WikiLeaks: US Gave Intel that Led to Cartel Leader’s Death

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A U.S. government cable, reprinted in full here, from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and various Washington government agencies says an “Embassy interagency” gave Mexican Marines (SEMAR) the location of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, so marines could move in and raid the safe house, killing Beltán Leyva and four of his associates on December 16, 2009. 

The intel was originally given to the Mexican army (SEDENA), whose “refusal to move quickly reflected a risk aversion,” the cable obtained via WikiLeaks adds.

The revelation takes something away from what was President Felipe Calderón’s biggest victory to date.

Arturo was the head of the Beltrán Leyva Organization, a massive criminal enterprise. And while U.S. officials have long whispered how much intelligence they were passing the Mexicans, little is said publicly about matters of inter-governmental operations. 

Highlights from the cable dated 17 December 2009:

[SEMAR]’s success puts the Army (SEDENA) in the difficult position of explaining why it has been reluctant to act on good intelligence and conduct operations against high-level targets. The U.S. interagency originally provided the information to SEDENA, whose refusal to move quickly reflected a risk aversion that cost the institution a major counternarcotics victory…

Public Security Secretary (SSP) Genaro García Luna can also be counted as a net loser in the Mexican interagency following the ABL [Arturo Beltrán Leyva] operation. SSP considers high-level Beltrán Leyva targets to be its responsibility, and García Luna has already said privately that the operation should have been his…

The operation against Arturo Beltrán Leyva is a clear victory for the Mexican Government and an example of excellent USG-GOM cooperation. Seamless Embassy interagency collaboration combined with a willing, capable, and ready SEMAR produced one of the greatest successes to date in the counternarcotics fight…

Full cable: 

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 003573

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR MX

SUBJECT: MEXICAN NAVY OPERATION NETS DRUG KINGPIN ARTURO

BELTRAN LEYVA

REF: MONTERREY 000453

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gustavo Delgado.

Reason: 1.4 (b),(d).

1. (S) Summary. Mexican Navy forces acting on U.S.

information killed Arturo Beltran Leyva in an operation on

December 16, the highest-level takedown of a cartel figure

under the Calderon administration. The operation is a clear

victory for the Mexican Government and an example of

excellent USG-GOM cooperation. The unit that conducted the

operation had recieved extensive U.S. training. Arturo

Beltran Leyva’s death will not solve Mexico’s drug problem,

but it will hopefully generate the momentum necessary to make

sustained progress against other drug trafficking

organizations. End Summary.

The Operation

————-

2. (S) Mexican Navy (SEMAR) sources revealed on the night of

December 17 that SEMAR forces killed Arturo Beltran Leyva

(ABL), head of the Beltran Leyva Organization, during a

shoot-out in Cuernavaca (approximately 50 miles south of

Mexico City) that afternoon. At least three other cartel

operatives were killed during the raid, with a fourth

committing suicide. While it still has not been confirmed,

Embassy officials believe the latter to be ABL’s brother,

Hector, which would mean that all Beltran Leyva brothers are

either dead or in prison. Arturo Beltran Leyva has a long

history of involvement in the Mexican drug trade, and worked

with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel before

splitting in 2008. The rivalry between the Sinaloa and

Beltran Leyva organizations has been a key factor driving the

escalating levels of narcotics-related violence in recent

years. Born in Sinaloa, ABL has been key to the importation

and distribution of cocaine and heroin in the United States,

and also has extensive money laundering capabilities,

corruption networks, and international contacts in Colombia

and the U.S.

3. (C) Embassy law enforcement officials say that the arrest

operation targeting ABL began about a week prior to his death

when the Embassy relayed detailed information on his location

to SEMAR. The SEMAR unit has been trained extensively by

NORTHCOM over the past several years. SEMAR raided an

identified location, where they killed several ABL bodyguards

and arrested over 23 associates, while ABL and Hector

escaped. On Monday, the Embassy interagency linked ABL to an

apartment building located in Cuernavaca (about an hour south

of Mexico City), where ABL was in hiding. SEMAR initiated an

arrest operation on Wednesday afternoon, surrounding the

identified apartment complex, and establishing a security

perimeter. ABL’s forces fired on the SEMAR operatives and

engaged in a sustained firefight that wounded three SEMAR

marines and possibly killed one. SEMAR forces evacuated

residents of the apartment complex to the gym, according to

press accounts, and no civilian casualties have so far been

reported.

