Mexican Cartel Kingpin 'El Taliban' Pleads Guilty in Texas
On April 7 cartel boss Ivan Velasquez-Caballero, better known as "El Taliban" or "L50," pled guilty to money laundering and drug charges, according to reports from The McAllen Monitor. Velasquez was a member of the notorious Los Zetas cartel, which the U.S. government has dubbed the "most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico."
Sylvia Longmire, Breitbart Texas’ Contributing Editor and border security expert, said she was surprised that the cartel boss initially pled not guilty.
"Most major drug bosses automatically look at a plea deal when being tried in US courts," she said. "I think Velasquez just wised up and realized he'd be a lot better off if he plead guilty and offered up some useful intelligence on Los Zetas--and perhaps rival organizations--in exchange for a lesser sentence."
Longmire said that U.S. prosecutors likely have substantial evidence against Velasquez.
"He was a major figure in the Zetas organization, and a controversial one at that. Los Zetas are moving on just fine without him, but he's a good catch, and it's a success just to have him out of the game," Longmire said.
Longmire also pointed out an interesting contrast in Mexico's apparent extradition policy: although high-ranking Velasquez was extradited, Sinaloa Federation kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán was not. Longmire said, "[T]he contradiction of extraditing El Taliban and keeping El Chapo may be showing some hints of hypocrisy on [Mexican President] Peña Nieto's part--or more proof of a deliberate snub to the US government by not extraditing Guzmán."
El Chapo was arrested at a Mexican beach resort in February. Initially after his arrest, federal prosecutors in cities around the U.S. were pushing for his extradition and jockeying over who would handle the case. Ultimately, however, Mexico refused to transfer El Chapo to the U.S., where he would face serious charges in at least seven cities.
As Breitbart Texas reported in March 2014, Velasquez appeared in court after being extradited to the U.S. He plead not guilty to the charges against him, which stemmed from a 2008 indictment. His re-arraignment will take place on Monday before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate