MEXICO CITY -- A drug capo described by Mexican officials as "one of the most important lieutenants" for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the fugitive leader of the Sinaloa cartel, has been captured, the Defense Ministry announced Sunday.
Jesus Alfredo Salazar Ramirez, known as "The Doll," was taken into custody Thursday by military officials and federal prosecutors in the state of Mexico, outside the capital, according to a news release [link in Spanish]. Salazar is the alleged leader of a cell within the Sinaloa cartel known as "The Salazars" and is wanted in both the U.S. and Mexico on drug trafficking charges.
Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel is probably the most powerful in Mexico. Many Mexicans suspect the federal government has favored the Sinaloa gang in its six-year crackdown on the myriad groups that control drug production and distribution in the country.
The government of outgoing President Felipe Calderon strenuously denies such rumors and argues that it has gone after all cartels with equal zeal. The arrest of Salazar may bolster that argument among some here, especially as it comes after the arrest last week of another top Sinaloa lieutenant, Jose Salgueiro Nevarez, alias "El Che."
Calderon leaves office in December with Mexicans deeply divided about his legacy and his career-defining decision to crack down on the drug cartels. The president boasts that his government has killed or captured two-thirds of the 37 most dangerous criminals in the country.
But more than 50,000 people have died since Calderon unleashed the Mexican military on the drug gangs, and it is unclear if the cartels' power has ebbed: The Times' Tracy Wilkinson reported Saturday that Coahuila, Mexico's third-largest state, has quietly been taken over by the Sinaloa cartel's bloodthirsty rivals, the Zetas.
Salazar, Mexican officials allege, controlled the growth, production and trafficking of drugs in the state of Sonora, which borders Arizona and New Mexico; and part of the state of Chihuahua, which borders New Mexico and Texas. Most of the drugs, officials said, was sent to the U.S.
Officials said Salazar is also suspected of directing numerous executions, including the slaying of Mexican peace activist Nepomuceno Moreno in November 2011. Moreno was a grieving father who had joined the high-profile peace movement headed by poet Javier Sicilia.
Moreno had accused police of abducting his son. He was gunned down by men who intercepted his car in the Sonoran capital, Hermosillo.
-- Richard Fausset
Photo: Mexican authorities Sunday provided a photo of alleged Sinaloa drug cartel figure Jesus Alfredo Salazar Ramirez, who was taken into custody last week. Credit: Sedena