Arturo Beltran Leyva, the life, the death of “El Barbas” part 3 “The final stand of Don Arturo”Written for Borderland Beat by Otis B Fly-Wheel, with additional material and photos the BB archive.
Born in the cradle of narco's, La Palma ,Badiraguato Sinaloa in December of 1954,though some put his birth day as September 1961. Arutro Beltran Leyva also known by the nicknames, “El Barbas”, El Botas Blancas, El Fantasma and La Muerte, he worked with small time poppy growers and learnt his trade from Amado Carrillo Fuentes , and later became known as Jefe de Jefes, boss of bosses. His life was characterized by the extreme violence he visited upon anyone who stood in his way. He was eventually cornered and killed by Mexican Marines with the ELINT intelligence help of the US 7th Special Forces group in Cuernavaca, leading to a power vacuum and the “Hydra Effect”.
Reporter: Otis B Fly-Wheel
An alliance with the Executioner
As Don Arturo made his plans to take what he saw as rightfully his from the Sinaloa Federation, he realized that he would not be able to do it with the personnel available to him in the BLO. Despite the large amount of crews in his organization ( see crews section in Arturo Beltran Leyva part 2 ), he saw common ground with Los Zetas.
Los Zetas were unhappy at this time with Osiel Cardenas Guillen from the Cartel del Golfo and were making their own plans to split from their parent organization and seize power for themselves. Leading Los Zetas at this time were Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, “The Executioner” and Miguel Trevino “El Z-40″. Los Zetas also found common ground with Arturo in his willingness to resort to horrific violence to achieve his aims as a first resort.
Arturo arranged a meeting with the heads of Los Zetas in Torreon, Coahuila. At this meeting it was agreed that three cities were key to their plans for domination. Torreon, Acapulco and Aguascaliente. Torreon was a strategic city for drug trafficking and was previously dominated by the Sinaloa Federation.
The war for Torreon was defined when Los Zetas/BLO alliance attacked Carlos Herrera Araluce in Gomez Palacio, Durango, who was key for the Federation in the city. By some miracle Herrera Araluce and his wife survived the attack, and immediately left the country for Spain. Los Zetas then delivered an ultimatum to Lawyer Alberto Romero, who later disappeared in the form of a letter and a video showing the torture of a Police commander of Coahuila, Enrique Ruiz Arevalo.
The Federation and the Juarez cartel retreated from Torreon, next was Acapulco, and another campaign of be-headings, kidnapping, and executions saw the Federation driven from the town. Lastly was Aguascalientes, which suffered the same fate as the other two cities with the Federation being driven out and BLO/Zetas sharing the plaza.
To dethrone the Federation, El Chapo and El Mayo must die
Don Arturo knew that if he was going to kill “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, currently languishing in prison in the USA, that first he would have to get rid of the people protecting him. As Arturo had been in charge of paying off bribes to those in power high up in the Army, PGR and Mexican Government he was uniquely placed to know exactly who to kill. Indeed the Sinaloa Federation had relied on the extravagance of Arturo and his brothers to charm, or bend the arms of those in power so the Federation could continue its drug production, logistics and sales without interference.
Arturo knew that on while El Chapo had holistic protection, to get close, he had to kill those protecting him locally, the Municipal and State Police in Culiacan and the surrounding regions, who were in the position to tip off El Chapo to any upcoming threats to him or his immediate family.
Arturo also knew that the men of El Chapo were hunting him too, he was moving between Morelos, Cuernavaca and Guerrero, and on the 7th of May he was nearly captured by the Federal Police. El Barbas had been in Cuernavaca,Morelos and was travelling in a convoy along the Autopista del Sol ( Interstate 95D) towards the State of Guerrero.
A patrol of Federal Police had noticed the convoy with its element of a number of support vehicles with heavily armed Sicario's in front and behind a vehicle that they identified might be carrying El Botas Blancas himself. They reported the incident to headquarters and were given orders to apprehend and detain him.
The Federal Police decided to make their move at the intersection of the 95D with Alpuyeca.
Arturo's escort of four vehicles accelerated and left the 95D and sped off down the 21 towards Xoxocotla, after a three kilometre chase that took them into the outskirts of Xoxocotla the Federals caught up with the rearguard vehicles of Arturo's convoy. A confrontation took place and one of Arturo's gunmen Jose Sanchez was killed and one Federal Policeman was also mortally wounded, but the escorts did their job and Arturo escaped.
After finding out who had authorised his capture he set about carrying out revenge. It had been the Chief of Federal Police in Mexico City Edgar Milan and Arturo was going to teach him the error of his ways.
Arturo set to killing with impunity, he first went for two high ranking Police in Mexico City, one being Edgar Milan, who was killed within hours of the attack on Arturo by the Federals, he was killed by Alejandro Ramirez, and the head of the Organized Crime Division of the Public Security Ministry, Roberto Velasco Bravo, this alarmed Mexican high society.
