Reputed major cocaine trafficker arrested in Mexico


MEXICO CITY -- The man who is allegedly the Medellin drug cartel's top cocaine trafficker in Mexico has been arrested at his headquarters in a fashionable Mexico City neighborhood, the attorney general's office announced yesterday.

Javier Pardo Cardona, a Colombian known as "the Uncle," reputedly has shipped as much as 100 tons of cocaine through Mexico to the United States, according to the attorney general's office.

The government called Mr. Pardo Cardona "the third-most-important boss" in Colombia's Medellin cartel and said that he was the primary contact between the cartel and North American traffickers.

"He's probably the most heavily connected Colombian operating in Mexico," a U.S. official here said. "He's important: a major, major trafficker."

Most South American cocaine entering the United States is flown first by small airplanes to clandestine landing strips in rural areas of Mexico and Central America and then shipped by land across the long, porous U.S.-Mexican border.

As the ranks of top Mexican drug traffickers have been depleted through arrests and killings during the past three years, Colombians have been moving to Mexico to oversee shipments of their cocaine.

Under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, U.S. and Mexican drug agents have been working together.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had been tracking Mr. Pardo Cardona for a year before his arrest Thursday. The U.S. government is seeking his extradition to face federal trafficking charges in Alabama, the U.S. official said.

Federal judicial police posing as telephone repairmen, milk vendors and street sweepers had staked out Mr. Pardo Cardona's headquarters in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. They arrested him and nine other people as they left a birthday party for the 41-year-old Mr. Pardo Cardona, authorities said.

Police confiscated $1.5 million in cash that was allegedly intended to pay for an air shipment of cocaine due to arrive in the southern state of Campeche in the next few days, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

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