Mexican kingpin “El Marro” arrested in Guanajuato

08/05/20 (written by kheinle) – One of Mexico’s most wanted cartel leaders, José Antonio Yépez Ortíz, “El Marro,” was arrested on Sunday, August 2 in Guanajuato. El Marro is the alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL).

El Marro’s Arrest

El Marro’s arrest on Sunday, August 2. Photo: Guanajuato State Attorney General’s Office.

The raid that brought El Marro down was a show of force from the Mexican government. Over 1,000 state security forces, hundreds of soldiers, unmanned drones, and two fully-manned helicopters were all deployed to the area, both to arrest El Marro, as well as to maintain peace on the ground. The Yucatan Times reports that the government tracked the cartel boss after receiving a tip about the cartel boss’ movements. Officials had narrowed their search down to four identified homes in which El Marro frequented. Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said they obtained an arrest warrant based on the information gleaned from learning that El Marro never spent more than one night in a location. They also had insight on the location of a truck and food delivery vehicle that were connected to the scene. The operation comes just one month after Mexican officials arrested El Marro’s mother and sister for their alleged roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

The Government Reacts

The López Obrador administration was quick to publicize the El Marro’s arrest. This goes against what the president promised he would avoid, which was “to conduct arrests as public spectacles” like his predecessors had done, writes The New York Times. “It shows how desperate [President López Obrador] is to show he is doing something. The fact is he just did something that he said we would never do,” commented Dr. David Shirk, Director of Justice in Mexico. “It’s the same old playbook as before.” It is also interesting coming on the heels of the administration’s monumental failure in October 2019 to arrest Ovidio Guzmán Loera, the son of Mexico’s most notorious kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Perhaps the government’s show of force against El Marro was to ensure a similar catch-and-release did not happen again.

Following El Marro’s arrest, police secured the area and surrounding locales to help deter such backlash of violence. They also enhanced their security presence in bordering states, such as neighboring Querétaro that lies just to the east of Guanajuato. Querétaro State Police (Policía Estatal) released a statement saying their increased presence along the connecting roadways is to “maintain peace and social order.”

Violence in Guanajuato

Map of Mexico with Guanajuato highlighted. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The CSRL has been in a bloody turf battle with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG). The bitter rivalry has driven Guanajuato to be one of the most violent states in Mexico. As Justice in Mexico noted in its recent report, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Guanajuato had the highest number of organized crime-related homicides among states in 2019 with 2,673 cases, according to data from Reforma. In June 2019, Guanajuato State Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo and Mexican officials agreed to enact “Golpe de Timón,” an operation to bolster public security. Violence continued, however, through the end of 2019 and into 2020. In the first half of this year alone, more than 1,725 homicides were registered in the Guanajuato, according to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP).

Still, some are quick to acknowledge the impact of collaborative security operations, like Golpe de Timón, in bringing down El Marro. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau lauded the arrest via Twitter, posting, “Excellent news to start this Sunday: the capture of the criminal El Marro in Guanajuato. Criminals think they are so dynamic and smart, but in the end the good guys will always win.” Time will tell if the removal of the cartel’s leader will quell violence in Guanajuato or if it will have the “fantasia effect” and lead to more infighting within the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, splintering among factions, increased turf battles, and ultimately more insecurity.

Sources:

“The Capture and Release of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán, Sinaloa,” Justice in Mexico, November 5, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, “Incidencia delictiva del Fuero Comun,” Gobierno de Mexico, June 30, 2020.

“Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother,” Justice in Mexico, June 30, 2020.

Laura Calderon et al., “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report,” Justice in Mexico, July 31, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro,” Grúpo Reforma, accessed July 31, 2020.

Azam Ahmed, “Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence,” The New York Times, August 2, 2020.

Emmanuel Rincón, “Refuerzan seguridad en Querétaro tras captura de ‘El Marro,’” Excélsior, August 2, 2020.

Kevin Sieff, “Mexico arrests Santa Rosa de Lima cartel chief ‘El Marro,’” Washington Post, August 2, 2020.

“Captura de ‘El Marro’ es resultado del pacto entre Diego Sinhue y AMLO,” La Silla Rota, August 4, 2020.

Reuters, “El Marro ‘never slept two nights in the same place,’” The Yucatan Times, August 4, 2020.

“Homicidios en Guanajuato, sin relación con captura de ‘El Marro;” AMLO,” La Jornada, August 4, 2020.

Tension and Violence Rise in Guanajuato Following Arrests of Cartel Leader’s Mother

Municipalities in the State of Guanajuato.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.

06/30/20 (written by kheinle) – Tension and violence is growing in Guanajuato, already the country’s most violent state, after police arrested several family members of José Antonio Yepez, “El Marro.” The mother, sister, and cousin of El Marro, the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cartel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL) and one of Mexico’s most wanted drug kingpins, were picked up on June 20 in Celaya, Guanajuato. Two other women of no familial relation were also detained. Authorities also seized a kilogram of methamphetamine and $2 million pesos ($88,000 USD) during the operation. The women were arrested for allegedly playing key roles in the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel’s financial operations.

This came as part of a joint operation between the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional), and the Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Guanajuato). Twenty-six other CSRL members were also arrested during the operation at different locations in surrounding municipalities, but they have since been released for lack of evidence, among other technicalities. 

