A top leader of Mexico’s Juarez drug cartel was arrested by Federal Police officers, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Carlos Vazquez Barragan is suspected of being one of the top leaders of La Linea, the armed wing of the cartel headed by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the secretariat said.
Vazquez Barragan, known as “El 20,” operated at the highest level of the cartel, officials said.
The 39-year-old Vazquez Barragan ran La Linea along with Juan Pablo Ledezma and Armando Corral.
Vazquez Barragan is from a community near Madera, a city in the northern state of Chihuahua, the Public Safety Secretariat said.The suspect smuggled large quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the United States, the secretariat said.
Vazquez Barragan laundered money from U.S. drug sales in Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas.
The drug trafficker’s arrest was the product of an investigation conducted in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, the secretariat said.
Vazquez Barragan ran La Linea’s financial operations and paid the smugglers who handled the cartel’s shipments.
The suspect was also in charge of planning and ordering hits on rivals authorized by top cartel boss Carrillo Fuentes, who is known as “El Viceroy.”
Vazquez Barragan operated in Palomas, Ascension, Casas Grandes, Gomez Farias, Namiquipa, Bachiniva and Madera, all cities in Chihuahua.
The suspect, moreover, was in charge of all of the cartel’s retail drug sales territories across the northern state.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez and Beltran Leyva cartels, and La Familia Michoacana.
The Juarez cartel was founded in 1993 by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was known as the “Lord of the Skies” for his fleet of aircraft.
Amado’s brother, Vicente, and his son, Vicente Carrillo Leyva, who was arrested in 2009, took control of the cartel following the drug lord’s 1997 death after undergoing plastic surgery to disguise his identity.
The Juarez cartel has been battling the Sinaloa cartel for control of smuggling routes around Ciudad Juarez, turning the border city into one of the world’s most dangerous places.
The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) 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.
Ciudad Juarez, where more than 5,000 people have been murdered since 2008, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.
The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when 310 people were killed, then it more than tripled to 1,607 in 2008, according to state Attorney General’s Office figures, with the number of killings climbing to 2,635 last year.
The death toll for this year currently stands at more than 1,200.