Mexico’s armed forces delivered a spectacular blow on Thursday night against one of the country’s leading drug cartels when an Apache helicopter rained down machine gun fire on a residence in the Pacific resort of Nayarit where the leader of the Beltrán Leyva organization was holed up, killing him and seven members of his organization.
According to Mexico’s naval secretariat, Juan Francisco Patrón, also known as H2, was a key figure in the Beltrán Leyva cartel’s operations in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco. Accounts on social networks by witnesses said Patrón offered resistance when he realized he was surrounded and troops called in an Apache helicopter.
Patrón’s death comes after increased violence in Nayarit that has seen several killings in the area.
Patrón assumed a leading role in the organization following the arrests and deaths of the four Beltrán Leyva brothers.
Capturing drugs cartel leaders has been a priority of President Enrique Peña
The four – Arturo, Alfredo, Héctor and Carlos – began their criminal career in northwest Mexico as hitmen for the Sinaloa cartel, then led by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán. Their activity focused on shipping cocaine from Central and South America to the United States and Europe.
But their relations with El Chapo cooled off after Alfredo Beltrán Leyva was arrested in January 2008. The brothers accused El Chapo of betrayal, and this triggered a bloody vendetta. That same year, the Beltrán Leyvas reached a deal with Los Zetas, El Chapo’s chief rivals and lords of the Gulf drug routes.
The group’s structure changed with the death of Arturo – who was gunned down in a military operation on December 16, 2009 – and the arrest of Carlos, the youngest brother, two weeks later. Héctor was arrested in 2014.
Juan Francisco Patrón’s brother Jesús, who also played a leading role in the organization, was arrested six years ago.
When he took office in 2012, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto drew up a list of 122 drug cartel leaders, making their capture a priority. With the death of H2, 107 have now been arrested or killed.
English version by Nick Lyne.