Santa Ana, Sonora - Federal police have captured a man described as a key operator of the powerful Sinaloa cartel who served briefly in the U.S. army before taking on the trafficking of 2 tons of cocaine a month into the United States. The arrest of the man known as "El Jabali" (The Wild Boar) was made in the northern state of Sonora, where Vazquez had his base of operations.
Jose Vasquez Villagrana, 40, was arrested Sunday in his home town of Santa Ana, Sonora, which borders Arizona, authorities said Monday.
He joined the U.S. military in Arizona in 1990 and deserted a year after getting his U.S. citizenship, according to Mexico's federal Public Safety Department. He is believed to have returned to Mexico, where he began trafficking.
Vasquez is accused of smuggling Colombian cocaine through Panama and other countries to the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Planes carrying drugs landed at ranches owned by Vazquez in the Sonoran towns of Santa Ana and Magdalena de Kino. The drugs were stored at his ranch and then sent to the United States.
The suspect lived for a while in the United States and joined the Army. U.S. officials could not immediately confirm Vasquez's citizenship nor his role in the U.S. military.
"In 1990, in the state of Arizona (which borders Sonora), Vazquez Villagrana enlisted in the U.S. Army, from which he deserted a year later, after having obtained American citizenship," the Federal Police said in a statement.
Police described Vasquez as a key player in the Sinaloa cartel, although he does not appear on a list of Mexico's most-wanted traffickers.
Vasquez slowly built up his operation in Sonora, eventually buying planes that he put at the service of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, police said. Vazquez handled more than two tons of cocaine a month for fugitive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, Federal Police drug enforcement division chief Ramon Pequeño Garcia said in a press conference.
Vazquez had links to brothers Arturo and Alfredo Beltran Leyva until last year. He initially worked with the Beltran Leyva gang but sided with Guzman when the two organizations split, the police statement said.
El jabalí is the compadre of Mochomo, brother of Arturo Beltran Leyva
Loyalty to the Beltran Leyva brothers allowed him to earn his trust to the extent of becoming a friend of The Mochomo. In January 2008, following the breakup of the Beltran Leyva brothers cartel with Pacific leaders which happened due to the arrest of Alfredo Beltran, alias "El Mochomo" Villagrana Vazquez continued to operate alongside Arturo Beltran, alias "El Barbas." By mid-2009 differences arose between both of them, following the Beltran's forming alliances with the armed group called "Los Zetas," led Villagrana to change sides and work alongside" El Chapo "Guzman.
The organization called "Los Jabalíes" is characterized as a violent criminal group, which uses high-caliber weapons, as the Federal Police found out in April 13, 2009, in the municipality of Santa Ana, Sonora.
On that occasion Cynthia Anais Beltran Cabrera romantic the girlfriend of a member of criminal group was arrested. She was allegedly responsible for storing weapons and drugs for the group called "Los Jabalíes." Among the weapons seized was a 50 mm caliber browning machine gun, a .30 caliber machine gun and a .50 caliber barret rifle and 249 magazines for AK-47 assault rifles.
Vasquez's capture comes amid accusations dogging President Felipe Calderon that his government has not pursued the Sinaloa cartel as aggressively as other gangs.
The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.
Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him. EFE
Sinaloa - a west-coast state where 14 people were killed Sunday - has not seen the benefits of Calderon's frontal assault on cartels, said Manuel Clouthier, a Sinaloa lawmaker from Calderon's National Action Party.
"The government of Felipe Calderon is 3 years old and in Sinaloa, we have not seen decisive action against the narcos," Clouthier said. "Nothing serious is being done."
The government has denied the allegations, and party leaders demanded that Clouthier retract his remarks. He has refused.
Sunday was a particularly bloody day in Sinaloa, said the state's Attorney General Martin Gastelum.
In the worst incident, six people - including two women and a minor - were found shot to death in a cemetery in the Juan Jose Rios. In the same town, two men were found strangled in a house, one with the cable of an iron and another with a wire hanger.
Investigators have not determined whether the 14 deaths were related.
Jose Vasquez Villagrana was found with a AK-47, a handgun and several cell phones.
Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez and Beltran Leyva cartels, and La Familia Michoacana.
Since taking office, Calderon has sent tens of thousands of troops to trafficking hotspots across Mexico, vowing to wrest back territory from brutal cartels, which have responded with record violence.
More than 15,000 people have been killed by drug violence since 2006, including the Sinaloa cartel's chief rival, Arturo Beltran Leyva, who died in a shootout with marines in December. Weeks later, troops captured Teodoro Garcia Simental, the alleged leader of a gang that broke with the Tijuana cartel and aligned itself with the Sinaloa organization.
Dozens of banners have appeared in the past week in seven Mexican states accusing government officials and police - some by name - of protecting the Sinaloa cartel. The banners were purportedly signed by the Zetas, a group of hit men tied to the Gulf cartel.
Such banners and speculation have been common since Sinaloa leader Guzman bribed his way out of a Mexican prison in 2001.