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Reputed Drug Cartel Members Nabbed at Wedding in Mexico

By John Ward Anderson
The Washington Post
MEXICO CITY

Twenty-seven people allegedly linked to the powerful Juarez drug cartel were arrested over the weekend after federal officials checked the destination of three private jets and discovered they were ferrying guests to a wedding involving the cartel's top family.

Fourteen of the people arrested were state and local police officers who were providing security for the wedding, according to a statement by the Mexican attorney general's office.

The marriage allegedly involved the sister of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the head of the Juarez Cartel who is considered Mexico's top drug kingpin. The nuptials took place Saturday at La Aurora, a private ranch near the town of Navolato, which is located about 15 miles west of Culiacan, capital of the drug-infested Pacific coastal state of Sinaloa. The raid on the wedding took place early Sunday and was reported by the attorney general's office late Monday.

Carrillo - known as "The Lord of the Skies" for pioneering the use of Boeing 727s for moving bulk shipments of as much as 15 tons of cocaine between South America and the U.S.-Mexico border region - was not captured in the operation. It was unclear whether he owns La Aurora or if he attended the wedding. Local newspapers said he left the ceremony before police and soldiers arrived.

It was also unclear whether any immediate members of his family or top lieutenants in his drug gang were among those arrested.

The joint operation by the Mexican army and the National Institute to Combat Drugs - the Mexican equivalent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration - was the first major bust since an army general took charge of the federal drug agency five weeks ago. It highlights the increasingly active role the military is playing in the nation's drug war because of police corruption.

Three corporate-style jets were seized, and investigators found traces of cocaine in each. The planes have a combined value between $1.5 and $2.5 million, according to an airline industry official.

Carrillo, 41, is considered the most powerful drug lord in Mexico. U.S. anti-drug officials say he represents a new breed of kingpin who is more sophisticated, lower-profile, and eager to compromise with his rivals. At the same time, investigators credit his cartel with as many as 400 drug-related killings.