Crime and Violence

Outright leader of the Gulf Cartel captured

Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño “X-20” or “El Pelón.” Image: SEGOB.
Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño “X-20” or “El Pelón.” Image: SEGOB.

08/21/13 – The alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo, CDG), Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño, known as “X-20” or “El Pelón,” was captured by members of the Mexican Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) on August 17, 2013, in the border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, just miles away from McAllen, Texas. According to information from the Mexican government, the capture of 24 members of the CDG on August 12 led to Ramírez Treviño’s arrest. SEDENA also captured El Pelón’s personal bodyguards, Pedro Cruz Barrios and Gerardo López Ruíz, as well as large weapons and almost $40,000 (USD), $25,000 pesos, and 11 golden coins.

Ramírez Treviño–believed to be the outright leader of the CDG–gained control of the organization by eliminating most of his rivals within the CDG.  El Pelón was allegedly trying to unify the cartel after a split following the death of Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, “Tony Tormenta,” in 2010. As explained by Justice in Mexico, when “Tony Tormenta” was killed in 2010, the organization divided into two factions, one led by Jorge Eduardo Costilla, “El Coss,”—captured on September 12, 2013—better known as “Los Metros,” and the other by Cárdenas Guillén’s sibling Mario—captured on September 3, 2012—, better known as “Los Rojos.” Based on information by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the leadership of the CDG will hereafter be allegedly disputed by Luis Alberto Trinidad Cerón, “El Güicho,” Juan Francisco Carrizales, “El 98,” and Juan Alberto de la Cruz Álvarez, “El Juanillo” or “El Fernandillo.”

The CDG formed in the 1970s and is considered one of the oldest criminal organizations in Mexico. Its founder, Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, was among the first generation of drug traffickers along with Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, “Don Neto,” and Rafael Caro Quintero. (Read more about Caro Quintero’s controversial release from prison this month after a federal judge found him wrongfully prosecuted). Juan Nepomucena Guerra gave control of the CDG to his nephew, Juan García Ábrego, who was arrested in 1996 and later extradited to the United States. Osiel Cárdenas Guillén then took control of the organization until his capture and extradition in 2005, at which point his brother, Tony Tormenta, became the outright CDG leader until he was killed in 2010.

El Pelón is considered one of the main perpetrators of extreme violence in the state of Tamaulipas, responsible for both ordering attacks with firearms and explosives against Mexican law enforcement agencies, as well as serving as the mastermind behind several kidnappings.


“Ramírez Treviño, el capo que lideró el cártel del Golfo eliminando rivales.” CNN México. August 17, 2013.

“Mensaje del Subsecretario de Normatividad de Medios de la Secretaría de Gobernación y Vocero del Gabinete de Seguridad del Gobierno de la República, Eduardo Sánchez Hernández, en torno a la captura de Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño.” Secretaría de Gobernación. August 18, 2013.

Santaeulalia, inés and Quesada, Juan Diego. “Cae el líder del cartel del Golfo.” El País. August 18, 2013.

“Ni un tiro en la detención de ‘El Pelón’, líder del cártel del Golfo.” ABC. August 19, 2013.

Redacción. “Los herederos del Cártel del Golfo.” El Universal. August 20, 2013.

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