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Praise arrest of Mexican drug kingpin

April 11, 1989 GMT

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Opposition politicians and U.S. officials praised Mexican authorities for the capture of a drug czar believed to control more than half of the cocaine shipped through Mexico to the United States.

Authorities seized some of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo’s assets Monday, including a hotel, pharmacy, real-estate company, bank accounts and various properties. Felix Gallardo, 43, was arrested Saturday night in Guadalajara.

No value was placed on the assets confiscated Monday, but Felix Gallardo’s net worth is estimated to exceed $500 million, including at least 50 houses and 200 ranches.

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Attorney General Enrique Alvarez del Castillo, at a news conference Monday, called Felix Gallardo ″the No. 1 drug trafficker in Mexico.″

He said that others arrested in the weekend raids included three of Felix Gallardo’s aides as well as the chief federal anti-drug official and five other ranking police officers in Sinaloa, Felix Gallardo’s home state.

″We congratulate the judicial police for the apprehension of the drug czar and we praise the role of the military in Sinaloa, where they detained police involved in drug trafficking,″ Alberto Noyola, spokesman for the conservative National Action Party, told the government news agency Notimex.

Cesar Yanez, a leader of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party, told Notimex: ″We hope that this not only affects the circulation of drugs but that it attacks the problem starting with production,″

Alvarez noted that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who took office in January, has vowed to stop drug dealing and corruption.

The raids were the third dramatic example of Salinas’ determination. In January he put the corrupt leader of the oil workers’ union behind bars and in February a leading stockbroker went to jail.

Ed Heath, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico, told reporters, ″The message ... is that President Salinas de Gortari means business.″

″To pull this thing off the way it was done is a tribute″ to Mexican authorities, he added. ″The impact it has on the drug market, we can say, is extremely significant.″

Felix Gallardo, thought to head a ring that smuggled up to 4 tons of cocaine a month into the United States, had been sought for years but ″obtained protection from diverse authorities,″ Alvarez said.

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Heath said Felix Gallardo ″was as important as any major trafficker in South America″ and ″has been operating almost with impunity in Mexico because of the protection he received.″

U.S. authorities believe Felix Gallardo was involved in the 1985 slaying of American drug agent Enrique Camarena Salazar. But Alvarez said Felix Gallardo opposed killing Camarena and that his office had no evidence linking him directly to the killing.

Alvarez added, however, that Felix Gallardo was the ″intellectual author″ of the organization that killed Camarena.

Camarena was kidnapped outside the U.S. consulate in Guadalajara in 1985 and tortured and killed.

While Federal judicial police were arresting Felix Gallardo in the western state of Jalisco soldiers detained every police officer on the 80-member force in Culiacan, Felix Gallard’s hometown and the capital of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico.

Alvarez said federal authorities did not trust the police in Sinaloa and wanted to avoid a shootout. Most of the officers were quickly released, he said.

Felix Gallardo purportedly had an alliance with Colombia’s Medellin Cartel to move cocaine into the United States.