Benjamín Arellano Félix was handed over to U.S marshals in Toluca earlier today as part of the extradition process. The accused head of the drug cartel that bears his name was already serving a prison sentence in Mexico but he faces charges in the U.S. including money laundering, murder and drug trafficking.
According to Mexico's attorney general's office, Arellano Félix served as the “brains and accountant” for the criminal organization that was powerful enough to run its own network of spies and bribes. Along with his three brothers he allegedly ran the Tijuana cartel and it controlled the flow of cocaine, marijuana, and other narcotics into the U.S. during the group’s peak in the 1990s and the early part of this century.
The group’s stronghold on the illegal drug trade has greatly diminished to the point of having most of its territory “taken over” by the Sinaloa drug gang. Yet it was one of several cartels to be named in a U.S. congressional proposal that suggests labeling top Mexican gangs as “foreign terrorist organizations”.
Mexican authorities originally approved Arellano Félix’s extradition in 2007; five years after the Mexican army in Puebla arrested him. (This incident occurred less than a month after his brother Ramon was killed by a policeman).
Today’s extradition may be viewed as a positive sign of U.S.-Mexican cooperation in the battle against illegal drugs. Bilateral political relations have hit a recent rough patch due to controversial statements made by ex-U.S. ambassador Carlos Pascual as well as revelations of a former secret gun smuggling operation run by U.S. authorities. (Update: The extradition occurred on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged $500 million in additional funds under the Merida Initiative for Mexican antidrug efforts).
Meanwhile, the extradition may not have much of an impact on the bloody battles within Mexico:
More than 5,000 people have been reported missing in Mexico, and many are presumed to be victims of the drug war, according to According to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission.Image- SDP Noticias (Photo taken of Benjamín Arellano Félix after his arrest in 2002).
Mexico says more than 34,200 people have been killed in violence and bloody wars between drug cartels since December 2006. Attorney General Arturo Chavez says criminal gangs and drug cartels killed more than 15,000 people in 2010, making it the deadliest year ever.
Online Sources- CBS News, Press TV, Milenio, Reuters, New York Times, ABC News