Mexico extradites last Arellano Felix brother on drug charges

MEXICO CITY Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:25pm EDT

Drug cartel leader Eduardo Arellano Felix is presented to the media in Mexico City, October 27, 2008. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

Drug cartel leader Eduardo Arellano Felix is presented to the media in Mexico City, October 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican government on Friday extradited alleged drug kingpin Eduardo Arellano Felix to the United States, the third brother from the Tijuana-based family to be taken into U.S. custody.

Arellano Felix, 55, was taken to San Diego, where he faces charges of racketeering, money laundering and narcotics trafficking. He had been arrested in Mexico in 2008, following a gun battle with Mexican special forces.

The Arellano Felix brothers headed one of Mexico's biggest trafficking cartels in the 1990s and were also alleged to be behind hundreds of murders in Tijuana and across Mexico.

The family was hit hard by U.S. and Mexican police in the 2000s. Brother Ramon Arellano Felix was shot dead by policemen in 2002 while Benjamin and Francisco Javier Arellano Felix were both arrested and are now serving sentences in U.S. prisons.

"The extradition of Eduardo Arellano Felix today marks the end of a 20-year DEA investigation into this vicious drug cartel," said William Sherman, acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego.

The brothers gained international notoriety and inspired characters in the Oscar-winning 2000 film Traffic.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has extradited record numbers of kingpins to the United States while Mexican police and soldiers have rounded up thousands of hitmen and smugglers.

However, the offensive has led to more violence, with more than 55,000 drug-related murders in Calderon's six-year term.

President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto will take power in December and has promised to rapidly reduce the murder rate.

(Reporting By Ioan Grillo; Editing by Dave Graham and Eric Walsh)

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