Mon, Sep 07, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Mexico arrests suspected gang boss

AP , CIUDAD JUAREZ AND VILLAHERMOSA, MEXICO

State police inspect the scene where an armed group murdered local deputy candidate Jose Francisco Fuentes and his family in Villahermosa, Mexico, on Saturday.

PHOTO: EPA

Mexican soldiers arrested a suspected drug gang leader linked to a 2006 border incursion by armed traffickers into Texas and the killing of an anti-crime activist in July, the army said late on Saturday.

The army said in a statement that soldiers acting on a tip about armed men detained Jose Rodolfo Escajeda in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua State.

Escajeda and three other suspects detained with him on Friday allegedly worked for the Juarez cartel, named after the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas. The suspects were riding in bullet-resistant vehicles.

The army said Escajeda, who is wanted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the other suspects were turned over to Mexican prosecutors. It did not say whether he would be extradited to face charges in the US.

A US federal grand jury indictment names Escajeda as “allegedly responsible for an incursion into the United States” as well as drug charges, the DEA said.

On Jan. 24, 2006, at least 10 men in Mexican military-style uniforms crossed the Rio Grande into the US on a marijuana-smuggling foray, leading to an armed confrontation with Texas law officers near Neely’s Crossing, Texas, about 80km east of El Paso.

State police tried to stop the three sport utility vehicles, which made a quick U-turn and headed south toward the border, a few kilometers away.

When the SUVs reached the Rio Grande, police saw the occupants of a green, Mexican army-style Humvee apparently waiting for the convoy.

Police stopped and watched as the vehicles began to cross the shallow river into Mexico. Both sides — the Americans and the smugglers — had their weapons drawn, though no shots were fired.

The Mexican army statement called Escajeda “a lieutenant and one of the main operators” of the Juarez cartel, and linked him to the border incursion.

It said Escajeda is also allegedly responsible for the killing of anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron and a neighbor near Nuevo Casas Grandes on July 7.

LeBaron — who held dual US and Mexican citizenship — had led protests in May demanding the release of his brother Eric, who was kidnapped and later released.

In related news, gunmen killed a state congressional candidate, his wife and their two sons at their home on Saturday in Tabasco State, southern Mexico.

Jose Francisco Fuentes Esperon, 43, was found dead along with his wife, 38, and two sons aged nine and 13, in Villahermosa, state Attorney General Rafael Gonzalez Lastra said.

Fuentes Esperon was a former university rector and was widely known in the state capital. The state government immediately offered to provide protection for any candidate who wanted it ahead of Oct. 18 elections.

Gonzalez Lastra said that Mexican President Felipe Calderon called Tabasco Governor Andres Granier “to express his support and stress his decision to help in investigating the case to the end.”

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