Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Mexico extradites 10 drug cartel suspects to US

‘BIG FISH’ Mexican President Felipe Calderon extradited Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas to Texas as he launched his campaign against crime

AP , MEXICO CITY

Mexico sent 10 alleged drug smugglers to the US on Wednesday, capping an already record year for extraditions between the two countries.

Several were high-ranking members of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs, including the Gulf and Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix cartels, Mexico’s Attorney General’s office said in a news release. The suspects will face charges in California, Texas, Florida and Georgia.

US Ambassador Tony Garza praised the action as another example of President Felipe Calderon’s resolve to go after cartels. Since taking office in 2006, Calderon has made it a priority to extradite drug suspects, who previously would operate from their Mexican jail cells.

“With this decision President Calderon and his national security team underscore again Mexico’s determination to bring cartels operating in its territory to their knees,” Garza said in a statement.

Wednesday’s group brings the number of suspects extradited from Mexico to the US to 95 this year, 12 more than the previous high in 2007, the US embassy said.

Those extradited on Wednesday included Jesus “Chuy” Labra Aviles, the former top financial leader for the Arellano-Felix gang who was arrested in 2000 in Tijuana, and Armando Martinez Duarte, a former federal police official who also worked as the chief of security for the Arellano-Felix gang, protecting its members from police raids, according to the DEA.

John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego, said Martinez is also “quite a big fish,” known for torturing and killing traffickers from rival gangs, particularly anyone who tried to venture into the Mexican city of Mexicali, across the border from Calexico, California, Kirby said.

All but one of the suspects are Mexican citizens. Juan Diego Espinosa Ramirez, a Colombian, is wanted in Florida on drug charges related to large cocaine shipments from Colombia to the US.

The alleged Arellano-Felix members face maximum sentences of life in federal prison and minimum sentences between 10 and 20 years, said Laura Duffy, a federal prosecutor in San Diego.

US Justice Department spokesman Ian McCaleb said none of the 10 will face the death penalty.

In one of his first actions as president, Calderon extradited Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas to Texas as he launched his national campaign against organized crime.

Calderon has sent more than 40,000 troops across Mexico to confront traffickers, who have responded fiercely.

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