March: A Month of High Profile Arrests

03/23/18 (written by Ashley Ahrens-Víquez)- In the month of March, there were several high profiles arrests from three Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Each of these arrests happened in significantly distinct regions, encompassing the U.S.-Mexico border region to the central states. They may have a notable impact within their communities.

Erick Uriel “N” alias “La Rana”

Source: Facebook/Román Sánchez Núñez

Source: Facebook/Román Sánchez Núñez

Erick Uriel “N” alias “La Rana,” an alleged member of the Guerreros Unidos, was arrested on March 12, 2018 in Cocula, Jalisco in relation to the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. He is facing charges of kidnapping and organized crime.

Prior to their disappearance, the 43 students were on their way to a march commemorating the 1968 Tlaltelolco Massacre. According to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), the students were handed off to the Guerreros Unidos by Iguala local police on the orders of the mayor, José Luis Abarca. According to the New York Times, the purported leader of the Guerreros Unidos, Felipe Rodríguez Salgado, alleged that he had been ordered by Abarca to get rid of the students because they had been permeated by Los Rojos, a rival gang. The students were then reportedly incinerated in a landfill in Cocula and dumped in the San Juan River. This official account stands despite an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts’ investigation that found critical inconsistencies in the story perpetuated by the PGR.

Family members of the 43 students gathered at the “Antimonumento” in Mexico City last Tuesday to discuss the latest arrest in connection with Ayotzinapa. In a statement, they said that the detention of Uriel does not indicate a development in the investigation, calling it a “smoke screen.” They claimed that the PGR is eager to prosecute Uriel to further reinforce their theory, thereby refuting experts and appeasing the public.

Uriel is currently being held in a correctional facility in Gómez Palacio, Durango.

Jordyn Axel V. alias “El Jordy”

Source: Especial and Mi Morelia

Source: Especial and Mi Morelia

Jordyn Axel V. “El Jordy,” was recently captured on March 15, 2018, according to the Attorney General of the state of Michoacán (Procurador General de Justicia del Estado), José Martín Godoy. The 18-year-old is the nephew of the head of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes “El Mencho.” Axel V., a reputed sicario (hitman) for Los Viagras, was arrested along with 18 other people and has been charged with narcomenudeo (street-level drug dealing). Previous to his arrest, he was also wanted in relation to the murder of two people in 2014.

Axel V. was born in 1999 in Buenavista, Michoacán to Adrián Mendoza Oseguera and Nora Elia Villa Patricio. His father reportedly left his mother when Axel V. was young. According to El Universal, he is not in touch with his father, nor does he have a relationship with Oseguera Cervantes. He allegedly became a sniper and sicario for Los Viagras at the age of 14 and was the leader of a plaza in Antúnez, Parácuaro at the time of his arrest. Los Viagras, once a faction of the Knights Templar, is the dominant group in Tierra Caliente, located in the center of Michoacán. They are currently led by Nicolás Sierra Santana “El Gordo.”

Los Viagras reacted violently to the announcement of the arrests. Men associated with the organization burned cars and businesses throughout Tierra Caliente including a Nissan dealership and super market. They set up narcobloqueos (road blockades) along highways, threatening drivers before lighting their cars on fire. In the community of Las Cañas, alleged members of Los Viagras shot at a bus containing 40 students. Luckily, none were injured. In response to the violence, the government dispatched local and state police to maintain public security. Law enforcement seized Molotov cocktails, gasoline and firearms from the members. There have been no reported deaths in the unrest.

This is the second time in a month that Los Viagras caused disruptions within the state. After an earlier, attempted arrest of plaza chief, there were 10 hours of narco blockades within Apatzingán. In a press conference on March 15, Godoy emphasized that the governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo and law enforcement are working to apprehend those responsible.

Osiel Cárdenas Jr.

Source: Brownsville Police Department

Source: Brownsville Police Department

Osiel Cardenas Jr., the son of the former Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo, CDG) leader is being held without bail for illegal possession of a firearm, public intoxication, and giving false testimony in Brownsville, Texas on March 13, 2018. A police spokesman said that Osiel Cárdenas Jr. was in a bar in Texas when an individual reported that he was carrying a gun. Before he was arrested, Cárdenas waved his gun in the air, showed patrons a Cameron County District Attorney badge, and threatened them with arrest if they did not leave the bar.

