More Gulf Cartel News

Violence in Mexico Tourism Corridor Reflects Evolving Criminal Trends

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Official reports have revealed that recent outbreaks of violence in one of Mexico’s main tourist areas could be due to clashes between an independent cartel and the Zetas, providing another example of the evolution of criminal dynamics in the country.

The recent attacks in the state of Quintana Roo — home to popular tourist destinations like Cancún and Playa del Carmen — are reportedly the result of an attempt by the Zetas to retake control of lucrative drug distribution points in the area, according to federal intelligence reports obtained by El Universal.

An independent criminal structure, led by formal federal police officer Leticia Rodríguez, alias “Doña Lety” or “La 40,” had pushed the powerful Zetas out of Quintana Roo a few years back, according to the reports.

Doña Lety’s criminal group was initially linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and was made up of deserters from the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, as well as ex-convicts and former government officials.

In an attempt to destroy Doña Lety’s independent cartel, the Zetas were initially joined by the Gulf Cartel and a local structure called Los Pelones in an alliance dubbed “The Combos.” But recent reports indicate that the latter two are now working hand-in-hand with Doña Lety as well as the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) to battle the Zetas.

Commenting on these shifting alliances, a local military commander said that the independent cartel is composed “of the remnants of other cartels,” adding that it was common for members to “switch from one group to another,” reported El Universal.

InSight Crime Analysis

The violence observed in Quintana Roo is not only the result of a confrontation between two warring parties but also the most recent example of the shifting criminal dynamics of Mexico’s landscape. The changing alliances between groups operating in the area and the creation of a new structure by deserters from other cartels serve as examples of the complexity of Mexico’s underworld as well as criminal groups’ capacity to adapt to evolving circumstances.

The country’s cartels have ceased to function as homogeneous entities with a strong hierarchy. Although these groups maintain a leadership structure, they have developed into decentralized networks composed of various cells that have gained autonomy and have relatively weak ties to one another.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profile

The new generation of cartels relies upon local criminal groups to establish their control over an area. But these groups present a lesser level of loyalty than previously observed. The ensuing fragmentation allows for switching alliances and, as InSight Crime has previously pointed out, it can lead to violent confrontations on the streets, especially when the control of a strategic area is in play.

Militarized Approach Continues as Mexico to Send 500 Troops to Border Town

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Mexico’s Defense Secretary says the army will send 500 soldiers to Ciudad Mier in the embattled state of Tamaulipas along the US-Mexico border, indicating that the Mexican government will continue to use the military as a stopgap in the fight against crime.

According to Infodefensa, at least 500 soldiers from the Mexican Army’s 25th Cavalry, originally deployed in the 17th Military Zone in Querétaro, will be sent to reinforce security. This will be the first time in four years that Ciudad Mier has had a military presence. 

Milenio reported that the decision was designed to strengthen the federal, state and municipal governments’ efforts to combat organized crime and restore security in the region, an area that is seeing fierce fighting between several competing criminal organizations.

The decision comes just days after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has signaled that he will beef up security — and possibly a large wall — along the US-Mexico border. 

Ciudad Mier is part of what is known as the Frontera Chica. It is critical for illegal trafficking to the United States and is home to the Burgos Basin, Mexico’s primary natural gas field.

Since the Mexican government initiated a more frontal assualt on drug trafficking groups in December 2006, Tamaulipas has become one of the nation’s most violent as the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and the Familia Michoacana battle for control of these trafficking routes.

InSight Crime Analysis 

The decision indicates that the military remains a go-to option for the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, despite the fact that militarized efforts nationwide to combat organized crime have shown considerable shortcomings. While they can have positive impacts on improving local security in the short term, criminal activities are often displaced to other areas or return once the military vacates. 

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Under Trump, the United States may also beef up the border. The United States Congress allocated $750 million to the Northern Triangle region for “development assistance, economic programs, military financing and training, and global health and security programs.”

Some of these funds will most likely be allocated to border security efforts. They will also be part of a broader effort to work with Mexico and stem the northern flow of Central American migrants from the region. 

Violence in Mexico’s Tourism Epicenter Points to Cartel Conflict

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A recent wave of violence in Mexico’s most important tourism corridor has sparked fears about new conflicts between drug cartels seeking to gain control over the area.

