Leader of the New Juarez Cartel captured

Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, SEGOB.

Photo: SEGOB.

09/03/13 – On August 31, the Mexican Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) captured Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, “Betty la Fea,” who, according to the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), had assumed the leadership of the so-called New Juarez Cartel (Nuevo Cartel de Juárez, NCJ). Betty la Fea (47) was arrested when he was alone in the Riviera Nayarit resort area in Bucerias, Nayarit, a few miles away from the city of Puerto Vallarta in the State of Jalisco. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for security of the Mexican Government reported that the PF seized two AK-47s and a Magnum pistol caliber .357, rounds of ammunition, communication devices, and two packages of what appeared to be cocaine during the arrest, an arrest in which no shots were fired. Betty la Fea was later taken to the Special Office of Investigations on Organized Crime (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada, SEIDO) at the PGR.

The leader of NCJ had been followed by the Mexican Government since the beginning of the Peña Nieto administration, which took office in December 2012. Working in collaboration with five state governments, authorities were able to pinpoint Betty la Fea’s location after monitoring his financial transactions. Sánchez reported that authorities also arrested Alejandro Arias Barrera (37) in a simultaneous operation in Zapopan Jalisco, in the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara. Arias Barrera allegedly belongs to the same criminal organization as Betty la Fea, and both men are on the Peña Nieto administration’s list of 122 priority suspects.

Alejandro Arias Barrera, SEGOB.

Photo: SEGOB.

The NCJ is believed to have emerged in the recent past following the severe weakening of the former Juarez Cartel in part due to operations by the Mexican government and also by its intense fight against the Sinaloa Cartel to control one of the most lucrative drug trafficking routes between Mexico and the United States. The battle for the route, which connects Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas, caused a dramatic increase in violence on the Mexican side, making Ciudad Juárez one of the most violent cities in the world in 2010.

As previously mentioned, Betty la Fea was believed to be the outright leader of the NCJ, a position he assumed after his brother, Vicente “El Viceroy” Carrillo Fuentes, stepped down due to medical issues. El Viceroy had assumed the head of the Juarez Cartel following the 1997 death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “El Señor de los Cielos,” his other brother and the founder of the Juarez Cartel.

Sources:

Carrasco Arizaga, Jorge. “Cae Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, ‘Betty la Fea’, jefe del Cártel de Juárez.” Proceso. September 1, 2013.

“Mosso, Rubén. “Cae Alberto Carrillo, líder del ‘Nuevo Cártel de Juárez’.” Milenio. September 2, 2013.

Vicenteño, David. “Cae el hermano de ‘El Señor de los Cielos’, Alberto Carrillo Fuentes.” Excélsior. September 2, 2013.

“Conferencia de Prensa.” Secretaría de Gobernación. Sptember 3, 2013.

Eduardo Arellano Felix sentenced to 15 years in prison

Eduardo Arellano Felix was extradited to the United States on August 31. Photo: DEA

Eduardo Arellano Felix was extradited to the United States on August 31. Photo: DEA

08/21/13 – Eduardo Arellano Felix, “El Doctor,” a member of the Tijuana Cartel—also known as the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO)—, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a District Court in San Diego, California on August 20, 2013. According to Reuters, Eduardo (56) pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and one count of conspiring to invest that money for AFO’s benefit. He also agreed to forfeit $50 million (USD). The District Court judge who heard the case, Larry A. Burns, was the same judge who had previously sentenced two of Eduardo’s brothers, Benjamín and Francisco Javier.

Eduardo was captured in Tijuana during a shootout with authorities in 2008, and sentenced to extradition in 2010. Although he challenged the decision, he was extradited to the United States on August 31, 2012. Eduardo, one of four Arellano Felix brothers, was considered the last-man-standing in the AFO clan because he had evaded capture until 2008. While one brother, Ramón, was killed by police in Sinaloa in 2002, two other brothers, Benjamín and Francisco Javier—who had since taken control of the AFO—, were convicted in the United States on different charges. Benjamín was sentenced to 25 years in a San Diego federal court in April 2012 for money laundering and racketeering, while Francisco Javier received a life sentence in November 2007 for money laundering and running a criminal organization.

As explained by Justice in Mexico in September 2012, Eduardo was considered one of the masterminds behind the AFO’s dominance in the 1980s and 1990s. Although he was known for his advising role within the cartel, Eduardo was also thought to be the main negotiator for trafficking tons of Colombian cocaine through Mexico and into the United States.

Despite some allegations that the AFO is completely dismantled with the removal of Eduardo, it is believed that some of their operations remain under the administration tutelage of Eduardo’s female siblings, Enedina and Alicia, and that the group is now under the leadership of Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, “El Ingeniero,” the son of Alicia. Nonetheless, allegations suggest that after Teodoro “El Teo” García Simental split from the group prior to his capture in 2010, the AFO gradually lost its influence and territory to the Sinaloa Cartel led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

William Sherman, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Diego, argues that the recent sentencing of Eduardo Arellano Felix “marks the end of an era in cartel history. The AFO is finished, others have moved in and are attempting to take their place.” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy noted that the three living Arellano Felix brothers “are now confined to maximum security prison cells for a very long time” and “urge[d] others who aspire to take their place to take note.”

Sources:

Moran, Greg. “Last Arellano brother gets 15 years.” San Diego Union Tribune. August 19, 2013.

Whitcomb, Dan. “Mexican drug kingpin Eduardo Arellano Felix sentenced to prison in US.” Reuters. August 19, 2013.

Henry, Erica. “Eduardo Arellano-Felix, last of 4 brothers in Mexican cartel, gets 15 years in prison.” CNN. August 20, 2013.

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.

Sources:

“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.

La Reina del Pacífico deported to Mexico after release from U.S. prison

Sandra Ávila Beltrán. Photo: NY Daily News

Sandra Ávila Beltrán. Photo: NY Daily News

08/20/13 – Sandra Ávila Beltrán, known as the “Queen of the Pacific” (“La Reina del Pacífico”), was repatriated to Mexico from the United States the morning of August 20, less than one week after her release from a Miami, Florida federal prison. Ávila only served 12 months of her 70-month sentence handed down last year by a federal judge in Florida for her involvement in drug trafficking–specifically importing and distributing cocaine to the United States between 1994 and 2004–, and for her work with her Colombian boyfriend Juan Diego Espinosa, “El Tigre,” in transporting cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. In July 2013, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the five years Ávila had served in a Mexican prison prior to her extradition to the United States in August 2012 counted towards her 70-month sentence, thus ordering her release.

Despite her removal from the Miami prison, La Reina del Pacífico–the niece of the infamous Mexican drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, “the Godfather,” who created the Guadalajara Cartel–is not yet in the clear. According to Ávila’s lawyer, Jorge Espino Santillán, his client faces charges of “operating with illicit proceeds,” although the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) had previously reported that Ávila had no outstanding charges.

Ávila–who was transferred to detention centers in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, before being flown from El Paso to Mexico City –was immediately turned over by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to PGR officials upon landing. According to Univisión Noticias, she is now en route to the women’s prison in Puente Grande, Guadalajara–the state capital of Jalisco. Although Ávila’s lawyer had filed for an amparo on August 14 with the Fourth District Court in Criminal Proceedings to keep his client out of prison while the remaining criminal charges are processed, Ávila was only awarded temporary freedom while the courts determined if the amparo would indeed be granted. The ruling, however, was overturned before Ávila’s deportation after the PGR presented the new charges of illicit proceeds.

To read more about La Reina del Pacífico’s history, including her arrest, extradition, and recent deportation, click here.

Sources:

“’La Reina del Pacífico’” Removed from Solitary Confinement.” Justice in Mexico Project. March 1, 2013. 

“’La Reina del Pacífico’” puede llegar hoy a México deportada.” Terra Noticias. August 14, 2013.

Fausset, Richard. “Mexico’s ‘Queen of the Pacific’ heading home, but what’s next?” Los Angeles Times. August 15, 2013.

Hernández, Hugo. “Será detenida la Reina del Pacífico cuando llegue a México.” Organización Editorial Mexicana. August 17, 2013.

“Sandra Ávila Beltrán, la Reina del Pacífico, llegó a México.” Univión Noticias. August 20, 2013. 

“Godfather” of Mexican drug trafficking released from prison

Rafael Caro Quintero. Photo: DEA International Fugitives.

Rafael Caro Quintero. Photo: DEA International Fugitives.

08/12/13 – Rafael Caro Quintero (61), one of the most important kingpins in Mexican history and once considered one of the godfathers of drug trafficking, was released on Friday, August 9, from the Puente Grande prison after serving 28 years for the kidnapping, torture, and killing of undercover Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Caro Quintero was originally captured in San José, Costa Rica in 1985 during an operation launched by the DEA after he allegedly fled from Mexico with support from Mexican authorities.

