Savvy young heirs give Mexico drug cartels new face

Wed Apr 8, 2009 10:39am EDT
 
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By Mica Rosenberg

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Shunning the gem-studded pistols and gold chains flaunted by their fathers, a savvy new generation of drug smugglers is moving up the ranks of Mexico's cartels wielding college degrees and keeping low profiles to outsmart police.

The fashionably-dressed sons of two prominent drug bosses were recently arrested in smart Mexico City neighborhoods, suspected of laundering money for the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels while moving seamlessly among the country's elite.

They typify a new wave of leaders of Mexico's warring drug cartels, whose turf wars killed 6,300 people last year. Often the urbane offspring of cartel founders, they bring a clean-cut management style to the murky multibillion dollar enterprise.

"These people are usually better prepared, better educated and very useful for the cartels because they're professionals," said political analyst Jorge Chabat.

"They're harder to identify because they don't look like typical drug traffickers," he said. "You can't detect them by saying 'Oh look, he has a big truck with wide tires and automatic weapons, gold chains, snakeskin boots and a big belt buckle and dark glasses.'"

President Felipe Calderon has put dozens of top traffickers behind bars, along with thousands of low-level hitmen and drug runners, in an army-led war on cartels that has Washington worried about a possible spillover of violence.

For years the classic image of a Mexican drug baron has been of a macho gunslinger who revels in an ostentatious lifestyle of bad taste. But that may be changing.

Vicente Carrillo Leyva, the suave 32-year-old son of legendary drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, was nabbed last week while jogging in a park near his house in the capital's most exclusive district and paraded in front of news cameras in a slick white Abercrombie & Fitch sweatsuit and trendy specs.   Continued...