In recent months, the eastern tip of the Yucatán peninsula — home to the famous resort cities of Cancún and Playa del Carmen — has been affected by a series of violent outbreaks.

The most recent occurred on the afternoon of January 16, when an armed group attacked the Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office in Cancún, killing four people. This occurred just hours after a shootout during an event at the Blue Parrot bar in Playa del Carmen, where five people died.

A few days after the incident at the bar, four “narcobanners” appeared in Playa del Carmen, in which the Zetas crime group took credit for the attack at the Blue Parrot and threatened to attack members of the Gulf Cartel as well as local groups like “Los Pelones” and “Los Chapulines,” Proceso reported.  

“This is a sign that we’re here. It was because you didn’t get in line, Phillip BPM,” the banners read, referring to the founder of the event that took place at the bar. “It is the beginning. We’re going to cut off the heads of the Gulf Cartel, Pelones and Chapulines.”

On the other hand, Animal Político reported that local authorities had already detected the presence of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), to which they attributed a nightclub shootout in November last year, as well as the Sinaloa Cartel.

InSight Crime Analysis

With as many as four cartels operating in Quintana Roo, the southern state is especially prone to violence. Confrontations tend to increase when two or more criminal groups attempt to take control of the same “plaza.”

The Gulf Cartel has reportedly maintained the greatest level of control in the state since at least 2013. The Zetas, their traditional rivals, have been weakened in recent years and have lost territory across the country. However, if they have begun to consolidate their presence in Quintana Roo, it is possible that violence may escalate.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The CJNG could also be a key player in this territorial dispute. Currently, it is the criminal group that has expanded in the most aggressive manner and it seems to have become one of the most violent organizations in the country. Its dispute with the Sinaloa Cartel in Baja California, for example, has resulted in a rise in homicides in major cities like Tijuana.

Elites, Organized Crime Share Long History in Tamaulipas, Mexico

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The future of the recently elected governor in Tamaulipas, one of Mexico’s most criminally infested states, depends on punishing his predecessors for past sins of corruption and collusion with criminal networks, according to the author of a new book on the subject.

Impunity for contraband runners, drug traffickers and corrupt political elites dates back to the very inception of organized crime in Mexico’s northwestern territory, argues Humberto Padgett in  “Tamaulipas – La Casta de los narcogobernadores: un eastern mexicano.”

He takes us back to the 1930s, when prohibition was in place in the United States and contraband runners were smuggling alcohol across the border Tamaulipas shares with Texas. One of the documented smugglers in Tamaulipas was Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, born and raised in the border city of Matamoros and the founder of what is now known as the Gulf Cartel.

Padgett paints a fascinating picture of Nepomuceno, who he refers to as “el maestro” (the master). He remains untouched by the authorities, despite the fact that he shoots his own wife, the actress Gloria Landeros, in a fit of jealousy in 1947. Incredibly, even killing the son of revolutionary leader Pancho Villa some 13 years later had no real legal repercussions for Nepomuceno.

There are at least two streets named after Nepomuceno in Tamaulipas, and collusion between the state’s two powers — officials and drug gang bosses — has become part of the culture. Padgett documents examples of this symbiotic relationship from the 1930s to the present day through an investigation that involved scouring documents and history, as well as low-profile field trips.

SEE ALSO:Mexico News and Profiles

Tamaulipas has been the source of some of the most horrific drug violence since the start of the government’s campaign against organized crime began back in 2006.  In 2010, 72 Central American migrants were massacred — allegedly by the Zetas — and their bodies were dumped in a farm shed in the San Fernando municipality. At the time, the Zetas were at war with their former employers, the Gulf Cartel. Padgett dedicates a chapter of his book to the mass killing.

“If you have a mass grave in San Fernando with 300 bodies in it, it’s not because a solitary, isolated spontaneous event has occurred. It’s the consequence of a political process, more than criminal,” said Padgett in an interview with InSight Crime. “The book is about establishing the causal relationship between corruption and its social effects.”

