Mexico was celebrating a rare victory in its war on drugs yesterday after one of the country’s most notorious traffickers was killed in a two-hour gun battle after 200 Navy Marines stormed his luxury hideout.
Arturo Beltrán Leyva, known as the “Boss of Bosses”, died along with six of his henchmen after the Marines surrounded a complex of flats in Cuernavaca, a holiday town south of Mexico City. Beltrán Leyva, also wanted in the US, was the highest-ranking figure to be taken out by the authorities and his death marks the biggest success yet in President Calderón’s campaign to stamp out the drugs trade.
The Marines, among Mr Calderón’s best-trained — and least corrupt — forces, had been planning the assault for months. They had tracked Beltrán Leyva’s movements since Friday, when they narrowly failed to capture him.
One of the embassy cables recently released by Wikileaks tells the back story:
SUBJECT: MEXICAN NAVY OPERATION NETS DRUG KINGPIN ARTURO
REF: MONTERREY 000453
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gustavo Delgado.
Reason: 1.4 (b),(d).
¶1. (S) Summary. Mexican Navy forces acting on U.S.
information killed Arturo Beltran Leyva in an operation on
December 16, the highest-level takedown of a cartel figure
under the Calderon administration. The operation is a clear
victory for the Mexican Government and an example of
excellent USG-GOM cooperation. The unit that conducted the
operation had recieved extensive U.S. training. Arturo
Beltran Leyva's death will not solve Mexico's drug problem,
but it will hopefully generate the momentum necessary to make
sustained progress against other drug trafficking
organizations. End Summary.
¶2. (S) Mexican Navy (SEMAR) sources revealed on the night of
December 17 that SEMAR forces killed Arturo Beltran Leyva
(ABL), head of the Beltran Leyva Organization, during a
shoot-out in Cuernavaca (approximately 50 miles south of
Mexico City) that afternoon. At least three other cartel
operatives were killed during the raid, with a fourth
committing suicide. While it still has not been confirmed,
Embassy officials believe the latter to be ABL's brother,
Hector, which would mean that all Beltran Leyva brothers are
either dead or in prison. Arturo Beltran Leyva has a long
history of involvement in the Mexican drug trade, and worked
with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel before
splitting in 2008. The rivalry between the Sinaloa and
Beltran Leyva organizations has been a key factor driving the
escalating levels of narcotics-related violence in recent
years. Born in Sinaloa, ABL has been key to the importation
and distribution of cocaine and heroin in the United States,
and also has extensive money laundering capabilities,
corruption networks, and international contacts in Colombia
and the U.S.
¶3. (C) Embassy law enforcement officials say that the arrest
operation targeting ABL began about a week prior to his death
when the Embassy relayed detailed information on his location
to SEMAR. The SEMAR unit has been trained extensively by
NORTHCOM over the past several years. SEMAR raided an
identified location, where they killed several ABL bodyguards
and arrested over 23 associates, while ABL and Hector
escaped. On Monday, the Embassy interagency linked ABL to an
apartment building located in Cuernavaca (about an hour south
of Mexico City), where ABL was in hiding. SEMAR initiated an
arrest operation on Wednesday afternoon, surrounding the
identified apartment complex, and establishing a security
perimeter. ABL's forces fired on the SEMAR operatives and
engaged in a sustained firefight that wounded three SEMAR
marines and possibly killed one. SEMAR forces evacuated
residents of the apartment complex to the gym, according to
press accounts, and no civilian casualties have so far been