Mexico Captures Reputed Leader Of La Familia Cartel

Jun 22, 2011
Originally published on June 22, 2011 6:33 am
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Good morning, Jason.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: What happened?

BEAUBIEN: This is Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, and he's the leader of the La Familia cartel. As you say, he's known as El Chango, The Monkey. He was captured without incident, without a gun battle, which has become quite rare for a lot of these top leaders. And he was taken into custody yesterday in the center of Mexico.

MONTAGNE: The president of Mexico is calling this a big blow against organized crime. How important is this?

BEAUBIEN: It is quite significant. La Familia was already starting to fall apart. In December, another major leader of La Familia was killed in a two-day gun battle that left about 11 people dead. The organization seemed to be just splintering, so this very well might be the end of La Familia as we know it.

MONTAGNE: Tell us a little bit about La Familia, because it's a fairly unique criminal organization.

BEAUBIEN: So it was a very violent organization. And it's quite, quite different than some of the organizations that focused just on moving and selling drugs.

MONTAGNE: One thing about this capture, it's, of course, in the midst of a years-long war against the cartels. The president of Mexico continues to get a lot of criticism over his strategy of attacking them with the military. What does this arrest say about that strategy? Does it say it's working?

BEAUBIEN: In March of 2009, they put out a list of the top drug dealers, the top leaders of the cartels. And on that list, there were 37 people. And they put out big rewards for them. El Chango was one of them. And so far, they've captured 21 of those 37. And so they say that they are managing to actually succeed at knocking the heads off of some of these cartels.

MONTAGNE: Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: We've been talking with NPR's Jason Beaubien.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.