A major figure in the Mexican drug underworld has been shot dead during a children’s party, by a gunman dressed as a clown.
Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, 63, was the oldest of 11 siblings – seven brothers and four sisters – who between them led the Tijuana Cartel, once one of Mexico’s largest and most notorious drug-trafficking gangs.
According to local press, he was killed during the party at a rented luxury beach house in the popular Baja California resort of Cabo San Lucas. Isai Arias, a Baja California state government official, told the BBC that Arellano Félix had been hit by two bullets, “one in the chest and one in the head”.
The killer, who quickly fled the scene, may have had two accomplices. An official told the Associated Press that his outfit included a clown wig, and a round red nose.
The Tijuana Cartel is named after the Mexican border city where it is based, and, under the Arellano Félix family, the violent organisation once oversaw the vast majority of drug traffic between Mexico and the US state of California. Its activities were depicted in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-nominated 2000 film, Traffic.
The Arellano Félix brothers inherited control of the cartel from their uncle, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the now-imprisoned former boss of the Guadalajara Cartel. When Gallardo was incarcerated in a maximum security prison in the 1990s, his organisation split into two factions, the Tijuana Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.
Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix was arrested in 1993 following the assassination of catholic Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, on the orders of the Tijuana Cartel. In 2006, he was extradited to the US and sentenced to a further six years in prison for selling drugs to an undercover agent. Yet he was released in 2008 for good behaviour and returned to Mexico. There were no outstanding charges against him at the time of his death.
Three of the Arellano Félix brothers remain in prison in the US, including Eduardo, who was convicted of money- laundering in August.