To date, two former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Tamaulipas governors are fugitives, wanted in the US on drug-related charges — Tomás Yarrington (1999-2005) and Eugenio Hernández Flores (2005-2010). During the tenure of both, a construction company allegedly paid the Tamaulipas government 500,000 Mexican pesos a day in bribes.

“That is government-sponsored drug trafficking,” says Padgett, who believes that the legal investigations into Yarrington and Hernández are just the tip of the iceberg. Padgett documents a litany of wrongdoing over the years by more than a dozen government officials in Tamaulipas in accounts that read as good as a political thriller.

One of the essays in Padgett’s book, “A poor politician is a bad politician,” describes in detail how, according to US prosecutors, Yarrington16-06-27PadgettCover accepted millions of dollars in bribes from the Gulf Cartel in return for enabling the flow of drugs across the state and the border into Texas. He invested that money in real estate in the US, some of which has since been seized by the authorities.

Although both Yarrington and Hernández Flores are wanted in the United States, they have yet to be captured by the Mexican government. Hernandez Flores was reportedly photographed voting in gubernatorial elections in early June, in which Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, from the National Action Party (PAN) won the Tamaulipas governor’s seat from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s PRI party for the first time in modern history.

When Cabeza de Vaca takes power on October 1, it will fall to him and his connections in the federal government to decide whether or not to make an example of their former colleagues as solid proof that corruption will not be tolerated.

But there are few examples in contemporary Mexican history of powerful elites and politicians being punished for collaborating with organized crime, and not a single politician features on Mexico’s current most-wanted capo list, argues Padgett.

SEE ALSO:Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

He points out that the “Casa Blanca” incident in 2014 that exposed house purchases by Peña Nieto, his wife and his finance minister from prominent government contractors but in which they were cleared of any wrongdoing suggests that impunity remains the norm for Mexico’s political elites.

“The phenomenon of organized crime cannot be explained without the permanent complicity of the Mexican authorities,” he said in reference to the whole country, not just the subject of his book.

But when asked if the presence of so much criminal activity has been wholly negative for Tamaulipas in particular, Padgett was split. For sure, he said, the Gulf Cartel has contributed to the economic development of the state.

“Take away remittances, money from the informal economy and money from drug trafficking from Tamaulipas — it would be very, very hard” for the state, he said.

Top ‘Capo’ of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel Sought Haven in Texas

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A former cartel lawyer who led the Los Zetas Cartel before fleeing Mexico was an exception to the “rule” that top kingpins did not try to hide in the United States. The three men who killed Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa will be on trial in Texas beginning later this month.

A man who was slain at an upscale suburban Dallas shopping center is identified in federal court documents as the acting leader of a notorious Mexican cartel, a claim that would run counter to the long-held belief that drug kingpins seldom try to hide in the United States.

Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa moved into a million-dollar home in Southlake, Texas, in 2011, two years before he was fatally shot by three men who prosecutors say had been stalking him for months.

This article originally appeared in El Daily Post and has been republished with permission. See original here.

According to a recent court filing submitted by the lawyers for Jesús Gerardo Ledezma Cepeda — one of three suspects slated to stand trial for Chapa’s killing — Guerrero Chapa became the interim head of the Gulf Cartel — one of Mexico’s most violent drug-trafficking rings — following the arrest of predecessor Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, who was extradited to the United States in 2007 and later sentenced to 25 years in prison.

As head of the Gulf Cartel, “(Guerrero) Chapa ran a large criminal enterprise whose activities included murders, narcotics trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, bribery, money laundering and torture,” the court filing says.

SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel News and Profile

It appears Guerrero Chapa in part was seeking anonymity with his family in moving to the Dallas metro region. Court records said he had been living in fear because “he had been found by people who wanted to kill him.”

Federal officials say it’s unusual to find high-ranking gang leaders like Guerrero Chapa in Texas, and particularly North Texas, a region the cartels over the years have used as a jumping off point to spread their drug distribution network. The Dallas region, fed by several freeways and small airports, allows for direct routes into the Midwest and beyond.

16-04-18-Mexico-SouthlakeLocal television coverage on the day of the murder. Photo: Associated Press.

Ledezma Cepeda and the two other defendants are scheduled to stand trial later this month on charges including conspiracy to commit murder for hire and interstate stalking.

