Image: Alfredo Araujo.
Said Betanzos  /  AFP - Getty Images
US Alfredo Araujo also known as "El Popeye" is pictured after being captured in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on Saturday.
updated 1/27/2008 4:22:32 AM ET 2008-01-27T09:22:32

An alleged drug cartel hit man who is among the suspects in the 1993 slaying of a Mexican cardinal was arrested in the border city of Tijuana, authorities announced on Saturday.

Alfredo Araujo Avila, also known as "Popeye," allegedly worked for the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel for more than two decades, Gen. German Redondo, commander of the local army base, told reporters.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo was riddled with bullets on May 24, 1993, while he was sitting in his car at the airport in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city.

Investigators concluded that gunmen working for the Arellano Felix cartel mistook the cardinal's luxury vehicle for that of a rival drug trafficker whom they were targeting for assassination -- and whose own security forces were at the scene and returned fire.

But Church authorities have long disputed the official version of events, arguing that Posadas Ocampo was killed because he knew about alleged relationships between drug dealers and government officials.

Six people besides the cardinal were also killed. Twelve people have since been convicted and imprisoned in the attack, most recently ex-police commander Humberto Rodriguez Banuelos in 2005.

Redondo said Saturday that Araujo Avila is also suspected in the 1997 shooting of Tijuana journalist Jesus Blancornelas, who survived and died of natural causes at age 70 in 2006.

Araujo Avila was detained at a house in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, on outstanding warrants. Redondo said he is also wanted on charges in the United States, but did not elaborate.

The general said the suspect holds American citizenship, but U.S. consular authorities were not immediately available to confirm that. A pistol and a police identification card were found in the house.

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