By Armando V. Durazo \ El Paso Times
An alleged leader of the Juárez drug cartel who was known for using intimidation to control smuggling routes in the Valley of Juárez has been extradited to the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Saturday.
Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, known as "El Rikin," arrived in the U.S. on Saturday to face charges of marijuana and cocaine trafficking, the DEA said.
He is the second Juárez cartel member extradited by Mexico to the U.S. this year.
Escajeda, suspected in the slayings of 18 people at a drug rehabilitation center in Juárez, is also suspected in the slayings of anti-crime activists Benjamin LeBaron and LeBaron's brother-in-law Luis Carlos Whitman last year in Galeana, Chihuahua.
LeBaron, who had dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship, was killed after a community protest movement that forced the release of LeBaron's kidnapped brother, Mexican authorities said.
Escajeda, who is believed to be a boss in La Linea, or Juárez drug cartel, was arrested by the Mexican army in September 2009, and since then the DEA had been seeking his extradition to face drug charges in the U.S.
Two other men, Sergio Humberto Lujan and Marco Antonio Lujan, who fled El Paso after being convicted on drug trafficking charges, also were extradited to the U.S., the DEA said.
"The extradition in these cases demonstrates the Mexican government's ongoing commitment to bringing drug traffickers to justice -- on both sides of the border," said Joseph Arabit, special agent in charge of the El Paso Division of the DEA.
The DEA said in a prepared statement that Escajeda and his organization had been the target of an investigation that led to an indictment in 2006 on drug charges.
When he was arrested by Mexican authorities, DEA officials said the Juárez drug cartel suffered a powerful blow.
Law enforcement officials had said Escajeda had a reputation for being dangerous and would use terror to control the Valley of Juárez.
The DEA said Saturday that Escajeda's drug organization was based in Guadalupe, Chihuahua, east of El Paso.
Officials had said that Escajeda allegedly would fire an AK-47 rifles out of moving cars, would burn homes, would kill people and would behead some of them.
Escajeda and his brother, Oscar Alonso Escajeda Candelaria, are suspected of being behind a standoff between Hudspeth County sheriff's deputies and armed men dressed as Mexican soldiers in 2006. The standoff led to congressional hearing on the incident. Mexico has denied that Mexican soldiers were involved in the standoff.
Oscar Escajeda, known as "La Gata," or the cat, was extradited to the U.S. by Mexico in April 2009.
The DEA said Saturday that the Escajeda organization was responsible for the transportation, storage and importation of large amounts of marijuana and cocaine for cartels in the Juárez and El Paso area.
Special Agent Diana Apodaca, a spokeswoman for the DEA in El Paso, said Saturday that Jose Escajeda should have an initial court appearance sometime next week, but she could not say where.
Apodaca also would not say where he is being held or where he came into the United States.
She said Jose Escajeda arrived in the U.S. on Saturday.
"It's very significant. It shows continued cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico and it shows the continued commitment of the government of Mexico to arrest drug traffickers," she said.
She said that Jose Escajeda, who in his early 30s, is not suspected of any slayings in the U.S. Jose Escajeda is the second important extradition Mexico has made this year.
In September, a man suspected of ordering the slayings of a U.S. Consulate worker and her husband was sent to the U.S. to face charges of drug-dealing and unlawful possession of weapons.
Jesus Ernesto Chávez Castillo, known as "El Camello," or the camel, is suspected of ordering the slayings of Lesley Enriquez Redelfs and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, both of El Paso.
Video of Hudspeth County, Texas standoff mentioned in article