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Old 01-15-2010, 10:15 PM
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Default Mexico arrests leader of gang

Mexico arrests leader of gang

El Teo is being linked to kidnappings, 300 killings


January 13, 2010

SAN DIEGO — His brutality was widely broadcast, as victims were found tortured, beheaded, dissolved in lye, hung from bridges, often with messages attached. Yet Eduardo Teodoro García Simental for many months maintained a low profile and evaded capture. Yesterday, his luck ran out.

The gang leader known as El Teo, who also was linked to numerous kidnappings and extortions in the Tijuana region, was captured in the quiet seaside city of La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur. What his arrest will mean to the violence that has gripped the Tijuana region has yet to play out.

Authorities had been on García’s trail for five months, but the operation to detain him early yesterday was over quickly as Federal Police, soldiers and marines closed in on the two-story residence in an upscale neighborhood of the city about 900 miles south of Tijuana.

Hours later, García was in Mexico City, in handcuffs as he was forced to pose for photographs with masked and heavily armed federal agents. A one-time member of the Arellano Félix drug cartel, García is being blamed for 300 murders, including the deaths of numerous police officers.

García rose through the ranks of the Arellano Félix organization but broke away in April 2008. His feud with Fernando Sanchez Arellano, leader of the remnants of the Arellano Félix gang, led to unprecedented bloodshed, especially in Tijuana. Many of the targets were low-ranking members of both groups, but García also directed death threats at the two of the state’s leading law enforcement figures, Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, and Julian Leyzaola Perez, Tijuana’s secretary of public safety.

García used kidnappings to help finance activities in his main areas of operation, including Ensenada, Rosarito Beach, Tijuana and Tecate, federal authorities said.

With García out of the picture, what’s next remains an open question: “We’ll have to see what happens with the recomposition of forces in this part of the country,” said Ramon Pequeño, intelligence coordinator for Mexico’s Federal Police at a news conference in Mexico City.

Mexico’s Public Safety Secretariat said Garcia’s detention was the result of collaboration between the Federal Police and the Mexican military, the federal Attorney General’s Office and the government of Baja California. It also credited collaboration with “the U.S. anti-drug agencies,” presumably the DEA.

Moreno, the Baja California attorney general, called Garcia the state’s number one public enemy, and said his capture will end a cycle of violence in the Tijuana region that resulted in close to 1,000 deaths.

A state government communique said his detention was the result of coordinated efforts between the state’s police agencies and the military. García’s capture followed months of intelligence work in Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sinaloa, the statement said. U.S. authorities hailed García’s capture as an important victory in President Felipe Calderon’s battle against organized crime and drug traffickers vying for lucrative supply routes to the United States.

García’s "arrest is one more demonstration of the growing capacity of the government of Mexico to bring traffickers to justice,” said Michele M. Leonhart, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in a written statement.

“The Mexican government is unrelenting in its determination and commitment,” Carlos Pascual, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico said in a statement. “This latest arrest again demonstrates that cooperation between the United States and Mexico is producing results.”

García was named in five arrest warrants in Mexico for crimes that include homicide and drug trafficking, and was under investigation in four other cases, authorities said.

Pascual said García could face U.S. charges as well, but he is not under indictment in the United States, according to the DEA.

Pequeño, the Federal Police official, said García was receiving drug shipments from both the Sinaloa cartel as well and the Michoacan-based organization known as La Familia.

García owned three airplanes, frequently using them to travel between Michoacan, the city of Guadalajara, various parts of Sinaloa and Ensenada, Pequeño said.

Taken into custody at the time of García’s arrest was a companion, Diego Raymundo Guerrero Gomez, 33, who was with him at the residence. Authorities seized 19 cellphones, two laptop computers, 440,000 pesos, $100 in U.S. currency and three weapons.

García was brought into the Arellano Félix drug cartel by Ramon Arellano Félix, one of the group’s original brothers. Ramon Arellano was shot to death in 2002 in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, after being stopped for a traffic infraction.

Analysts said that while García has been a key player in Baja California, he was not a major figure on the national scene, and his detention is seen as less significant than the death of drug kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva last month in Cuernavaca.

García’s capture, “is a step forward in an interminable battle,” said Jorge Chabat, an analyst with a Mexico City-based group, CIDE. “It doesn’t mean that there will be no drug trafficking or that violence will end.”

David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, links García’s rise to that of a generation of drug traffickers who came of age at a time of intense rivalries between groups and decreasing central control.

García “is not a major capo,” Shirk said. “He’s a significant regional player.”

In Tijuana, human rights activist Victor Clark believes García’s arrest will have little effect on the violence in the region, and he will shortly be replaced. “It’s a model that we’re going to continue seeing,” said Clark, a longtime observer of drug trafficking groups in the region.

While García’s arrest marks the latest in a series of important detentions, Clark said government authorities are not confronting the “intellectual and financial” figures behind the drug-trafficking groups.
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