Mexico arrests drug cartel leader expelled by US

Eduardo Arellano Felix, known as ‘the doctor’, faces organised crime and drug charges in Mexico.

Eduardo Arellano Felix, also known as 'The Doctor', centre, is escorted by masked police officers during his presentation to the press in Mexico City in 2008 [File: Alexandre Meneghini/AP Photo]

One of the notorious Arellano Felix brothers from Mexico has been rearrested on his arrival in his homeland after being deported from the United States after serving most of a 15-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors in Mexico said Eduardo Arellano Felix was on Monday handed over to the Mexican federal authorities at a border crossing in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas. He faces organised crime and drug trafficking charges in Mexico.

He was one of several brothers who founded the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel that moved hundreds of tonnes of cocaine and cannabis from Mexico and Colombia into the US.

Known for its violent and brutal control of the drug trade in the border city of Tijuana in the 1990s, the arrests or death of most of the seven Arellano Felix brothers has reduced the cartel to a shadow of its former self. The family slowly lost its grip along California’s border with Mexico over the past decade, while the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels emerged as the most powerful groups in the highly coveted corridor for moving drugs to the US.

Arellano Felix was extradited from Mexico in August 2012 to face US charges. He was arrested in October 2008 in a shoot-out with Mexican authorities at his Tijuana home.

Brother Benjamin Arellano Felix, described by US and Mexican authorities as the cartel’s mastermind, was sentenced to 25 years in US prison. after being extradited from Mexico, where he was arrested in 2002. Ramon Arellano Felix, the cartel’s top enforcer, was killed in a shoot-out with Mexican officers in 2002.

Another brother, Francisco Javier, was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison after the US Coast Guard captured him in a fishing boat in international waters off Mexico’s Baja California coast.

The issue of freed drug traffickers has been a sensitive one for Mexico after the release or near-release of several old-guard drug lords.

Almost eight years ago, drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero walked out of a Mexican prison late at night when a judge improperly ordered his release from a 40-year sentence for the torture-murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. He has since returned to drug trafficking and unleashed bloody turf battles in the northern Mexico border state of Sonora.

Mexico’s current government is beginning to earn a reputation for having released more drug lords than it has captured, part of the president’s stated policy of no longer detaining drug lords to avoid violence.

It is a particularly thorny issue President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who in 2019 ordered the release of Ovidio Guzman, one of “El Chapo” Guzman’s sons, to avoid bloodshed.

In April, a lower court ordered 1990s’ drug lord Hector “El Guero” Palma freed, a development that threatened international embarrassment had he walked free. But in July, a Mexican appeals court overturned the acquittal, arguing the lower court improperly applied the double jeopardy rule, which prohibits trying someone twice for the same offence.

Source: AP