MEXICO CITY - Mexico extradited four major drug traffickers to the U.S. on Friday, a sign that the nation's new president will deliver on his promise for more cooperation in fighting cross-border crime.
Osiel Cardenas, the purported Gulf cartel leader who is believed to still be running the drug organization from behind bars in Mexico, was extradited along with 13 others wanted in the U.S., all of whose appeals against extradition had run out, the Attorney General's office said in a news release.
The United States has long been frustrated by Mexico's reluctance to extradite Mexican drug lords also wanted in the U.S.
Mexico has said the suspects had to face justice in their own country first.
But that attitude changed under former President Vicente Fox, who promised to hand over top criminals to the U.S.
President Felipe Calderon initiated an aggressive push against drug gangs shortly after taking office on Dec. 1.
"Today, both the Mexican and the American people can celebrate a monumental moment in our two nations' battle with the vicious drug traffickers and criminals who threaten our very way of life," U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said in a statement.
In addition to Cardenas, Mexico extradited Ismael and Gilberto Higuera Guerrero, brothers and former chiefs in the Arellano-Felix cartel in Tijuana and Mexicali, and Hector Palma Salazar, former leader in the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who escaped from prison in 2001 and is still at large.
Ten others wanted on charges of murder, drug trafficking and sex-related crimes, also were extradited, officials said.
"I cannot say enough about the extraordinary leadership, courage and conviction demonstrated by President Calderon, his Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, and the hundreds of dedicated law enforcement professionals on both sides of our border who have made this day possible," Garza said.