Vi­o­lent Mex­i­can drug car­tel leader taken into cus­tody

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JERRY SEPER

Mex­i­can law en­force­ment ar­rested a co-founder of the Los Ze­tas drug car­tel in the bru­tal high­way-am­bush killing of an un­armed U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agent in Fe­bru­ary, Mex­ico’s Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Min­istry an­nounced July 4.

Je­sus En­rique Re­jon Aguilar, 35, de­scribed as “one of the founders of the Ze­tas crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion” and the gang’s third most pow­er­ful leader, was taken into cus­tody July 3 in the Mex­ico City sub­urb of Ati­za­pan, “with­out fir­ing a shot.”

He was one of Mex­ico’s most­wanted men, and the U.S. Jus­tice, State and Home­land Se­cur ity de­part­ments had an­nounced a re­ward of up to $5 mil­lion for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to his ar­rest and con­vic­tion.

A Mex­i­can po­lice of­fi­cer who was with Mr. Re­jon Aguilar also was de­tained, and of­fi­cers seized weapons, money, doc­u­ments and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment.

Mex­i­can of­fi­cials pa­raded Mr. Re­jon Aguilar be­fore re­porters in Mex­ico City.

Agent Jaime Za­p­ata, 32, was killed Feb. 15 while he and his part­ner, Vic­tor Avila Jr., were driv­ing from Mon­ter­rey to Mex­ico City, where they were as­signed to ICE’s at­tache of­fice.

Drug car­tel mem­bers am­bushed the agents near San Luis Po­tosi, about 250 miles north of Mex­ico City. The shoot­ers forced the agents’ ve­hi­cle from the road­way at what ap­peared to be a high­way check­point and then opened fire, some us­ing AK-47 as­sault ri­fles.

More than two dozen mem­bers of Los Ze­tas have been ar­rested in the case, in­clud­ing Ju­lian Za­p­ata Espinoza, iden­ti­fied as the gang’s cell leader in San Luis Po­tosi, and the gang’s sus­pected pay­mas­ter, Mario “El May­ito” Jimenez.

Mr. Za­p­ata was hit by five bul­lets in his chest and died en route to a hos­pi­tal. Mr. Avila was shot twice in the leg and sur­vived. Nei­ther of the agents was armed, as the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment does not al­low U.S. law en­force­ment per­son­nel to carry weapons.

U.S. and Mex­i­can law en­force­ment authorities have said the two agents were south­bound on the four-lane fed­eral toll high­way in an ar­mored blue Chevro­let Sub­ur­ban with diplo­matic plates when they stopped about 2:30 p.m. at what ap­peared to be a check­point with men dressed in cam­ou­flage and car­ry­ing au­to­matic weapons.

The authorities said Mr. Za­p­ata had rolled down his win­dow to iden­tify him­self and his part­ner, in both Span­ish and English, as Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and diplo­mats when the shoot­ing erupted.

The of­fi­cials also said the gun­men made com­ments be­fore open­ing fire on the agents in­di­cat­ing that they knew who their tar­gets were. San Luis Po­tosi po­lice said that at least 10 as­sailants were in­volved in the shoot­ing and that the agents’ bul­let-rid­dled ve­hi­cle was found off to the side of the high­way.

Mex­i­can authorities said Mr. Re­jon Aguilar, known as “El Mamito,” had been a mem­ber of the Mex­i­can spe­cial forces but de­serted his unit in 1999. He was de­scribed as a found­ing mem­ber of Los Ze­tas, which ini­tially served as armed en­forcers for the in­fa­mous Gulf Car­tel.

Los Ze­tas have since split with their for­mer bosses and have been en­gaged in bru­tal turf wars for con­trol of co­caine-, mar­i­juana-and heroin-smuggling routes into the United States.

Mex­i­can authorities said Mr. Re­jon Aguilar was “con­nected to the at­tack” against the ICE agents, not­ing that he was in charge of op­er­a­tions for the Ze­tas in San Luis Po­tosi when the Amer­i­can agents were am­bushed.

“When Jaime Za­p­ata was mur­dered on Fe­bru­ary 15, ‘El Mamito’ was in San Luis Po­tosi, co­or­di­nat­ing ac­tions perpe- trated by the Ze­tas,” said Ra­mon E. Pe­queno, anti-drug divi­sion chief of Mex­ico’s fed­eral po­lice.

Mr. Pe­queno called Mr. Re­jon Aguilar’s ar­rest “a tri­umph” for the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment.

“El Mamito’s cap­ture is em­blem­atic be­cause he was one of the orig­i­nal Ze­tas,” he said.

Mr. Re­jon Aguilar also is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated in the killing of dozens of Cen­tral and South Amer­i­can mi­grants, whose bod­ies where found on a ranch in the north­ern Mex­i­can state of Ta­mauli­pas just 100 miles south of the U.S. bor­der.

In the past few months, Mex­i­can au­thor ities have un­earthed more than 140 bod­ies from mass graves in the state of Ta­mauli­pas. Many of the vic­tims were kid­napped off buses and killed when they re­fused to work for the Ze­tas. Ta­mauli­pas, in north­east­ern Mex­ico, is across the bor­der from Brownsville, Texas.

Vi­o­lence has been com­mon­place in Mex­ico since a rag­ing war be­tween drug-smuggling car­tels be­gan in 2006, claim­ing 35,000 lives. The Los Ze­tas car­tel is con­sid­ered among the most vi­o­lent drug gangs now seek­ing to con­trol lu­cra­tive smuggling routes into the U.S.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Most wanted: Mex­i­can po­lice es­cort Je­sus En­rique Re­jon Aguilar, a founder of the Ze­tas drug car­tel, on July 4, a day af­ter his ar­rest in the am­bush death of a U.S. ICE agent in Fe­bruar y.

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