A former Tijuana Cartel boss, the 63-year-old Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix sustained a bullet to the head at point-blank range during a family gathering at the Los Cabos resort in the southern part of Baja California. Francisco Rafael was the oldest of the seven Arellano Felix brothers, who helped to popularize trafficking drugs between Mexico and California. Their story inspired Steven Soderbergh's 2000 drug war film Traffic.
Rafael was first arrested in 1980 for selling drugs in San Diego. He returned to Mexico, where he continued to sell drugs. A second arrest in 1993 connected with the murder of a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, did not dampen his efforts, and in 2006 the cartel made headlines when smuggling tunnels were discovered connecting Tijuana to the United States.
Security experts have indicated that they believe Tijuana's cartel is still operational, and that the Arellano Felix legacy is being continued by their sister and her son, alias "The Engineer."
Although Rafael was released in 2008 for good behavior, his enemies were more than willing to wait for the opportune moment to strike. Since most of the Arellano Felix brothers have been arrested or killed, their rivals have supplanted their place in the Latin American illicit drug trade, and officials have speculated that the assassins had ties to organized crime.
The AP reported a former San Diego prosecutor who penned one of the cartel's indictments, John Kirby, as saying "[Rafael] was never really part of the leadership of the big organization, mostly because he was in [Mexican] jail. He was arrested before they became what they really became."
Mexican authorities had hoped to let the United States deal with Rafael, but even after an extradition request to finish out a weapons possession sentence, Kirby said "The Mexicans were very concerned he was going to get out." The Mexicans were right; Rafael's 2008 release followed a six-year prison sentence from 2006 for drug trafficking, but he was released on parole and was deported to Mexico shortly after.[Image via Google Maps]