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World Cup Produces Arrest of Mexican Drug Lord Going to Game

By Raymond Colitt and Arnaldo Galvao
June 17, 2014 3:05 PM EDT 18 Comments

Brazil arrested a suspected Mexican drug trafficker on his way to watch his national soccer team play in the World Cup. He bought a ticket under his name.

Jose Diaz-Barajas, 49, was arrested at Rio de Janeiro’s Tom Jobim airport last night as he boarded a plane to Fortaleza, where Mexico plays Brazil today, Luiz Cravo Dorea, head of international cooperation at the Federal Police, said. The world soccer governing body, FIFA, had informed police that Diaz-Barajas, who was accompanied by his wife and two children, held tickets, Dorea said. FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer declined to comment when asked by e-mail about its cooperation with the police.

“Barajas was one of the most sought traffickers in the United States,” Dorea told reporters in Brasilia. “He will remain imprisoned in Rio until his extradition to the U.S. is determined.”

Since taking office in 2012, President Enrique Pena Nieto has succeeded in rounding up leaders of Mexico’s top drug cartels after drug-related violence left more than 90,000 dead or missing since 2006. They include Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s most-wanted criminal, and Miguel Angel Trevino, the head of the Zetas Cartel.

Nab Kingpins

U.S. and international security agencies often beef up their presence in cities with large sporting events such as boxing and World Cup matches to nab kingpins who attend competitions, said Mike Vigil, a retired former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“A lot of them are big sports fanatics,” Vigil said by telephone from Washington. “It’s a great time to apprehend these individuals.”

The Drug Enforcement Agency assisted in the arrest of Diaz-Barajas, said agent Joseph Moses, an agency spokesman.

Diaz-Barajas entered Brazil by land from Paraguay on June 11, according to the federal police. His arrest warrant was issued by Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello, the police said in a statement.

Guzman, who gained fame after escaping from a high-security prison, built up the Sinaloa cartel, named after his home state, and is known for beheading enemies or hanging their bodies in public places.

Mexico’s government is also waiting for results of DNA tests that would confirm the death of Juan Jose Esparragoza, known as “El Azul,” the second-most-wanted leader of the Sinaloa cartel at large, according to a Mexican official who requested not to be named because the information is not public.

To contact the reporters on this story: Raymond Colitt in Brasilia Newsroom at rcolitt@bloomberg.net; Arnaldo Galvao in Brasilia Newsroom at agalvao1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net Harry Maurer, Randall Woods

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