The twenty-five-year-old American citizen was on probation when arrested. In 2014, Cárdenas was arrested and sentenced to 10 months in prison for smuggling arms. Federal authorities are now filing charges against Cárdenas Jr. for obtaining a firearm through foreign commerce. His father, Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, is currently serving 25 years in a maximum-security prison in Colorado on drug trafficking charges, related to his activities as the former leader of the Gulf Cartel.

Luis Alberto Blanco Flores alias “El Pelochas”

 

Source: Especial

Source: Especial

 

The alleged leader of the CDG in Reynosa, Tamaulipas was arrested in Querétaro by local and federal police. Luis Alberto Blanco Flores “El Pelochas” or “M28” was arrested on the morning of March 20, 2018 following a report of domestic violence.

Blanco Flores was reportedly part of a CDG faction known as Los Metros. Los Metros purportedly control a strategic stretch of land along the border of Texas and Tamaulipas labelled “La Frontera Chica.” In 2017, the Mexican Marines launched an operation against the organization leading to the death of their former leader, Julián Manuel Loiza Salinas “El Comandante Toro.” In response, Los Metros set fire to cars and set up 32 blockades throughout Reynosa, in a dramatic show of force. Loiza Salina’s death, apparently, provoked an internal power struggle between Blanco Flores, Humberto Loiza Méndez “Betito” and Petronilo Moreno Flores “El Panilo.” In January, the Marines murdered Loiza Méndez in Nuevo Laredo. Blanco Flores was purportedly left as the leader of Los Metros. Moreno Flores’s current role in Los Metros is unclear.  State authorities offered up to 2 million pesos for information leading to the arrest of Moreno Flores and Blanco Flores. His arrest occurred after he and Moreno Flores went underground to avoid capture.

Flores’s arrest comes a month after the arrest of José Alfredo Cárdenas “El Sobrino,” the alleged head of the CDG and nephew of the former head, Osiel Cárdenas Guillen. Cárdenas was released after a judge ruled that his arrest by the Mexican Maries was unlawful. According to the PGR, more than 700 members and major leaders of the CDG have been arrested.

 

Sources

 

Archibold, Randal C. “Mexico Officially Declares Missing Students Dead.” The New York Times. January 27, 2015.

Najar, Alberto. “Mexico: cómo la captura y muerte del ‘Comandante Toro’ revela la fuerza del Cartel del Golfo, capaz de paralizar una ciudad por various días.” BBC Mundo. April 25, 2017.

Andrade, Mirna. “Caso Ayotzinapa: Padres de los 43 minimizan detención de ‘La Rana.’” Excelsior. March 13, 2018.

Detención de ‘La Rana’ no ayuda a localización de normalistas, señalan padres.” Aristegui Noticias. March 13, 2018.

Gang reacts violently to Michoacán Arrest.” Mexico News Daily. March 13, 2018.

Villalobos, Areli. “Con detención de ‘La Rana’ quieren insistir en que nuestros hijos fueron incinerados: padres de los 43.” Proceso. March 13, 2018.

Arrieta, Carlos. “Sobrino de ‘El Mencho,’ uno de los detenidos en Michoacán.” El Universal. March 14, 2018.

Detienen a hijo de Osiel Cárdenas en Texas.” Excelsior. March 14, 2018.

Detienen a hijo de Osiel Cárdenas en Texas.” La Jornada. March 14, 2018.

García Tinoco, Miguel.“Tras captura de ‘El Jordy’…bloqueos y quema de vehículos en Tierra Caliente.” Excelsior. March 14, 2018.

Detienen a Osiel Cárdenas Jr. en Brownsville.” El Universal. March 15, 2018.

’El Jordy,’ familiar de ‘El Mencho’ y supuesto líder viagra, entro los detenido tras operativos en Michoacán.” Proceso. March 15, 2018.

Dan formal prisión a “La Rana”, implicado en la desaparición de los normalistas de Ayotzinapa.” Proceso. March 19, 2018.

Espino Bucio, Manuel. “Detienen a ‘El Pelochas,’ líder del cártel del Golfo.” El Universal. March 20, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organized crime-related incidents occur in Michoacán

Cop cars at Tizupan Police Station

Five police were kidnapped from the Tizupan Police Station seen here in Aquila, Michoacán. Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad Pública.

