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Villagers mourn death of Mexico’s top drug lord

July 12, 1997

GUAMUCHILITO, Mexico (AP) _ For one of the world’s most powerful drug lords, it was a simple funeral: family, a few neighbors, some childhood friends.

The sisters of Amado Carrillo Fuentes strolled through the crowd making small talk Friday. Cousins offered tortillas and stewed meat to the hungry. Mourners came and went.

Two priests in white robes celebrated a burial Mass in the family chapel. Mourners sang hymns. ``Have mercy on us!″ they intoned, reciting the Rosary every half hour.

Later, with the sound of police helicopters patrolling overhead, Carrillo’s silver coffin was lowered into the marble family crypt while his mother, Aurora, and two sisters sobbed and held each other.

``Who can be a judge if not only God,″ said one of the priests, the Rev. Benjamin Olivas. Then, turning to Carrillo’s mother, he added: ``Let her love not be changed by what the entire world says.″

Carrillo, 41, died July 4 in a Mexico City maternity clinic after undergoing extensive plastic surgery and liposuction.

His mother, Aurora Fuentes de Carrillo, picked up the body in Mexico City late Thursday and flew with it aboard a Lear jet to Culiacan, 30 miles east of this village where Carrillo grew up.

It was the last flight for Carrillo, known by drug agents as ``Lord of the Skies″ for his pioneering use of aging jetliners to fly tons of South American cocaine into Mexico, where it was shipped overland into the United States.

On Friday, family and friends passed through the wrought-iron gates of the family home here, 650 miles northwest of Mexico City.

In the chapel, his sisters wept before the silver casket, opened to reveal the battered and bruised body of the man who was long Mexico’s most wanted fugitive.

The youngest sister, Alicia Carrillo Fuentes, 24, noted that Carrillo had never been seized on drugs charges. ``He always said that only in death would they catch him,″ she said.

Asked about the stories surrounding her brother, she responded, ``We didn’t know what to think.″ Then she added, ``Mom always said that somewhere out there, God will take care of him.″

Mystery shrouds his death.

Prosecutors said Thursday that Carrillo had checked into a Mexico City maternity clinic last week with two bodyguards and three of his own doctors. After 8 1/2 hours in surgery, he reportedly was recovering well but in the morning, hospital staff found him dead.

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

Positive confirmation of the body’s identity came only after a battery of tests that included DNA and fingerprinting as well as checking scars and the shapes of the ears, said Mariano Herran Salvatti, a federal prosecutor.

A quarter mile away, about 40 soldiers in battle gear patrolled a gravel road near the family compound, their weapons drawn. A soldier atop a Humvee held the grip of a mounted machine gun and scowled.

Guards climbed atop the compound’s 10-foot-walls the gathered outside.

On Jan. 4, soldiers and police stormed the ranch during a wedding celebration for the drug lord’s sister but failed to find Carrillo.

U.S. drug agents say Carrillo assumed leadership of the Juarez cartel, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, when its previous leader was gunned down in 1993.

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