Police raided a church service in western Mexico and arrested a man known as "The Truck" who is suspected of moving a half ton of crystal methamphetamine into the United States each month, federal officials said Monday.
Authorities detained Miguel Angel Beraza and another suspect
after surrounding a church in Apatzingan in drug-plagued Michoacan
state, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the Federal Police's anti-drug
unit. About 40 others at the Mass were brought in for questioning.
DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart said Beraza is a
high-ranking lieutenant in the drug cartel known as La Familia and
called his arrest the result of the "resolute partnership"
between the U.S. and Mexico.
"Together with our Mexican counterparts, we will continue
attacking the La Familia Cartel, which not only controls the
methamphetamine supply in several U.S. cities, but also has been
the source of unprecedented violence in Michoacan," she said.
Beraza was in charge of La Familia's methamphetamine shipments
to the U.S., hiding the loads in fruit trucks, Pequeno said.
Authorities also seized $13,000, two assault rifles, several
grenades and 130 cell phones as part of the operation.
Auxiliary Bishop Jose Leopoldo Gonzalez of Guadalajara protested
the raid during Mass, saying "we believe that the ends do not
justify the means used in this and other cases."
Gonzalez said the parish has been suffering the consequences of
violence associated with drug trafficking in the region, but Mass
is sacred and must be respected.
Authorities made the arrest based on information gathered last
month after 18 federal agents were killed in a string of attacks
blamed on La Familia, Pequeno said.
Drug cartels have unleashed an unprecedented wave of violence
since President Felipe Calderon, whose home state is Michoacan,
launched his national crackdown after taking office in 2006. Since
then, more than 11,000 people have been killed in drug violence
Mexican federal authorities say most of those are drug smugglers
killed in turf battles with their rivals over lucrative routes into
the United States.
The U.S. Embassy praised the arrest: "The U.S. government lauds
this, and other actions of the Calderon administration in the fight
against drugs and organized crime, and stands by its commitment to
cooperate in this struggle against a common enemy that threatens
the security of peoples of both nations," the embassy said in a
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.