One of Ledezma Cepeda’s attorneys, Wes Ball, said Guerrero Chapa headed the Gulf Cartel in a transitional or interim capacity. Federal authorities have said Guerrero Chapa was Cárdenas Guillén’s lawyer and a principle figure in the cartel’s operation.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the US/Mexico Border

Cartels often have lower-level members living in the United States to broaden drug-trafficking efforts, Russ Baer, a spokesman for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement. These operatives are usually in the states for limited periods and then rotated back to Mexico to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.

However, upper-level leaders usually do not live in the United States due to the increased likelihood of capture, Baer said.

Ball added that the trial for the three men charged in Guerrero Chapa’s death could offer a rare look into cartel operations.

“Most of your cartel heads never go to trial, they almost always plead guilty,” Ball said. “So public trials where all the nitty gritty details are laid out is actually pretty rare.”

Guerrero Chapa’s death near Dallas in 2013 came the same month as the conviction in Austin of the brother of two top leaders for a competing cartel.

José Treviño Morales and others used proceeds from US drug sales to purchase American quarter horses and launder the money. Court records show the operation was based out of suburban Dallas, and Treviño Morales was found to have invested $16 million dollars of drug money in the buying, training and racing of horses across the Southwest United States.

SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profile

Treviño Morales is the brother of two former leaders of the Zetas, an organization that has expanded beyond the drug trade to become the biggest criminal group in Mexico. One of the men was captured in 2013 by Mexican authorities and the other two years later.

In another case, Juan Francisco Sáenz Támez was arrested by federal agents in 2014 while shopping in the South Texas city of Edinburg. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has said Sáenz Támez was a leader of the Gulf Cartel.

*This article originally appeared in El Daily Post and has been republished with permission. See original here.

Serving Mexico’s Cartels, Armed Cells Led to an Explosion of Violence

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Beginning in the 1990s, Mexico’s cartels began recruiting hired gunmen to act as armed cells. Since then, violence against civilians with no links to organized crime has escalated as these groups turn to exploiting the population as a source of revenue. 

In January 2010, 17 young people were killed at a party in Villas de Salvarcar, Chihuahua. The perpetrators were soon identified. They belonged to a criminal gang known as “La Linea,” linked to the Juarez Cartel.

Then-President Felipe Calderon was quick to declare the deaths to be a result of “a confrontation between gangs.” Just one more case, according to the government version, of “they only kill each other.”

But it was soon known that behind the crime were orders given to La Linea to finish off members of the gang known as the “Artistas Asesinos,” who worked with the rival Sinaloa Cartel.

This article was originally published by El Daily Post and is reprinted with permission. It is the second installment in a journalism project called NarcoData, developed by Animal Politico and Poderopedia, which seeks to explain the evolution and growth of organized crime in Mexico. See the original article here.

The investigation clearly showed, however, that the murdered young people had no link to organized crime. Even Calderon was eventually forced to offer an apology to the victims’ families.

The reality was that the deadly attack was one more of a growing number of examples of a criminal organization harming or killing a group that had nothing to do with disputes between cartels.  

The attacks on everyday uninvolved citizens have been more common ever since the 1990s, when the cartels began recruiting killers to form armed cells to attack rival groups or other citizens should the perceived need arise.

The same cartels that recruited the killer bands took it upon themselves to arm them with high powered weapons, turning them into the cartels’ first line of attack against rival organizations or government forces.

These armed cells have been the perpetrators of mass murders, such as the one in Salvarcar.

In 2008, for example, 24 bodies were found in La Marquesa in the State of Mexico. Investigators were unable to establish that any of those victims had any link to the criminal world.

The killers in the La Marquesa case turned out to members of La Mano con Ojos (the Hand with Eyes), a cell in the Beltran Leyva Cartel charged with eliminating operations in the State of Mexico by the rival Familia Michoacana.

Another similar case, in July 2010, took place in the major city of Torreon, Coahuila, where 17 persons were murdered at a birthday party by members of the Gente Nueva armed cell, working with the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Zetas Came First

The same cartels that recruited the killer bands took it upon themselves to arm them with high powered weapons, turning them into the cartels’ first line of attack against rival organizations or government forces.