Originally sentenced to serve 40 years in prison, Caro Quintero’s early release came after a federal judge found him wrongfully prosecuted and tried by federal authorities for the killing of Kiki Camarena. According to the judge, the sentencing by a federal court was in breach of Mexican law because the DEA agent was acting undercover with no diplomatic or consular status; hence the crime was a regular homicide under state jurisdiction and the federal courts had no authority to prosecute and try the case. Caro Quintero was acquitted of other charges against him and already served the time in prison for the only other crime he was originally found guilty of—drug production and trafficking.

Caro Quintero, who once offered to pay the Mexican foreign debt if released from prison, is one of the founders—along with Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo, and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo “Don Neto”—of the Guadalajara Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s. Known as the first generation of Mexican drug traffickers, after the arrest of the “Godfathers” the Guadalajara Cartel split into new organizations—the Sinaloa Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, and the Tijuana Cartel—that grew to be the most powerful during the 1990s and after.

The kidnapping and killing of Kiki Camarena was allegedly planned and executed by Caro Quintero in coordination with Felix Gallardo and Don Neto after DEA investigations led to a major bust of the “El Búfalo” ranch in Chihuahua in 1984. The operation that led to the seizure of around 1,000 hectares of mariguana plantations allegedly cost Caro Quintero—owner of the ranch—around $8 billion (USD). Kiki Camarena was kidnapped on February 7, 1985, along with his Mexican pilot, Alfredo Avelar, in Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. Both victims were tortured and killed, and their bodies found almost a month later in the neighboring state of Michoacán. After pressure from the U.S. Government, Caro Quintero was arrested in Costa Rica on April 4, 1985; Don Neto in Puerto Vallarta on April 7, 1985; and Felix Gallardo in Guadalajara on April 8, 1989. These operations also led to the arrest of almost 100 police officers from municipal and state agencies, as well as from the Federal Direction of Security (Dirección Federal de Seguridad, DFS) and the Judicial Federal Police (Policía Judicial Federal, PJF). The three kingpins then accused each other of being responsible for the killing of Camarena.

After the DEA murder, a period of tension rose between the United States and Mexico. U.S. authorities denounced the corruption of Mexican security agencies such as the DFS and the PJF, at the same time that U.S. authorities were conducting operations in breach of Mexican sovereignty, such as the abduction of Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain who was prosecuted in the United States for assisting in Kiki Camarena’s torture. Although Alvarez Machain was acquitted, his case before U.S. courts later became an important precedent for international jurisdiction. It is believed that the pressure by the United States not only led to the capture of the Guadalajara Cartel leaders, but also to the dismantling of the DFS—the political police of the Mexican government—, which was formally dismantled in May 1985 after its involvement the year before in the planning and murder of award-winning Mexican journalist Manuel Buendía.

As reported by the Justice in Mexico Project, there has been a recent chill in security cooperation between Mexico and the United States, and the release of Caro Quintero has been perceived as a significant setback to Mexico in its war against organized crime. The DEA said it was “deeply troubled” and “extremely disappointed” by the Mexican court’s decision and immediately placed Caro Quintero at the top of the most wanted international criminals. The agency announced that it will seek the extradition of Caro Quintero to be prosecuted in the United States after an initial petition was denied by Mexican authorities. According to international media, the release could potentially raise new “tensions” between the two governments, though Mexican authorities suggested an eventual extradition could be granted if their U.S. counterparts are able to substantiate the request.

Sources:

EFE. “Detenido Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, jefe de la ‘mafia’ de la droga Mexicana.” El País. April 11, 1985.

Rohter, Larry. “Mexicans arrest top drug figure and 80 policemen.” New York Times. April 11, 1989.

Justice in Mexico Project. “Chill in bi-lateral collaboration over security.” News Monitor Vol. 8, No. 4. April – July, 2013.

Associated Press. “Mexico drug kingpin Caro Quintero ordered released on appeal after 28 years.” Washington Post. August 9, 2013.

“El narcotraficante Rafael Caro Quintero queda libre tras obtener un amparo.” CNN México. August 9, 2013.

Castillo, Gustavo. “Absolvió tribunal a Caro Quintero de asociación delictuosa: Judicatura.” La Jornada. August 9, 2013.

SINEMBARGO. “Advierte prensa extranjera nueva tensión México-EU.” Noreste. August 10, 2013.

Associated Press. “U.S. furious over freeing of Mexican drugs baron Rafael Caro Quintero.” The Guardian. August 10, 2013.

Carrasco Arizaga, Jorge. “Una cadena de fallas puso en la calle a Caro Quintero.” Proceso. August 10, 2013.

Esquivel, J. Jesús. “Pasada la sorpresa, el gobierno, dispuesto a la extradición.” Proceso. August 10, 2013.