MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican police arrested the man suspected of being the main cocaine supplier for the Beltran Leyva drug cartel on Friday, in a new blow to the once powerful gang.
Caught before dawn in Mexico City, Harold “The Rabbit” Poveda supplied the cartel with about 150 tonnes of cocaine between 1998 and 2008, federal police said in a statement.
The Beltran Leyva organization has taken the brunt of President Felipe Calderon’s military crackdown on the cartels, with security forces killing the cartel’s leader in December and capturing one of its top capos in August and a chief lieutenant in September, all big victories for the government.
Police said the weakening of the Beltran Leyva gang hit Poveda’s business, leading him to seek other clients. At the height of his power, Poveda coordinated the shipment of several tonnes of cocaine at a time to Mexico from Colombia using semi-submerged vessels and speed boats, police added.
More than 31,000 people have been killed in a drug war in Mexico since December 2006 when Calderon took office and launched his army-led crackdown.
Backed by Washington, Calderon has made it the central goal of his presidency to crush the cartels that earn an estimated $40 billion a year.
But the bloodshed, including the torture and butchering of captives by rival gangs, has overshadowed Calderon’s successes, which include gradually dismantling drug gangs such as the Beltran Leyva cartel.
Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Peter Cooney