03/06/17 (written by D. Blanchard and K. Heinle) – Michoacán has witnessed several events in early 2017 surrounding organized crime-related activity that have kept the state in the news. On February 5 in the early hours of the morning, five police officers were kidnapped from their police station in the village of Tizupan, Aquila in Michoacán by alleged cartel members posing as military personnel. Several hours later, the alleged suspects called the station using a payphone to demand that the Tizupan Municipal Police step down in exchange for the release of the kidnapped officers.

After news broke, the mayor of Aquila, José Luis Artega, accused former members of the Knights Templar Organization (Los Caballeros Templarios, KTO), Jesús Cruz Birrueta, “El Chuy Playas,” and Fernando Cruz Tena, “El Tena,” of being behind the kidnapping, reported news outlet Milenio. According to authorities mentioned in the same report, the kidnapping and subsequent demands were part of the organized crime affiliates’ efforts to regain control of the drug trafficking operations along the Pacific Coast, of which Michoacán is a prominent route. Michoacán’s Secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) announced soon thereafter that security in the region had been strengthened and a search party was formed to locate the kidnapped officers.

On February 8, the five police officers were safely let go. A leader of the self-defense group (grúpo de autodefensa) in the region, Cemeí Verdía Zepeda, attributed their release to the “joint work of the state and local security forces, as well as the strength of the indigenous communities of Aquila.” He was unable, however, to give further details of the operation. Michoacán’s head of government (Secretario de Gobierno), Adrián López Solís, meanwhile, called for an investigation to determine who is responsible for the kidnapping, which appears to be ongoing.

Mayor seated for interview

Aquila Mayor José Luis Arteaga. Photo: Especial, Proceso.

This is not the first time the KTO’s presence in Aquila has caught the public’s attention. In 2013, Aquila’s residents rose up against the Knights Templar, fighting to regain control of their community that the organized crime group had secured. Since then, a statewide strategy to target criminal activity has been in force. As Justice in Mexico reported throughout the years, the strategy led to some noteworthy success in specifically bringing down the KTO. The KTO’s fourth and final leader, Servando “La Tuta” Gómez Martínez, was arrested in 2015 following the take down of the KTO’s other prominent leaders the year before. 2014 also saw the arrest of the sixth mayor in Michoacán with ties to the Knights Templar, a trend that exposed the deep-seated corruption within the state.

Just one month after the police officers’ kidnapping, a leader of the organized crime group (OCG) Los Viagras was shot and killed in a shootout between alleged rival cartels. Juan Carlos Sierra Santana, “La Sopa,” was gunned down on March 5 in Aguililla, Michoacán. The Secretaries of Public Security (SSP) and National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) confirmed the La Sopa’s death. He was one of seven brothers who allegedly helped coordinate and direct Los Viagras under the leadership of “El Gordo Santana,” writes Proceso.

Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo acknowledged in fall 2016 the “fragile calm” that existed in Michoacán thanks to current and previous administrations’ work to unify police (e.g., Unified Command, Policía Única), decrease levels of crime and violence, and strengthen public security and stability in part because of the military’s presence in the streets, among others. Still, some recognize “the problems Aureoles inherited” when he took office in 2015. Mayor Alfonso Martínez Alcázar of Morelia, Michoacán, for example, noted in Proceso that these challenges have gripped the state for years.

The kidnapping and safe release of the five policemen in Tizupan, as well as the death of Los Viagras’ leader La Sopa, shine a light on the ongoing presence of organized crime in the Michoacán region, and the coordinated efforts between federal, state, and local government to protect rule of law.

Sources:

“Mexico’s federal forces take down third Knights Templar leader in three-month span.” Justice in Mexico. April 1, 2014.

“News Monitor.” Vol. 9, No. 10. Justice in Mexico. October 2014.

“Servando ‘La Tuta’ Gómez captured in Michoacán.” Justice in Mexico. March 1, 2015.

Castellanos J., Francisco. “’Michoacán vive una calma frágil’, dice Aureoles en su primer informe.” Proceso. September 18, 2016.

“Secuestran a 5 policías en Aquila.” Milenio. February 6, 2017.

“Liberan a policies secuestrados en Aquila, Michoacán.” Proceso. February 8, 2017.

Arrieta, Carlos. “Aquila: liberan a los cinco policías secuestrados.” El Universal. February 9, 2017.

Castellanos J., Francisco. “En enfrentamiento muere uno de los líderes de Los Viagros en Michoacán.” Proceso. March 5, 2017.