06/19/14 (written by aalvarez) — Amidst the heightened security in Brazil surrounding the 2014 World Cup, Rio de Janeiro police apprehended a Mexican drug trafficker wanted in the United States. José Díaz Barajas (49), who resides in Guadalajara, Jalisco, was wanted for trafficking methamphetamine into the United States. According to Luiz Dorea Cravo, head of international cooperation for Brazil’s Federal Police, “[Díaz] was not involved in trafficking cocaine, but rather methamphetamine.” He continued, “His organization imported Asian products that they processed in Mexico and exported to the United States.” Díaz, whose cartel affiliation has not been confirmed, was also named to the Interpol list.
Reports indicate that Díaz arrived in Rio de Janeiro on June 11 with his wife and two children (ages 29 and 17) to attend the Mexico-Brazil World Cup soccer match on June 17 at Fortaleza. Brazilian authorities alerted the United States about Diaz’s arrival, prompting the United States to issue an order for his arrest and extradition. Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Marco Aurelio Mello then issued an arrest warrant on June 14. Two days later, Díaz was picked up in the Rio de Janeiro airport while trying to board a plane for the soccer match in Fortaleza. According to Bloomberg, FIFA, the World Cup governing body, reported that Díaz purchased tickets for the match under his name for him and his family, thus affirming his stated purpose for travel to Brazil. FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer did not comment on whether FIFA played a role in Díaz’s arrest.
Diaz’s takedown adds to the growing list of apprehended or killed Mexican organized crime members this year. As Mike Vigil, former head of international operation for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), was quoted saying in Bloomberg, the World Cup and other major sporting events can sometimes serve as venues to arrest members of organized crime groups. “A lot of [suspects] are big sports fanatics,” he stated, adding that, “It’s a great time to apprehend these individuals.” Diaz, meanwhile, is currently being held in Rio de Janeiro while he awaits the ruling on his extradition charges.