Felipe Calderon was infuriated by these assassinations and publicly condemned them, once they were dead he went after the Culiacan Police force with a vengeance and by the end of May of 2008 had killed 116 people that month including 24 Police officers, most of them attributed to Arturo and his Fuerzas Especiales de Arturo among other crews.
The body toll was getting higher and higher, and all sides were rounding on the BLO/Zeta alliance as the other cartels were using their politicians and links to the army and police forces to launch an all out offensive against the BLO. Arturo had over stepped the mark, and the Federation had as much information on the BLO locations as did the BLO on the Federation.
Likely haunts of the BLO were passed onto the Army, Federal Police, PEP, and the Marines as well as the Public Ministry. Two particular locations were earmarked for raiding. Despite being on a war footing, the BLO leadership were carrying on as though it was business as usual, and for the BLO this meant extravagant parties, with bands, prostitutes, cocaine and lots of booze.
The net tightens
The US 7th Special Forces Group had for some time been giving extensive training to the Mexican Marines that tracked down Don Arturo, as confirmed in a WikiLeaks cable, they had had boots on the ground in Mexico and had been giving small unit and electronic intelligence gathering training to the Marines. With the information given up by the Sinaloa Federation Capos, the Marines had found out that on the 10th of December, El Barbas had returned to Cuernavaca from a baptism at Puebla.
His convoy was large and had raised the attention of Ministerial Police and there was a brief firefight in Hidalgo Avenue and Forjadores Boulevard in which two Judicial Police were injured and one Municipal Policeman was killed, while civilians in the vicinity threw themselves onto the floor and crawled behind what cover they could as the sicarios and Police exchanged fire. El Barbas left five sicarios and 11 vehicles at the scene.
|The five sicarios left behind after the firefight|
El Barbas fled by helicopter from the Villa Florida hotel, according to the DEA and Anthony Placido, Don Arturo had been injured in the firefight. The secretary of the Marina later denied that the Don had been injured and said that the following night he had resurfaced in the Los Limeneros sub division, just outside Tepoztlan.
Manuel Briones had joined the BLO from the Metropolitan Police as the successor to El Borrado, and was in charge of security. Briones depended for the Dons safety on the army of halcones that were watching the state forces, and Briones decided as an example he would kill 40 members of his own cartel that were deemed “less than committed”.
The sicarios that were left behind at Puebla were flown to SEIDO headquarters to be interrogated. One version given up was that Don Arturo had been seen visiting a plastic surgeon at Angeles hospital in Puebla. With all the information gathered from the various sources contributing to the manhunt, the Security Cabinet decided to send the collated information to Admiral Jose Luis Figueroa of the Marines.
Around two in the morning of the 10th of December the Marines arrived as Los Limoneros where the BLO party was in full swing with Don Arturo and La Barbie in attendance, there were Norteno bands and singers including Ramon Ayala, prostitutes, Police Chiefs, Politicians, booze and cocaine flowing freely.
|The house in Los Limoneros Fraccionamiento|
The three tiers of security surrounding El Botas Blancas had picked up the Marines and were only waiting to be sure of their destination before they warned those at the party. Orders were given and the Don's security detail stood to and awaited the Marines, the ensuing gun battle lasted two hours. By the time of the first engagement, Don Arturo had already left in a Toyota with La Barbie, the remaining Sicario's with orders to delay the Marines for as long as possible.
During the firefight, elements of the Municipal Police and SEIDO of the PGR attended when the gun battle was at its fiercest but declined to join in and retired from the area. The Marines arrested forty people, including eleven Sicarios. The rest were prostitutes and musicians.
In the house itself during the subsequent search, authorities found $280,000.00, 10 weapons, and 1,700 rounds of ammunition. There were three dead resulting from the firefight including someone from a neighbouring house.
The vehicle in which Don Arturo escaped in was found in Cuernavaca. There was traces of blood on the passenger seat door handle and on the seat. One version of events says that El Barbas was again traced by the DEA after receiving medical treatment at a Morelos hospital and that he had actually left his address at the hospital as an apartment that he lived at in the Altitude condominium. Though I find this hard to believe, and that his location at the condominium had been given up by other sources, and some suspect La Barbie of doing just that.
With information of a location in hand, on December the 16th members of the Cabinet for Public Security were informed that in 20 minutes the Marines were going to storm the Altitude apartment complex and arrest Arturo Beltran Leyva. The Marines knew that Don Arturo had paid off members in the 3 levels of Government and that they could not release the information of their plans until the very last moment before launching the operation, if the Don were not to escape their clutches again as he had at Los Limoneros.
The Army had been given a secondary objective of securing a perimeter around the apartment block and the job had gone to infantry of the 24th Military Zone and General Leopoldo Diaz. Ironically the man trusted with the perimeter defence, was due to have dinner with Don Arturo that very day, according to reporter Ricardo Ravelo.
Los Zafiros, who were Don Arturo's outer ring of protection, were giving radio chatter about strange movements in the street. The Marines and most probably 7th SFG radio intercept specialists were monitoring his chatter, and according to the Navy, El Botas Blancas knew about the operation from about 1pm. Around 5pm, a helicopter started over-flying the Altitude apartment complex, about four hours before the shooting started.
