MEXICO CITY — Authorities on Tuesday captured the father-in-law of the powerful chief of the Sinaloa Cartel, chalking up a victory against crime in a week in which President Barack Obama is to travel to Mexico.
Deputy Interior Secretary Eduardo Sanchez said law enforcement officials arrested Ines Coronel Aispuro and four other men in an early morning raid in Agua Prieta, a border city in Sonora state across from Douglas, Ariz.
Coronel is the father of Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen who is the third wife of Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, whom the U.S. Treasury Department describes as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. The two married in 2007, and she made headlines in September 2011 when she gave birth to twins in a Los Angeles-area hospital, eventually returning to Mexico. U.S. officials at the time said they had no warrant for her arrest.
News of the arrest comes amid mounting concern in Washington over whether the five-month-old administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto will limit cooperation with the United States in fighting organized crime that expanded dramatically under his predecessor.
Mexico is a major producer of methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin. Most of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico from its origin in South America.
A senior Foreign Secretariat official told The Associated Press on Monday that future contact between U.S. agencies and their Mexican counterparts must now go through a single office at the powerful Interior Secretariat, ensuring coordination rather than individual liaison relations between agencies.
Obama, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, dismissed concerns that the move may signal cooling cooperation with Mexico, where he travels on Thursday on a three-day trip that will also take him to Costa Rica.
He said the two nations had made “great strides in the coordination and cooperation between our two governments” but that “things can be improved.” Obama added that Pena Nieto had talked to him last fall about how to improve coordination within his own government.
“I’m not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I’ve heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish,” Obama added.
Sanchez said Tuesday’s arrests were made at a simple one-story ranch home without a shot being fired.
Coronel, he said, ran marijuana-growing operations for the Sinaloa Cartel in Durango and Sonora states.
In a press release in January, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control put Coronel on its “kingpin’s list,” prohibiting any financial transactions with him and freezing any assets he may have in the United States.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Coronel is also wanted in the United States.
Sanchez said authorities seized 562 pounds of marijuana in the raid as well as several rifles and vehicles. Along with Coronel, authorities also arrested his 25-year-old son, Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro; Juan Elias Ruiz Beltran; Jose Heriberto Beltran and Bernardo Rios.