The first armed wing operating under a criminal organization was Los Zetas. In 1998, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, leader of the Gulf Cartel, began recruiting former military men. The strategy turned out to be a key factor in the rise of the Gulf Cartel’s power.

SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel News and Profile

The Zetas took charge of stopping advances into Tamaulipas by the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels, both of whom were looking to take over the territory along the Texas border.

Juarez and Sinaloa, however, responded by forming their own armed militias — La Linea and the Pelones, respectively.

At the end of the Vicente Fox administration (2000-2006), those three killer cells were the only ones that existed, or at least the only ones for which any information existed.

By the end of the Calderon administration six years later, the number grew from three to 59.

Then, taking advantage of their intimidating firepower, they had branched out on their own into oil theft from pipelines, trafficking of migrants, kidnapping and extortion.

That huge leap in the number of armed cells inevitably led to a rise in the rate of aggression against everyday citizens. Society at large became a source of revenue, and a victim of daily attacks.

“What’s happening is that groups were created with the advantage of certain criminal infrastructure — arms, vehicles, safe houses, and hired killers who could operate with autonomy,” says Raul Benitez Manaut, a specialist in security issues with the Center for Research on North America at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). And the best business other than trafficking drugs is to squeeze the population.”

There are various ways of doing that. The Zetas, for example, acting at first as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, soon opened up some new business lines, including retail drug sales and pirated goods. Then, taking advantage of their intimidating firepower, they had branched out on their own into oil theft from pipelines, trafficking of migrants, kidnapping and extortion.

“After the Zetas started operating with freedom and began to grow bigger and more powerful, other crime organizations saw that what they were doing was profitable,” points out Guillermo Valdes, former director of the National Investigation and Security Center (Cisen), Mexico’s top intelligence agency.

SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profile

So before 2000, organized crime activities primarily involved the illicit drug trade and were aimed at the exterior market. But after the cartels began recruiting killers to form armed cells, a thriving business took shape based on various forms of aggression against society at large, and the illegal exploitation of local economies.

How this evolution unfolded — its cause and consequences — will be explored in the next segment of NarcoData.

*This article was originally published by El Daily Post and is reprinted with permission. It is the second installment in a journalism project called NarcoData, developed by Animal Politico and Poderopedia, which seeks to explain the evolution and growth of organized crime in Mexico. See the original article here.

Explaining Mexico’s Decision to Extradite Alleged Drug Lords

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Mexico has extradited two alleged drug lords and nearly a dozen other suspected drug traffickers to the United States, a decision that was likely influenced by the escape of notorious kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a maximum-security prison in July. 

On September 30, Mexico extradited 13 suspected drug traffickers to face justice in the United States. Included in this group were Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie,” who led a faction of the splintered Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), and former Gulf Cartel head Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss,” reported Reuters. (See below for a short profile of each of the 13 suspected drug traffickers.)

Many of those who were extradited had been in Mexican prisons for years. La Barbie and El Coss were both captured during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon.

The move has raised speculation that the Mexican government will be more willing to accomodate US extradition requests in the future. 

“My guess is they won’t be as inflexible as they were during the beginning of the administration [of current President Enrique Peña Nieto],” El Daily Post’s Alejandro Hope told InSight Crime. 

In 2013 — the first full year of the Peña Nieto administration — extraditions to the United States fell by more than half from the previous year.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extradition

The timing of the extraditions is noteworthy. Almost immediately following El Chapo’s arrest in February 2014, US authorities made it clear that they wanted the head of Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, to face justice in the United States. However, Mexican authorities insisted Guzman would first complete his sentence in Mexico.

But El Chapo escaped just 16 months after his capture by tunneling out of the maximum-security prison where he was being held, further straining the long and complicated relationship between the United States and Mexico on extradition.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mexico’s decision to extradite La Barbie and El Coss may very well have been a direct consequence of the diplomatic fallout that came as a result of the El Chapo episode. According to Hope, one of the principal objectives of the recent extraditions was to “mend the rift with the US that was born out of El Chapo’s escape.”

However, the timing of the extraditions was also impacted by procedural limitations. The extradition process for many of the suspects had been in the works long before El Chapo’s escape.

