MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Hector Beltran Leyva, head of a family crime syndicate that waged a bloody conflict in Mexico with a former ally, drug kingpin Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, was captured on Wednesday, an interior ministry source said.
The snaring of the boss of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel is likely a serious blow to the gang, which has been substantially weakened since its founding by a group of brothers who gave the outfit its name and split from Guzman, accusing him of betraying them.
There were few details available about the circumstances of the detention of Beltran Leyva, one of the highest profile Mexican drug bosses still at large. Officials said tests were being carried out to confirm his identity.
The detention of Beltran Leyva marks another major victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has sought to shift the focus away from combating drug violence and onto a raft of economic reforms he has pushed through Congress.
By the time he was caught, Hector, 49, was the only one of the clan’s brothers known to be involved in drug trafficking not dead or behind bars.
When Mexican special forces arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva in early 2008, the brothers reportedly believed Guzman had sold out their sibling to the government, sparking a war with Mexico’s most wanted man and his powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
Over the next three years, the rupture with Guzman, who was eventually captured by Mexican marines in February 2014, ushered in a new brutality to the criminal violence that dominated the 2006-2012 administration of then-President Felipe Calderon.
In May 2008, four months after Alfredo’s capture, gunmen shot dead Edgar Guzman, a 22-year-old son of the Sinaloa boss, and the bloody spiral of exchanges between the two gangs sowed chaos in cities across northern Mexico.
By 2010, the Beltran Leyvas had lost several leaders and Hector, alias “The Engineer,” was in control.
Hector was born in 1965 in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. His gang had a reputation as one of the most vengeful and ruthless in the business.
When Hector’s older brother Arturo was cornered and killed by Mexican marines in December 2009, the government honored one of the young marines slain in the raid and images of the family funeral were broadcast around the country.
The next day, gunmen swept into the family home and killed the marine’s mother, sister, brother and an aunt.
The Beltran Leyva cartel diversified into numerous side businesses, including money laundering, extortion, human trafficking, contract killings and arms smuggling.
Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Steve Orlofsky