- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MEXICO CITY | Federal police said Wednesday they captured the new leader of a drug gang formerly led by jailed U.S.-born suspect Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal, in another blow to a cartel fighting to control the region south of Mexico City to the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

Carlos Montemayor was arrested in Mexico City on Tuesday with the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and with information obtained after Mr. Valdez’s arrest on Aug. 30, said Ramon Pequeno, the federal police anti-narcotics chief.

Mr. Montemayor, whose daughter is married to Mr. Valdez, took over his faction of the splintered Beltran Leyva cartel after “La Barbie” was caught, Mr. Pequeno said.

Authorities say Mr. Valdez, a Texas native who faces possible extradition to the United States, tried to seize control of the gang after boss Arturo Beltran Leyva died in a December shootout with marines.

The battle within the cartel was marked by decapitations, bodies hung from bridges and shootouts in the area from Acapulco to the picturesque city of Cuernavaca.

Mr. Montemayor also told police that his faction was responsible for kidnapping and killing 20 Mexican tourists in Acapulco, mistaking them for members of the rival La Familia cartel, Mr. Pequeno said.

The group of men, many of them mechanics and some of them related to each other, were kidnapped in September while traveling in cars with license plates from their home state of Michoacan — the birthplace of La Familia.

The bodies of the men were found in a mass grave outside Acapulco earlier this month.

Mr. Pequeno said Mr. Montemayor joined the Beltran Leyvas in 2003 after meeting cartel leader Sergio Villarreal Barragan, a cousin of Mr. Montemayor’s wife. Mr. Villarreal, who is not related to “La Barbie,” was captured in September.

Mr. Montemayor started out smuggling about 60 kilograms of cocaine a month to the United States, hidden in trucks, Mr. Pequeno said. At the time, the Beltran Leyvas were aligned with the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

The steady dismantling of the Beltran Leyva gang has been one of the biggest successes in President Felipe Calderon’s drug war since he deployed tens of thousands of federal police and soldiers in 2006 to fight Mexico’s cartels in their strongholds.

But the increasing splintering of the gangs has come with a bloody cost. An unprecedented 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006, and the fighting has become more horrifying.

An opinion poll released this week found 49 percent of Mexicans believe the government’s drug war has been a failure, compared to 33 percent who said it has been a success. The rest had no opinion.

The Mitofsky polling firm surveyed 1,000 adults face to face from Oct. 28 to 31. The poll, conducted for the citizens’ group Mexico United Against Crime, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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