Mexican Drug War Dispatch: The Life and Death of Kingpin Don Arturo Beltran Leyva
Continued from previous page
The manhunt that finally brought the Don down lasted six days, beginning with the information that he would be attending a three-day Christmas party thrown by his sicarios in Tepoztlan, Morelos (close to Cuernavaca. The entertainment included several norteño bands and the services of 24 high class prostitutes flown in from Acapulco. The navy made their move while the party was raging, but he evaded them thanks the defensive capabilities of his many bodyguards. The Marines only managed to kill three hombres and capture 23 women (sadly one of the hookers died on the line of duty).
A few days later, the Navy located Don Arturo in a luxury apartment/upscale shopping mall complex, hiding out with 5 of his bodyguards. According to the government, they obtained the intel from a man (a sicario most likely) they found in a hospital getting his gunshot wounds bandaged up. But that’s their word, I’m more inclined to believe that the goddamn musicians gave him up, let’s hope they don’t lose their heads over this.
Once they located the Don, they surrounded the complex with enough firepower to turn to whole block into rubble. For hours, the area was filled with the sound of constant automatic fire, interrupted only by grenade explosions and the shouts of Marines telling the entrenched narcos to surrender.
It was a weird scene for such an upscale neighborhood inhabited by the rich and the powerful. Hell, even the Governor lived a couple hundred meters away from the apartment complex being shelled Lebanon-style.
But the Don had nowhere to go. More than a hundred Marines guarded the complex, and sixty more had rappelled down onto the roof from choppers. The narcos were outnumbered maybe 100 to 1, but they still kept the Marines at bay for several hours. One by one, Don Arturo’s protection ring fell dead. One even preferred to jump from a window to his death rather than be captured. It was a crazed way to go, doing a bonzai jump out a window in the middle of firefight. The Marines didn’t leave shit to chance, though, shooting him in the back mid-air. And I don’t think this would count as mercy-killing.
As the hours went by and the capo ran out of grenades, he made a mad dash for the elevator hoping to make it to the basement where “La Satanica” waited warming its engine. With an R-15 in hand, he opened the front door, intending to shoot his way through the Marines. But the Don didn’t make it very far. The Marines shot him full of holes right at the entrance to his apartment, blowing a huge hole in shoulder. He fell to the ground with about 30 grenade pins all around his body. It was a grizzly scene, and strikingly similar to that last bit in Scarface.
The Don was found with $40,000 dollars, and various religious objects: a protection cocktail of sorts that included a golden rosary, two Chinese talismans (a dragon and a serpent) and a velvet bag of santeria. Many narcos (including a few of my friends) believe in these kinds of things, even if they aren’t religions not practitioners. They do it just to be safe. They’ll use anything that might give them an edge.
On the table they found bowls of fruit, a plate of ham & eggs with guacamole, a bag of good-looking weed, what looked like about 2 ounces of pure cocaine straight from the FARC fields, and an unmistakable (to me at least) package of good´ol rivotrils (aka roofies) to calm the nerves, keep a steady head and banish the fear.