November 22, 2013
Mexico has extradited Ivan Velazquez Caballero, alias “El Taliban,” to the United States, a year after authorities arrested the alleged top lieutenant of the Zetas drug cartel, officials said Friday.
Velazquez Caballero, also known as Z-50, appeared Friday before a federal court in Laredo, a Texas city on the border with Mexico, a day after his extradition, US prosecutors said.
The 43-year-old is facing trial in the United States on drug and money laundering charges. He risks a maximum of life in prison if convicted.
The US Attorney’s Office in Texas said the charges stem from a 2010 indictment accusing Velazquez Caballero and 33 others with 47 counts including drug conspiracy, conspiracy to kidnap and kill US citizens abroad, and using juveniles to commit a violent crime.
Velazquez Caballero faces an arraignment and detention hearing on December 3.
He was arrested by the Mexican navy in September 2012 in the central city of San Luis Potosi.
Authorities accused him of running operations for the Zetas in four central and northern Mexican states. Mexico had offered a $2.3 million bounty for his capture.
At the time of his arrest, a navy spokesman said sources indicated that Velazquez Caballero had challenged the authority of Zetas capo Miguel Angel Trevino, sparking a feud within the brutal cartel.
Founded by military deserters, the Zetas are known as a vicious gang blamed for much of the violence that has plagued Mexico in recent years, but authorities have dealt blows to their leadership in the past year.
Trevino was captured in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas in July while his predecessor, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed in a shootout with troops in October 2012.