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Top Mexican drug lord buried; battle for cocaine trade begins

July 12, 1997

GUAMUCHILITO, Mexico (AP) _ Under a blazing sun, mourners lowered the battered body of Mexico’s top drug lord into his family crypt, while police watched nearby from land and air.

Amado Carrillo Fuentes’ mother and sisters supported one another as they walked through their back yard to the family chapel Friday. Hundreds of relatives, neighbors and friends attended the funeral.

A silver casket bearing Carrillo’s swollen and bruised remains was placed alongside those of his father and brother in a gray marble crypt.

About 100 army troops armed with assault rifles lined the gravel road on either side of the house, interrogating motorists about the gathering and videotaping passers-by. They told reporters they were conducting a routine arms check.

A police helicopter circled overhead, the thudding of its rotor blades competing with the sermon of the Rev. Benjamin Olivas.

``Who can be a judge if not only God,″ Olivas said. Turning to Carrillo’s sobbing mother, Aurora Fuentes, he added: ``Let her love not be changed by what the entire world says.″

Carrillo, 41, head of Mexico’s Juarez cartel, was the most powerful drug lord in Mexico. He was nicknamed ``Lord of the Skies″ for his use of aging jetliners to fly tons of South American cocaine into Mexico, where it was shipped overland into the United States.

His funeral closed a chapter in Mexico’s drug history _ and opened a battle for the U.S. cocaine market.

Some drug experts say Carrillo’s brother Vicente, 34, will take over the cartel. But the cartel itself will face competition for its routes from the Tijuana-based Arrelano Felix brothers, who control much of the market on the U.S. west coast.

Carrillo died July 4 at a Mexico City maternity clinic, where he brought in three private doctors to give him extensive plastic surgery and liposuction. Prosecutors said in a statement Thursday that the operation was intended ``to radically change his physical appearance to avoid apprehension by authorities.″

Authorities were trying to determine whether his death was caused by homicide or medical malpractice.

The body was flown to Culiacan, near this hamlet in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, where authorities seized it and took it back to Mexico City for identification. They positively identified the body Thursday, and Aurora Fuentes flew it back home for burial.

Military maneuvers around the house began during the wake early Friday morning, and the family quickly hurried dozens of journalists inside as a shield against attack.

Authorities raided the house in January during the wedding of one of Carrillo’s sisters. Carrillo was tipped off and got away.

Family members filed into the living room to view the open casket throughout the night, and held a Mass in the morning. Mourners recited the rosary every half-hour throughout the day.

When the sun lowered in the sky and the heat became less oppressive, mourners moved to the back of the house, next to a pen holding four deer, peacocks, geese and a wild boor.

Carrillo’s coffin was lowered into the crypt.

``As a family we love him and adore him,″ one of his sisters, Socorro, said in an interview. ``He always put us first.″

Added another sister, 24-year-old Alicia: ``Mom always said that somewhere out there, God will take care of him.″

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