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Mexico offers $2-million rewards for top drug suspects

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

The rewards are for information leading to the capture of the 24 most-wanted, including Joaquin 'Shorty' Guzman and Ismael Zambada, leaders of the so-called Sinaloa cartel.

March 24, 2009|Ken Ellingwood

MEXICO CITY — Nab a drug lord, earn $2 million.

That's how much Mexican authorities offered Monday for information leading to the capture of the country's most wanted drug suspects.

The government offered rewards of 30 million pesos, about $2 million, each for 24 wanted figures, including Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman and Ismael Zambada, leaders of the main trafficking gang in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.

Authorities offered $1-million rewards for 13 lower-ranking suspects. The offers, involving six separate drug-trafficking organizations, were published in the federal government's official digest.

It is not the first time that Mexico has offered financial rewards for information leading to the arrest of individual drug figures. But Monday's offer was unusual because it included the country's top drug suspects on one list, organized by trafficking gang.

The offer came two days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to visit to discuss the drug war, which has killed more than 7,000 people across Mexico since January 2008. U.S. officials have expressed growing worry that serious violence could spill into the United States.

Monday's list reflects the changing landscape of Mexico's drug underworld. Prominent, for example, are the Zetas, who have gone from hit men to ranking figures in the powerful Gulf cartel. Suspected Zeta leader Heriberto Lazcano has gained clout since the 2003 arrest of Gulf boss Osiel Cardenas, who was extradited to the United States two years ago.

The listing also reflects a schism in the Sinaloa-based alliance led by Guzman, Mexico's most wanted suspect. A faction tied to the Beltran Leyva brothers is listed as a separate cartel. The split stoked violence in Sinaloa last year that killed more than 900 people.

A Michoacan-based trafficking group known as La Familia is also listed as a separate cartel for the first time, officials said.

Mexico's list underscores the shifting leadership of the Tijuana-based gang once led by the Arellano Felix brothers, now dead or behind bars. Only two suspects are listed: a onetime underling, Teodoro Garcia Simental, and his main rival for control, an Arellano nephew named Fernando Sanchez Arellano.

Arrest warrants have been issued against all 37 of the suspected bosses and lieutenants, the government said. U.S. authorities have offered separate $5-million rewards for the arrests of Guzman and Zambada. Guzman escaped from prison eight years ago.

The Mexican reward offer includes two leaders of the cartel based in Ciudad Juarez, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and his nephew, Vicente Carrillo Leyva.

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ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Most wanted

The Mexican attorney general's office offered rewards of 30 million pesos, or about $2 million, for information leading to the capture of the following drug trafficking suspects. A lesser amount was offered for a group of lieutenants.

GULF-ZETAS CARTEL

Heriberto Lazcano

Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez

Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, alias "Tony Tormenta"

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales

Omar Trevino Morales

Ivan Velazquez Caballero, alias "El Taliban"

Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa

SINALOA CARTEL

Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman

Ismael Zambada

Ignacio Coronel Villarreal

Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul"

Vicente Zambada Niebla, alias "El Vicentillo" (captured)

ARELLANO FELIX CARTEL

Teodoro Garcia Simental

Fernando Sanchez Arellano

BELTRAN LEYVA CARTEL

Arturo Beltran Leyva

Mario Alberto Beltran Leyva and/or Hector Beltran Leyva, alias "El General"

Sergio Villarreal Barragan

Edgar Valdez Villareal, alias "La Barbie"

CARRILLO FUENTES CARTEL

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes

Vicente Carrillo Leyva

LA FAMILIA CARTEL

Nazario Moreno Gonzalez

Servando Gomez Martinez

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias "El Chango"

Dionicio Loya Plancarte

Source: Associated Press

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