A radio call was made for reinforcements for the Don, at around 6pm, “El Guason” and Ricardo Antonio Perez Soto and his bodyguard “El Tuntun”, jumped into a vehicle and sped towards their arms stash house at Tepoztlan, they gathered up as many weapons and grenades as they could carry and set off for Cuernavaca. Their plan was to rescue El Barbas and get him to safety.
Also on the radio at that time was Jesus Basilio Araujo “El Pollo” the most bloodthirsty Sciario that the BLO had in Morelos and Guerrero. They arrived next to the Altitude apartments, they could see the impenetrable ring of soldiers, both from the 24th Infantry in the outer ring, and the Marines forming up to storm the building, they changed their plans seeing the number of soldiers on the ground and the formidable arsenal of weapons they had brought with them, deciding instead on taking some of the heat, and to create a diversion which could have let El Barbas escape from the complex, and from a red cross building started launching grenades at the Marines on the ground which signified the start of ” the battle of Cuernavaca”.
He had 6 Sicarios with him including Jesus Nava Romero “El Rojo” and Gonzalo Octavio Araujo Zazueto ” Chaulito Araujo” son of Gonzalo Araujo Payan “El Chalo”, La Barbie had disappeared from the apartment and did not respond to radio calls for support to the Don during the upcoming firefight, and many have speculated that this was when the penny had dropped and the Don had realized that La Barbie had given him up. Certainly La Barbie was not involved in the final shootout at the apartment. This certainly would have infuriated Don Arturo into making the decision to make his final stand.
At nine pm the Marines had 200 elements in place surrounding the building, and had evicted all of the inhabitants of Altitude, they knew this would not be pleasant and that given previous dealings with BLO sicarios that they would go down shooting.
The order to storm the apartment was given and the Marines in the helicopters opened up with their 7.62 machine guns, on the ground Marines opened up with machine guns from their armored personnel carriers, while still further Marines on foot hailed Don Arturo's men urging them to give up the fight, the Marines on the ground were attacked by two Sicarios and returned fire killing the two men, while Don Arturo and his men opened up from the window in apartment 201 with AK 47's and hand grenades.
The battle had been raging for nearly four hours before the marines managed to gain an entry into the stairwell leading to the Don's apartment. Sicarios had been at the top of the stairs firing burst after burst of well aimed automatic fire down the stairwell while throwing fragmentation grenades down the stairwell too.
One Marine was grievously injured by the fragmentation grenades and dragged off, while his squad members furiously fired up the stairwell, hurling insults at the sicarios, who, despite their low numbers had the advantage of height in the engagement, which means a lot. Marines had also rappelled down onto the roof of their apartment block and were making their way down the stairwells to take some of the heat off their comrades working their way up from the ground floor.
Don Arturo's bodyguards could not withstand the amount of incoming fire forever, running short of ammo and grenades in the stairwell, the Marines began to gain ground, pepper potting up the stairs while getting covering fire from their comrades below. They got to the landing of flat 201 and shot two of the Sicario's that had kept them at bay for three hours.
The Marines were now faced with breaching El Barbas apartment itself, those left inside, Chalito Araujo and two other Sicario's were all that were between the Don and the Marines who were bent on revenge. As the Marines stacked up to breach, and the signal was given they breached the door to the apartment and received a hail of fire from inside, two of the Sicario's fell in the return fire, and Chalito Araujo jumped out of the apartment window, and was shot in mid air in the back as he fell to his death on the ground below.
Don Arturo was now alone, for all the money and power and men at his disposal, he now faced his own demise but had not given up, he had a pile of fragmentation grenades and was throwing them out of the apartment door, the Marines that had stacked up for the breach had to retreat to the stair well, and Don Arturo saw his chance and made a break for the lift.
The Marines piled back onto the landing and opened fire, hitting El Barbas in the shoulder, head and chest at close range, Don Arturo fell backwards with the impact of the bullets, dead before he hit the floor in amongst a pile of fragmentation grenade pins. It was over.
The Marine assault had turned Don Arturo's apartment into swiss cheese, every wall showing the pockmarks of bullet strikes that had come from the air and the ground forces. Large blood stained patches on the floors where his Sicario's had been shot and bled out.
|Sicario lays dead on the floor of apartment 201|
Navy Master Melquisedec Angulo Cordoba
Don Arturo's funeral was held shortly after his body had been claimed by his family members, there was a huge funeral cortege with many in the narco world sending flowers, the press were there as they usually are, and a large amount of undercover police disguised as press hoping to nab another narco or two that attended the funeral to pay their final respects.
|Funeral cortege of the Don|
There was a further twist, when Don Arturo was finally laid to rest in his mausoleum a decapitated head was left on the steps, many have speculated why this food worker was killed and decapitated but I have not seen a reason published. His body was left on another grave 150 yards from his head.