- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Drug Enforcement Administration said it is working with Mexican law enforcement authorities to determine whether Ramon Eduardo Arrellano-Felix, reputed leader of one of the world's most dangerous drug cartels, is dead.
Published reports in Mexico said the suspected drug kingpin was killed Feb. 10 in a gun battle in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan, although the death has not been corroborated.
An inquiry into the shooting began after a fake identity document was found on a bullet-ridden corpse at the scene. But before Mexican federal officials could retrieve the body, it was whisked away by men claiming to be relatives and has now vanished.
"It is not in our possession," Mexican Prosecutor General Rafael Macedo told reporters Monday. "We are investigating, looking for evidence."
The Mexican shootout occurred after police spotted gunmen in a car. Two of the suspects and a policeman were killed, but three men including another Mexican police officer were arrested.
"The DEA has long considered Ramon Arrellano-Felix, along with his brothers Benjamin, Eduardo and Javier, a top priority," said DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson. "The Arrellano-Felix organization makes up one of the most powerful, violent and aggressive drug-trafficking organizations in the world."
Based in Tijuana, Mexico, the Arrellano-Felix cartel is responsible for the transportation, importation and distribution of multiton quantities of cocaine and marijuana, as well as large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine.
Ramon Arrellano-Felix, according to Mr. Hutchinson, is believed to be the most violent member of the drug ring, having assumed the role of organizing and coordinating security for the drug network. The network is suspected in the death of hundreds of drug rivals, police officials, prosecutors and judges during the past decade.
DEA's commitment to dismantling the organization was re-emphasized during a recent visit by Mr. Hutchinson to Mexico City, where he said the drug cartel would remain a top priority of the DEA until the Arrellano-Felix brothers and their associates have been brought to justice.
The Arrellano-Felix cartel has maintained its position as Mexico's leading drug-smuggling organization through sheer force, and has survived for nearly 20 years because of its access to weapons and its willingness to use them.
Mexico is the largest transshipping point of South American cocaine bound for the United States. DEA officials believe 65 percent of the cocaine produced in South America reaches U.S. cities via the U.S.-Mexico border and that Colombian cartels rely on Mexican groups in Guadalajara, Juarez, Matamoros, Sinaloa and Tijuana to smuggle cocaine into this country.
The DEA has said that Mexican drug lords have established themselves as "transportation specialists" for the shipment of cocaine across the border. Many of them also are involved in smuggling massive amounts of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines.
The Arrellano-Felix organization controls drug trafficking into the United States along the westernmost part of the U.S.-Mexico border. The organization smuggles marijuana and cocaine into the United States and distributes an estimated $1 million weekly in bribes to Mexican authorities.
Since 1998, Ramon Arrellano-Felix, 37, has been on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list with a $2 million reward for his capture.
He is wanted in connection with the importation of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

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