July 5, 2005

Mexico believes it captured drug cartel leader

By Catherine Bremer

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico believes it may havecaptured Vicente Carrillo, boss of the powerful Juarez drugcartel, in what would be a major victory in a war on drug gangsresponsible for an explosion of violence on the U.S. border.

But Mexico's main television network said Monday that DNAtests had showed the captured man was not Carrillo, one ofMexico's biggest drug barons and listed as one of the U.S. DrugEnforcement Administration's top 10 major internationalfugitives.

The suspect was arrested in a Mexico City shopping centeron Saturday.

Prosecutors were carrying out DNA tests and fingerprintchecks to confirm his identity because of the extensive plasticsurgery Carrillo has reportedly used to change his face.

"We presume this is Vicente Carrillo, but it is notcompletely confirmed," government spokesman Ruben Aguilar said."I can only confirm the (arrest), and during the day theattorney general's office will give details on the subject."

But a statement promised by the attorney general's officedid not appear and the Televisa network said the man arrestedwas in fact an architect, Joaquin Romero Aparicio.

"They have finished the DNA tests and they are notcompatible at all with this drug trafficker," Televisa said onits main night news show, without giving a source for itsinformation.

The attorney general's office said a suspect who waspossibly Carrillo had been arrested after a tip from a witnesswho was being protected, but said it could be several daysbefore DNA tests confirm his identity.

"A person has been arrested and is being investigated,possibly Vicente Carrillo, but we still don't have informationthat allows us to determine if he is or not," a spokesman atthe attorney general's office said.

"They are carrying out checks but they don't have the datayet. Waiting for the DNA results would mean a minimum of threedays and then any extra time," he said.


Carrillo, who runs the Juarez cartel along with sidekickJuan Jose Esparragoza, is the brother of cartel founder AmadoCarrillo, whose own attempts to change his appearance withplastic surgery led to his death on the operating table in1997.

The U.S. DEA's Web site describes Carrillo, a former policeofficer, as "armed and dangerous."

Based in the grim border city of Ciudad Juarez, notoriousfor a spate of brutal murders of women, the Juarez cartel is aconfederation of clan-like crime families who smuggle Colombiancocaine and locally grown marijuana to the United States.

In its heyday in the 1990s, the cartel used a strippedBoeing 727 passenger jet to haul tons of cocaine north, earningAmado Carrillo the gangland tag of "El Senor de los Cielos" or"Lord of the Skies."

More than 500 people have been killed so far this year indrug-related violence which has escalated since PresidentVicente Fox launched a "mother of all battles" on drug gangs atthe start of the year.

Last month, troops arrested a brother of Joaquin Guzman,Mexico's most wanted man and leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

The government says it has made hundreds of other arreststhis year in the northern states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa andBaja California.

Aguilar also said on Monday that U.S. police had arrestedMartin Rojas, suspected mastermind of the April murder of RaulGibb, owner and editor of a newspaper in the state of Veracruzthat published articles about an illicit fuel smuggling racketallegedly run by Rojas.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Bell)