Mexico nabs brother of alleged Juarez cartel boss

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The brother of the head of the Juarez Cartel has been arrested in the western state of Nayarit and is being held pending charges of links to organized crime, Mexican officials said Monday.

Federal officials said Alberto Carrillo Fuentes was detained by federal police Sunday and moved to Mexico City, where prosecutors expect to file as-yet-undetermined charges against him. Government security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez confirmed the arrest in a message Monday on Twitter.

Carrillo Fuentes appears to be a relatively minor figure in the Mexican underworld, although he belongs to one of its most powerful families. Neither the U.S. nor Mexican governments had publicly announced rewards for him. His brother Vicente Carrillo Fuentes remains one of the most wanted men in both countries, and officials widely describe him as head of the Juarez Cartel.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has continued a strategy of hunting down the heads of the country’s drug cartels, although his government has disparaged his predecessor’s heavy dependence on that approach.

Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, a top leader of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, was detained last month in a military operation near the Texas border, weeks after the arrest of the leader of the brutal Zetas cartel near another border city, Nuevo Laredo.

A U.S. law enforcement official who works on the Mexican border said intelligence indicates that Vicente Carrillo Fuentes had ceded some but not all of his leadership responsibilities in the Juarez Cartel in recent years. The official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name because of security concerns, said Alberto Carrillo Fuentes was a member of the cartel but described his specific role and position as unclear.

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes is one of six brothers. He took over the cartel after his brother Amado, nicknamed “The Lord of the Skies,” died in 1997 in a botched cosmetic surgery.

Amado earned his nickname by flying planeloads of drugs into the United States. Vicente carried on trafficking on a more modest scale, but in a much more violent era.

He initially allied his gang with the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug organization, but that alliance fell apart following the 2004 slaying of his brother, Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes. That killing was reportedly ordered by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the purported Sinaloa cartel boss who is considered Mexico’s top drug lord. In revenge, Carrillo Fuentes allegedly ordered the killing of Guzman’s brother in a prison a few months later.

From that point, the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels became locked in Mexico’s bloodiest turf battle. That in turn led Carrillo Fuentes to establish another alliance of convenience with Sinaloa’s rivals, the Beltran Leyva cartel, and the Zetas, the most ruthless Mexican gang.

That fight has left the Juarez Cartel greatly weakened in its namesake city, although it is believed to maintain control of smuggling routes in other areas along the border and in sections of northern Mexico.

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Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

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