MEXICO CITY – The suspected leader of the Los Aztecas gang was arrested by Federal Police officers for his alleged role in 80 percent of the killings carried out in the past year in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Arturo Gallegos, known as “El Farmero,” was paraded before reporters on Sunday in Mexico City.
Gallegos is accused of being responsible, among other killings, for the massacre of 16 people attending a birthday party on Jan. 31 in the border city’s Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood.
The gang leader, who is also accused of killing two employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez and five Federal Police officers, was arrested along with two suspected accomplices, the secretariat said.
Intelligence obtained on Gallegos indicates that he was arrested in the United States in 1996 on drug charges and was involved in numerous murders, extortion rackets and drug trafficking in Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, the secretariat said.
The 32-year-old Gallegos was arrested during an operation targeting Los Aztecas, officials said.
The gang leader was captured after investigators determined that he had his base of operations near the border city’s Fraccionamiento Paseos del Bosque neighborhood.
Investigators located the house being used by Gallegos following surveillance and with the assistance of the public, the secretariat said.
Gallegos confessed that he was responsible for at least 80 percent of the murders committed between August 2009 and now in Ciudad Juarez, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Carlos Rodriguez Ramirez, a 41-year-old native of Ciudad Juarez, was arrested along with Gallegos on charges that he smuggled drugs into El Paso.
Gisela Ornelas, a 32-year-old from Ciudad Juarez, was arrested on charges that she was in charge of arms and drug smuggling for the gang in the border city.
Officers seized two rifles, two pistols, ammunition and two SUVs, one of which was armored, in the operation.
Gallegos confessed that he ordered the killing of the wife of Jesus Ernesto Chavez, a gang member who apparently revealed information to investigators about Los Aztecas.
The gang is linked to the Juarez drug cartel, one of Mexico’s largest criminal organizations.
More than 2,700 people have been murdered this year in Ciudad Juarez, topping the homicide figure for all of last year in the border city, press tallies show.
A total of 350 murders were registered in Ciudad Juarez last month, making October the bloodiest month of the year in the border city, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said in a report released earlier this month.
The Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, backed by hitmen from local street gangs, have been fighting for control of the border city.
Ciudad Juarez, where more than 6,000 people have been murdered since 2008, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.
The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when 310 people were killed, then it more than tripled to 1,607 in 2008, according to state AG’s office figures, with the number of killings climbing to 2,754 last year.
Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas and Guatemala City, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a report released earlier this year.
The Mexico City daily Reforma reported recently that gangland killings have topped 10,000 this year. EFE