Two Mexican nationals have been arrested in Los Angeles County in connection with the 1985 kidnaping and murder of U.S. drug agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Thursday.
Jesus Felix-Gutierrez, 38, and his nephew, Carlos Felix-Gutierrez, 26, were taken into custody Wednesday "on various violations of federal narcotics statutes and with participating in the conspiracy to kidnap and murder Agent Camarena," according to a terse announcement by the Los Angeles DEA office.
The arrests were carried out by a task force of 45 officers from the DEA; the FBI; the Immigration and Naturalization Service; the Alcohol, Tax and Firearms Bureau, and the Sheriff's Department.
More Arrests Indicated
Federal agents indicated that more arrests may be imminent.
A source close to the investigation, code named Operation Leyenda, told The Times that Jesus Felix-Gutierrez, the uncle, is believed to have been in the house near Guadalajara where Camarena was tortured and murdered, along with a Mexican pilot who occasionally flew for the DEA.
"They're not regarded as the triggermen," the source said of the two Mexican suspects, but, he added, they are considered "significant" in the investigation.
The elder Gutierrez had been sought by U.S. authorities for a long time, according to a federal agent involved in the Camarena probe.
Gutierrez is understood to have a wife, children and a number of friends who live in the Los Angeles area.
The agent said federal authorities were tipped that he might try to enter the United States to visit his family and friends for Christmas.
Their suspicions proved correct. On Tuesday night, he said, Gutierrez slipped into the United States from Mexico and went to the home of a woman friend in an unincorporated area near El Monte.
Agents staking out the house watched him enter the home and waited through the night, he said. About 10 a.m., Gutierrez emerged and was seized immediately without incident.
The agent said the house was one of about six locations in the Los Angeles area for which search warrants had been obtained in the effort to catch Gutierrez.
At one location, he said, investigators found $35,000 in cash and 1 1/2 kilos of cocaine.
It was not clear where Gutierrez's nephew was arrested, and DEA officials would not say Thursday night where the two men were being held.
The Camarena case has led to strained relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
Camarena was kidnaped Feb. 7, 1985, near the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara as he was on his way to meet his wife at a restaurant. A few hours later, the Mexican pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, was kidnaped.
While the search for the American agent was still under way, DEA officials accused Mexican law enforcement of foot-dragging and of collaborating with top drug dealers.
The bodies of Camarena and Zavala were found a month later buried at a remote ranch about 70 miles from Guadalajara. Forensic experts said the men had been brutally beaten somewhere else and dumped there.
At the time Secretary of State George P. Shultz called the Mexican response to the slayings less than adequate, and he declared, "Our level of tolerance has been exceeded."
U.S. drug officials were particularly irked by the flight from Mexico of a reputed drug kingpin, Rafael Caro Quintero. Specifically, it was charged that Caro Quintero was spirited out of Mexico in a plane guarded by a cadre of police.
Caro Quintero and a brother had been considered prime targets in an investigation on which Camarena was working at the time of his murder.
Caro Quintero was subsequently deported from Costa Rica and arrested by Mexican authorities.
Mexican authorities have also arrested and charged a large number of suspects in the case, and some have been released. Many of the suspects were law enforcement officials.
In the United States, a federal grand jury in San Diego has been investigating the Camarena slaying.
On Monday, a Mexican internal security officer, Mario Martinez Herrera, was convicted of lying to the grand jury about whether he had ever been in Guadalajara.
Contributing to this article were Times staff writers Ronald J. Ostrow in Washington and Bill Farr in Los Angeles.