Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Drug Capos Now Surrendering Without Fight

Thursday, September 16, 2010 |

By: Mark Stevenson
Associated Press Writer

El Grande captured alive and without a fight.

Mexico's capture of two rival drug gang leaders in two weeks may mark a new trend in the country's drug war, an official said Monday: drug lords surrendering without a fight when surrounded.

Drug lords - once notorious for dying in a blaze of bullets - have started surrendering, said Navy spokesman Rear Adm. Jose Luis Vergara. The capture of the rivals also may help allay suspicions that the government hits one gang while leaving its rivals alone.

"The criminals are no longer putting up resistance" when surrounded, Vergara said, referring to Sunday's arrest of Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a leader of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel.

Villarreal was taken by about 30 Mexican marines without a shot fired in a raid at a house in the central state of Puebla on Sunday. That came a little over two weeks after the Aug. 30 arrest of his rival, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a U.S.-born trafficker known as "La Barbie," who also gave up when stopped by police.

"I think it is a sensible attitude on their part not to resist," Vergara said, referring to two previous capos - Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel - who died while trying to fight off marines and soldiers.

"I think the case of 'Nacho' Coronel was a watershed. I think that the drug gangs now know very well the federal government has the superior force needed to arrest them, and that is why they are not putting up resistance," Vergara said at a news conference in which Villarreal Barragan was presented before the cameras.

The unsmiling Villarreal Barragan towered over marines flanking him, living up to his nickname "El Grande," or "the Big One." Vergara said he was also known "King Kong" and "The Child Eater," for reasons that are not clear.

The peaceful capture of La Barbie.

He appears on an Attorney General's Office list of Mexico's most-wanted drug traffickers, with a reward of just over $2 million, and he faces at least seven formal investigations into alleged drug trafficking and organized crime. He is considered the second-in-command to Hector Beltran Leyva, who leads the cartel following the death of his brother Arturo.

Villarreal Barragan and Valdez Villarreal - who are not related - were bitter enemies, whose dispute led to bloodshed across the southern state of Morelos and Guerrero as they fought for territory.

In April, a policeman and five other people - including a mother and her 8-year-old child - were killed in the crossfire of a shootout between the two gangs on the main boulevard of the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. And last week, authorities discovered 13 bodies in a clandestine grave in Morelos state, believed to be victims of the feud.

While the federal anti-drug offensive launched in late 2006 has hit all of the major cartels, suspicions have long lingered that the government may be hitting some gangs harder than others, either because a single dominant cartel might cause less violence than two warring ones, or that some officials protected specific gangs.

But seldom have leaders of two rival drug gangs been arrested with days of one another.

"The timing is very close," said former top chief anti-drug prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez. But Gonzalez stressed that, while the two were rivals, "they come from the same lineage" in the Beltran Leyva cartel.

Valdez Villarreal split from the cartel following its leader's death, and officials said he had supplied important information after his arrest, but Vergara said that Villarreal Barragan's arrest was due to a 10-month investigation - with no relation to the detention of his rival.

Both factions are now "very weakened," Vergara said.

But other cartels - like the Zetas gang or the La Familia cartel - could be poised to move in on the territory the two arrested capos were fighting over. Vergara said the territory stretches from Mexico City to the Pacific coast, along with some northern enclaves.

Nor are the cartels likely to give up while they still have weaponry and room to move. On Sunday, federal police reported they had found 90 hand grenades, 29 rifles and about 58,000 rounds of ammunition at a a suspected drug cartel safe house in the northern Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched the offensive against drug cartels soon after taking office in 2006.

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10 Borderland Beat Comments:

J said...

I think it's always been like this, some surrender, some fight to the death, dependent upon personalities and circumstance, and personal choice. This article spins it like the 'bosses' are now afraid of the military, which I really doubt. They get lucky sometimes, is all it comes down to, arresting El Grande when he is at his house with family is different then at a safe house surrounded by gunmen.

Historically, I think surrender is more common then the fight to the death anyway, Ramon Arellano died fighting, but his three brothers went peacefully, Osiel Cardenas went fighting, El Mayito, and Vicente Leyva went without a fight, yeah I think generally they go peacefully. This article makes it sound like a new trend, when in fact it's more or less the status quo.

Smurf said...

Quite frankly it speaks volumes that a guy known as "The child eater" who would knowingly send armed killers to take out his rivals would be a coward, better he go out like Nacho and die with some dignity.

Anonymous said...

There was an article on another site that mentioned he told the Marines, who had already surrounded the home, that he would be arrested peacefully if his family was not harmed/bothered. His wife, two kids and a babysitter had already locked themselves in another room after the Marines had surrounded the home.

Anonymous said...

Rumor was that El Commandante Ramone Arrellano was going to Mazatlan to kill El Mayo for not paying the Tijuana Cartel 5 million dollars for using there routes to smuggle drugs. The police in Mazatlan who are on El Mayos payroll were expecting him and were on high alert. So he did not die at the hand of the military but at the hands of corrupt police officers working for El Mayo. Pretty interesting right?

Ovemex said...

According to other residents of the elite "subdivision" he was arrested in his home.

A home which he shared with his wife, mother-in-law, and two young children aged 7 and 9.

I also read (like Anonymous 5:22 am) at the time of his arrest his wife, nanny, and children were locked in an upstairs bedroom while he and his gunmen waited in his dining room to turn themselves in.

Perhaps had he been in another place it would have worked out differently, but he was home, with his family..

Resisting arrest or opening fire would have had grave consequences as marines stormed from one to room, eventually happening upon his wife and young children.

There have also been reports that El Grande and el H have been having some differences lately. There hasn't really been any kind of details, but it's been "rumored" for a while now.

Anonymous said...

"Child eater" is for a slang here in mexico, it's because he is tall

Ovemex said...

The nickname "child eater" was an "inside nickname" created by those who knew his "ruthless work habits". His savage ways, combined with his height was the beginning of the nickname, which would be similar to the American Boogy man, big and mean.

Anonymous said...

Make sense that these guys are giving up...as the post suggest there is the obvious amount of fire power that these guys are now facing....they make the choice that can die or at least live out their lives in prison with some possibility of one day being released...not to hard to figure that out

dgm said...

guess you would need to ask El Grande about the nickname the rest is just speculation....maybe he had a little cannibal in him.....who knows?

PEDRO said...

being from SINALOA and been 6'6" is great. best thing ever... even though EL GRANDE is much wider and solid but same height as me, but to turn his self in was the smartest thing to do.
RUMOR is, you will see him in his convoys in no more then 14 months.

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