 'El Teo' Arrested in Baja.
La Paz, BC - A Mexican drug lord, Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental, known for allegedly having his rivals dissolved in vats of caustic soda, was arrested this morning by Mexican authorities, The Associated Press reported. With the help of U.S. officials, they had been tracking Garcia for six months and arrested him this morning in his home in La Paz on the peninsula of Baja California.
Garcia is accused of being responsible for at least 300 deaths. In addition to dissolving his victims, he is said to have beheaded many people and dumped their bodies in Tijuana. Authorities say he is the head of a drug cartel that used private planes to fly drugs from the Michoacan, Sinaloa and Jalisco states to Baja, where the material was smuggled into the United States.
Garcia is the second major arrest this year for the government of President Felipe Calderon, who has declared war on the drug cartels that have racked his country with violence. On Jan. 2, federal officials arrested Carlos Beltran Leyva, brother of another drug kingpin, Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed by Mexican Marines on Dec. 16 south of Mexico City.
Satisfaction over today's arrest was muted by news that a record 69 people were killed in one 24-hour period by drug-related violence last weekend. In Ciudad Juarez alone, 26 people were killed, including several who had been beheaded. Already, 283 people had been killed in 2010.
More than 15,500 have died from drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, when Calderon declared war on the cartels. He has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers to combat the gangs, which are fighting for control of smuggling routes from Central America to the United States. Last year alone there were more than 6,500 recorded drug-related deaths, according to Sky News.
The killings can be particularly gruesome in an attempt to scare rivals. Last Friday, the government confirmed that one victim, Hugo Hernandez, had had his face skinned off and stitched to a soccer ball. The rest of his body was chopped into seven pieces and left on the streets of Los Mochis with a note that read, "Happy New Year, because this will be your last."
One of Mexico's most-wanted alleged drug traffickers, Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental, has been arrested, officials say.
He was picked up in the city of La Paz on the Baja California peninsula. Mr Garcia has been blamed for rising violence in the border city of Tijuana.
A $2.3m reward had been offered for information leading his capture.
He is the second alleged drug baron to be detained by the Mexican government in less than a month.
Top drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed during a shootout with marines in a raid south of Mexico City on 16 December.
"No shots were fired. It was a very fast operation. The investigation has been going on for a long time," a police officer who took part in the raid told Reuters.
Mr Garcia is believed to be behind a wave of attacks in Tijuana in recent years.
Last year, a hitman called "the soup-maker" confessed to dissolving hundreds of bodies in acid for Mr Garcia.
Mr Garcia is believed to have broken off an alliance with another cartel - the Arellano Felix organisation - in January 2008.
He has now allied himself with Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, head of the rival Sinaloa cartel and top of Mexico's most-wanted list.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made a war on drug traffickers his political priority.
But, since taking office in 2006, more than 15,000 people have died in spiralling drug violence in the country, above all in border regions which control the lucrative access routes into the US market.
Mexican drug lord Teodoro Garcia Simental, known for his savagery, is captured
The crime boss, who authorities say is responsible for massacres and beheadings, is quietly arrested in Baja California. Hundreds fled Tijuana to avoid being kidnapped by 'El Teo.'
A Mexican drug cartel kingpin accused of dissolving victims in barrels of lye and waging a terror campaign that turned Tijuana into one of Mexico's most dangerous cities was captured early this morning in the port city of La Paz, said Mexican federal authorities.
Teodoro Garcia Simental, blamed for a years-long campaign of massacres, beheadings and kidnappings that chased away tourists and caused social upheaval in northern Baja California, was arrested by Mexican federal police and immediately flown to Mexico City.
The heavyset Garcia scowled and dabbed at his mouth as he was paraded before television cameras at a police base wearing a zippered warm-up jacket and close-trimmed hair and goatee.
Better known for his savage killing sprees than his narco-business acumen, Garcia bedeviled Mexican authorities for years and narrowly escaped capture several times.
Mexican federal authorities, acting on intelligence provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said they tracked him down following a five-month surveillance operation. He was captured in an upscale area in the southern part of the city.
"Today another Mexican cartel leader was taken off the street and is no longer able to carry out his bloody turf war," said DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart. "This was not an isolated event: It exemplifies the growing effectiveness of our information sharing with the [President Felipe] Calderon administration, and our continued commitment to defeat the drug traffickers who have plagued both our nations."
Though Garcia was not among the top echelon of Mexican drug lords, few crime bosses have had such a ruinous impact on a region. Officials say he was responsible for the killings of at least 300 people during a nearly two-year power struggle with rivals from the Arellano Felix drug cartel, in which he had once been a top-ranking lieutenant.
Garcia branched out from traditional drug trafficking and focused his criminal empire on extortion and kidnapping, targeting all levels of society. During his reign, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Tijuana residents moved out of the city to avoid being kidnapped and more than 42 police officers were killed.
"It's a very good day for Tijuana," said former Tijuana resident Gabriel Benavides, whose family moved to a San Diego suburb after a loved one was kidnapped in 2005. "He caused great pain to so many people."
The Capture of "El Teo."
NAME -- Teodoro Garcia Simental
NICKAMES -- El Teo, El Tres Letras
BIRTH YEAR -- 1974
BACKGROUND -- He was once considered a top hit man for Tijuana's dominant cartel, the family-run Arellano-Felix. After law enforcement arrested or killed most of the Tijuana cartel leaders in 2008, Garcia launched a new group affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel. The splintered organizations have been involved in a violent turf battle in Tijuana.
REPUTATION -- Police say Garcia is particularly brutal and that his forces executed, beheaded and mutilated hundreds of rivals in Tijuana, sometimes pinning notes to the corpses, other times dissolving the bodies in caustic soda.
TERRITORY -- Police say he attempted to control eastern Tijuana and Rosarito Beach.