“There are legitimate reasons for those delays,” Hope told InSight Crime. “Some of those guys have fought extradition for a long time.”

Yet another possibility is that Mexican authorities are taking precautionary steps in order to avoid a public relations embarrassment similar to the one they endured following El Chapo’s escape. A total of 20 officials have been arrested in connection to the Chapo case, including two former directors of the Altiplano prison, the facility from which the drug lord escaped and where La Barbie and El Coss were being held. Given these circumstances, the Mexican government may have feared another high-profile escape was imminent. 

Extradited Suspects 

15-10-01-BarbieMugShot

Name: Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “La Barbie”

Criminal Group/Role: Former leader of the BLO

Charges: Conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, money laundering

 

15-10-01-Coss

Name: Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss”

Criminal Group/Role: Former leader of the Gulf Cartel

Charges: Cocaine and marijuana importation and distribution, money laundering, and threatening federal law enforcement officers

 

15-10-01-Kingery

Name: Jean Baptiste Kingery

Criminal Group/Role: Linked to Sinaloa Cartel and other criminal groups

Charges: Arms trafficking and illegal exportation of munitions and weapons material from the United States

 

15-10-01-Montemayor

Name: Carlos Montemayor Gonzalez, alias “El Director”

Criminal Group/Role: Father-in-law to La Barbie, member of the BLO

Charges: Drug trafficking and money laundering

 

15-10-01-Celis

Name: Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis, alias “Pack”

Criminal Group/Role: Barrio Azteca member, suspected of participating alongside Alberto Nuñez Payan and Ricardo Valles de la Rosa in the murders of a US consulate employee and two other US citizens

Charges: Drug trafficking, homicide, criminal conspiracy and illegal weapons possession 

 

15-10-01-Payan

Name: Alberto Nuñez Payan, alias “Fresa”

Criminal Group/Role: Barrio Azteca member, suspected of participating alongside Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis and Ricardo Valles de la Rosa in the murders of a US consulate employee and two other US citizens

Charges: Drug trafficking, homicide, criminal conspiracy and illegal weapons possession

 

15-10-01-Rosa

 

Name: Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, alias “Chino”

Criminal Group/Role: Barrio Azteca member, suspected of participating alongside Luis Humberto Hernandez Celis and Alberto Nuñez Payan in the murders of a US consulate employee and two other US citizens

Charges: Drug trafficking, homicide, criminal conspiracy and illegal weapons possession

 

15-10-01-MontoyaPea

Name: Aureliano Montoya Peña, alias “La Changa”

Criminal Group/Role: Linked to a Zetas drug trafficking cell in Chicago

Charges: Conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, multiple charges related to transporting drug proceeds between Chicago and Mexico

 

15-10-01-Elizalde

 

Name: Julio Cesar Valenzuela Elizalde, alias “El Piloto”

Criminal Group/Role: Part of a group of eight people suspected of trafficking methamphetamine to the United States

Charges: Conspiracy to possess and distribute methamphetamine

 

15-10-01-DanielCastillo

 

Name: Martin Daniel Castillo Rascon

Criminal Group/Role: Unknown

Charges: Conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substance, conspiracy to import controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute

 

15-10-01-Gonzalez

 

Name: Antonio Reynoso Gonzalez, alias “El Ingeniero”

Criminal Group/Role: Linked to the Sinaloa Cartel

Charges: Conspiracy to import, possess and distribute cocaine

 

15-10-01-Platas

 

Name: Antonio Gonzalez Platas

Criminal Group/Role: Unknown

Charges: Rape

15-10-01-GarciaSota

Name: Jose Manuel Garcia Sota, alias “El Pelon”

Criminal Group/Role: Member of the Zetas suspected of murdering a US Immigration Services agent

Charges: Weapons possession, homicide

 

Mexico Oil Theft Just Keeps Getting Worse

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Despite government efforts, fuel theft has risen in Mexico, at a time when falling oil and gas prices are already impacting the nation’s economy and national budget.

Mexico state oil firm Pemex registered 1,211 illegal pipeline taps in the first quarter of 2015, up 58 percent from the same time period last year, reported Dinero, citing Pemex figures. Criminal groups later sell the stolen fuel at below-market prices to cartel-controlled gas stations and other buyers.