The Mexican Interagency

———————–

4. (S) The successful operation against ABL comes on the

heels of an aggressive SEMAR effort in Monterrey against Zeta

forces (ref a) and highlights its emerging role as a key

player in the counternarcotics fight. SEMAR is well-trained,

well-equipped, and has shown itself capable of responding

quickly to actionable intelligence. Its success puts the

Army (SEDENA) in the difficult position of explaining why it

has been reluctant to act on good intelligence and conduct

operations against high-level targets. The U.S. interagency

originally provided the information to SEDENA, whose refusal

to move quickly reflected a risk aversion that cost the

institution a major counternarcotics victory. SEDENA did

provide backup to SEMAR during the firefight with ABL forces,

but can take little credit for the operation. Public

Security Secretary (SSP) Genaro Garcia Luna can also be

counted as a net loser in the Mexican interagency following

the ABL operation. SSP considers high-level Beltran Leyva

targets to be its responsibility, and Garcia Luna has already

MEXICO 00003573 002 OF 003

said privately that the operation should have been his.

The Impact on Violence

———————-

5. (S) It is early to say with a great degree of confidence

what kind of effect ABL’s death will have on levels of

narco-related violence in Mexico. A spike is probably likely

in the short term as inter- and intra-cartel battles are

intensified by the sudden leadership gap in one of the

country’s most important cartels. With all the Beltran Leyva

brothers likely dead or in prison, there are a number of

other cartel functionaries likely to vie for the leadership

slot. Moreover, rival organizations may intensify efforts to

expand their influence in the disarray likely to follow ABL’s

death. At the very least, efforts to clean the Beltran Leyva

house and rout out suspected informers will be bloody, and

retaliation by the organization against Mexican law

enforcement or military officials is not out of the cards.

6. (C) In the medium to longer term, ABL’s death could have

the potential to lower the level of narco-violence rates.

ABL himself was a particularly violent leader with numerous

effective assassin teams. Moreover, the Sinaloa-Beltran

Leyva rivalry has been responsible for a large number of

narcotics-related homicides in Mexico, and also largely

personally driven by the Beltran Leyva brothers themselves.

Emboffs speculate that Beltran Leyva associates, under

pressure and perhaps more vulnerable due to leadership

deficiencies, could move to align more closely again with

Sinaloa, which they might think offers a more natural

protection than the Zetas.

The Boost for Calderon

———————-

7. (C) SEMAR’s successful operation against ABL is a major

victory for President Calderon and his war against organized

crime. ABL is the highest ranking target taken down by the

Calderon government, and his status as one of the most

important and long-standing of Mexican drug traffickers makes

his takedown even more symbolically important. President

Calderon has openly admitted to having a tough year — his

party lost big in the midterm elections, he is confronting an

economic crisis, and nationwide homicide rates continue to

climb — and contacts have told Poloff that he has seemed

“down” in meetings. The SEMAR operation is undoubtedly a

huge boost for him, both in terms of bolstering public

support for his security efforts and in reassuring himself

that important security accomplishments in this area are

possible. Calderon’s political opponents will also find it

far less useful to accuse the President of hanging on to an

ineffective anti-crime strategy that nets numerous mid- to

low-level cartel figures but fails to rein in the major

kingpins. The major Mexico City dailies have run front page

Beltran Leyva stories, and President Calderon’s remarks in a

press conference from Copenhagen highlighting that the

operation represents an “important achievement for the

Mexican people and government” were widely covered.

Comment

——-

8. (S) The operation against Arturo Beltran Leyva is a clear

victory for the Mexican Government and an example of

excellent USG-GOM cooperation. Seamless Embassy interagency

collaboration combined with a willing, capable, and ready

SEMAR produced one of the greatest successes to date in the

counternarcotics fight. ABL’s death will provide an

important boost to Calderon and hopefully will cultivate a

greater sense of confidence within Mexican security agencies

that will encourage them to take greater advantage of similar

opportunities. SEMAR’s win in particular may encourage

SEDENA to be more proactive and less risk averse in future

operations. ABL’s death will certainly not resolve Mexico’s

drug problem, but it will likely generate the momentum

necessary within the GOM security apparatus to make sustained

and real progress against the country’s drug trafficking

organizations.

Visit Mexico City’s Classified Web Site at

MEXICO 00003573 003 OF 003

https://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American

Partnership Blog at https://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap/

PASCUAL

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