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Mexican authorities on Wednesday captured alleged cartel leader Héctor Beltrán Leyva, one of the nation’s most-wanted suspected drug traffickers, in a picturesque Mexican town better known for its large American retiree population.
The arrest of the suspected boss of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, which took place at a seafood restaurant without a shot being fired, comes just months after the capture of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and is a boost to President Enrique Peña Nieto who faces increasing criticism of deteriorating security in the country.
“This action is a testament to the efficiency of public security policies and law enforcement achieving the Mexico in peace that we all want,” Mr Peña Nieto tweeted of the arrest of the alleged gang leader, who had a $5m bounty on in his head in the US and a 30m peso reward ($2.2m) in Mexico.
Mr Peña Nieto, who has sought to shift focus away from Mexico’s drug-cartel rooted violence and on to the economic reforms that his government has championed, says his administration has overseen a 29 per cent drop in homicides since 2012. Last week, he said 88 of the country’s 122 most dangerous criminals had been captured.
However, other crimes have got worse, with kidnappings up 21 per cent last year, while extortion cases have increased nine times since 1997, according to the interior ministry. The government has also faced growing criticism over human rights abuses, most recently the alleged execution of 22 people three months ago by three soldiers.
“As some say, Mexico’s problem now is less organised crime, than disorganised crime,” said Gustavo Mohar, former secretary-general of Mexico’s National Security Intelligence system and now a consultant.
Mr Beltrán Leyva, 49, was captured in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, a three-hour drive north of Mexico City. He had been leading a low-profile life in the nearby city of Querétaro, shunning luxury cars and passing himself off as well-to-do businessman dealing in art and real estate, the government said.
According to the US state department, Mr Beltrán Leyva, alias “The H” or “The Engineer”, was born in February 16 1965 in the northern state of Sinaloa, a cradle of drug-trafficking. The state is also the home of the Sinaloa cartel and its former alleged boss, El Chapo Guzmán, who was caught in February after more than a decade on the run.
The Beltrán Leyva cartel was originally part of the Sinaloa cartel, but the two groups split in 2008. Mr Beltrán Leyva’s brother, Arturo, was killed by Mexican troops in 2008 and two other brothers are in jail for their involvement with the group.
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