The Pemex numbers show that the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas saw the highest rate of fuel theft for the third year in a row. The state is home to the various criminal factions of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, both of which remain heavily involved in fuel theft according to a Wilson Center report (pdf) published earlier this year.

Click on the “2015” column in the chart below to see the states with the least and greatest number of oil theft incidents so far this year. 

 

The states of Guanajuato, Puebla, Tabasco and Jalisco also saw high rates of illegal pipeline taps during 2015’s first quarter. In Tabasco alone, fuel theft skyrocketed by 325 percent between the first quarter of 2014 to the same time period in 2015.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime’s growing impact on Mexico’s oil industry — Pemex estimates it lost $1.11 billion last year to fuel theft — coincides with falling oil prices and delayed foreign investment. The fuel sector is crucial to Mexico’s economy, and falling oil revenue has already prompted the Mexican government to cut national spending by more than $8 billion this year, with similar plans for 2016.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft

The administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto — who campaigned on a promise of reforming and revitalizing Mexico’s energy sector — has attempted to crack down on oil theft by making more arrests. The government has also implemented a new security program specifically meant to address the situation in Tamaulipas, which sees the highest rate of illegal pipeline taps in the country. Stamping out oil theft in Tamaulipas is ultimately contingent on gaining control of state’s security dynamic, which the Mexican government has so far been unable to do.

Pemex has also taken action against oil theft, announcing plans to only ship unrefined fuel through its pipelines, with final refining occurring at storage facilities. This is supposed to thwart thieves, who would be forced to refine the stolen fuel themselves in order to have a sellable product. While it is a novel solution, the results of this plan have yet to be seen and still fail to address the issue of internal corruption within Pemex.

Gulf Cartel Violence Reminiscent of Mexico Drug War Peak

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Violence exploded in northeastern Mexico this week following the arrest of a Gulf Cartel leader, demonstrating the ability of drug cartels to brazenly create chaos in this hotbed of criminal activity.

On April 22, the reported capture of Jose Silvestre Haro Mayo, alias “El Chive” or “R1” — the alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel in Altamira, Tamaulipas — and three of his accomplices sparked a wave of reprisal attacks across the state, as cartel members went on a rampage in an attempt to free their leader, reported Proceso.

Violence affected the municipalities of Tampico, Madero, and Altamira, where cartel members engaged in shoot-outs with security forces. Dozens of vehicles were set ablaze and used as roadblocks, meant to impede the transfer of captured cartel members to Mexico City.

According to Proceso, as many as six people are believed to have been killed in shoot-outs, with life in the Altamira coming to a standstill. “The city was paralyzed,” an anonymous source told the news magazine. “They had to evacuate a store, close schools, and cancel classes.”

The Mexican Marines have reportedly arrested nine suspects following the outbreak of violence. The Tamaulipas Coordination Group, which oversees federal and state security forces, said the situation was under control, although a state police officer had been killed. However, the capture of “El Chive” is still unconfirmed, with some reports suggesting he remains a fugitive, and that authorities arrested one of his underlings.

SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel News and Profiles

The turmoil follows a similar outbreak of violence in Reynosa, Tamaulipas on April 17, where the reported capture of another Gulf Cartel leader led to shoot-outs and roadblocks throughout the city.

The captures are said to be part of an operation that began in May 2014, in order to dismantle organized crime networks in Tamaulipas, and has since resulted in security forces arresting 14 high-value targets in the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Gulf Cartel’s recent aggression is reminiscent of the heady days of the “Mexican Drug War” under former president Felipe Calderon.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Back then, news of shoot-outs between drug traffickers and security forces in Tamaulipas were common, with the government routinely sending in army reinforcements in an effort to quell the bedlam. The state has also been home to some of the worst atrocities seen in Mexico in recent memory, including the murder of 72 Central American migrants in 2010.

Nonetheless, it appears that the Gulf Cartel — despite fragmenting in recent years due to the capture of key leaders in recent years — still has the capacity and the confidence to violently challenge the government and essentially shut down an entire city.

While the security strategy in Tamaulipas may be producing high-level captures of cartel members, the state nonetheless appears to still be struggling to gain control over the situation.