El Marro Reacts

Following the arrests, El Marro released two short videos that quickly went viral during which he threatened to “unleash violence” in Guanajuato if his loved ones were not promptly released. “I’m going to be a stone in your shoe,” he said, directing his ire towards the Mexican government. “I’m going to blow up, you will see… In my mother’s and my people’s name… I don’t fear you.” He also claimed that authorities are working with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), a bitter rival of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. He then spoke of potentially establishing an alliance with other cartels to rise up in response to the authorities’ arrests, and thanked his supporters who had already taken up arms.

In the week since the June 20 operation, more than 100 people were killed in Guanajuato. Vehicles and businesses were set ablaze, narco-roadblocks established, four youth disappeared, and a bomb threat called in at a refinery in the municipality of Salamanca. In a unique turn of events, El Marro’s father, Rodolfo Yépez, was also released from prison on June 26 after having posted a $10,000 peso-bond. The judge who ordered his release and subsequent house arrest also noted the father’s senior age as a concern given the coronavirus pandemic. R. Yépez was serving time since March 2020 for robbery.

Violence in Guanajuato

Guanajuato is the most violent state in Mexico. From January to late June 2020, more than 1,725 homicides were registered, according to data from the Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). As El Universal writes, SESNSP data shows that “from January 1 to June 24 of 2020, about 9.9 homicides occur each day, or a murder every 2.4 hours, an unprecedented statistic for [Guanajuato].” In 2019, Guanajuato registered the highest number of organized crime related homicides with 2,673 cases, according to Reforma.

Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection Alfonso Durazo. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The violence is largely attributed to the battles between the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho.” The two have been in conflict since October 2017 when El Marro “declared war” on the CJNG over the control of fuel theft (huachicol) in Guanajuato, particularly in the municipalities of León, Irapuato, Salamanca, Celaya, and Los Apaseos, also known as the “Triángulo de las Bermúdas.” The control for the territory also lends itself to the cartels’ further control and involvement in drug tracking, kidnapping, and extortion. As Mexico’s most violent state, and with the battle between these two powerful cartels, there is also a large presence of high-power firearms in Guanajuato. El Universalreports that the “use of firearms is at a level not seen in any other state in the country.”

Government Response

Mexico’s Secretary of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretario de Seguridad y Protección Ciudana, SSPC), Alfonso Durazo, announced the government’s new strategy to address the rising levels of violence in Guanajuato. On June 26, Durazo said that more federal troops would be sent to the state, a decision that was in the process of being made before El Marro took to social media to call for violent uprisings in response to his loved ones’ arrests. The Secretary said more information about how the federal and state security forces would work together would be detailed in the coming week.

Sources:

Lastiri, Diana. “Sedena reporta detención de madre y hermana de ‘El Marro.’” El Universal. June 21, 2020.

Lastiri, Diana. “El Marro’ vows to wreak havoc in Guanajuato after his family members were arrested.” El Universal. June 6, 2020.

Martínez, César. “Amarga ‘El Marro’ con más violencia en Guanajuato.” Reforma. June 21, 2020.

Oré, Diego. “Tearful Mexican cartel chief threatens government after mother’s detention.” Reuters. June 21, 2020.

López Ponce, Jannet and Mariana Ramos. “Liberan a papa de ‘El Marro’ en Guanajuato, tras pagar 10 mil pesos de fianza.” Milenio. June 26, 2020.

Monroy, Jorge. “Ante amenazas de ‘El Marro”, gobierno replantea estrategia en Guanajuato.” El Economista. June 26, 2020.

Arrieta, Carlos. “Choques entre CJNG y Santa Rosa dejan mil 179 asesinatos.” El Universal. June 27, 2020.

“Ejecutómetro.” Grupo Reforma. Last accessed June 29, 2020.

Attacks Against Police Highlight Violence in Guanajuato

12/25/19 (written by kheinle) — Guanajuato continues to be one of the most violent states in Mexico. A recent string of 13 police officers killed in just 11 days highlighted Guanajuato’s ongoing challenges with crime and violence. 

Police Under Attack

Officer Maria Sonia Arrellano was kidnapped and killed on December 10. Source: Mexico Daily News.
Officer Maria Sonia Arrellano was kidnapped and killed on December 10. Source: Mexico Daily News.

The most recent occurred on December 19 when the head of Acámbaro’s Public Security (Seguridad Pública), Jorge Valtierra Herrera, was murdered. He was shot outside his home at 7:15am along with his bodyguard who suffered severe injuries. Valtierra had only been in charge of Public Security since July, having taken over for his predecessor, Alejandro Rangel Amado, who was murdered on July 22. Rangel himself had taken on the position when his predecessor was gunned down just one week before during an ambush at the house of Acámbaro’s Commissioner of Public Security.

Just days before Valtierra’s December 19 murder, Officer Gabriela Núñez Duarte was shot and killed in Irapuato on December 14 inside her patrol car in Irapuato. Her partner survived the attack. Prior to that, on December 11, police were ambushed inside the Villagrán Police Station after armed members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG) rushed the station. Three officers were shot and killed onsite. Four more were kidnapped; their bodies later discovered on the surrounding highway. The CJNG also claimed responsibility in the killing of María Sonia Arellano, a well-respected police officer who was known to be tough on local crime. She was kidnapped on December 10 from her home in Irapuato along with her husband and their son. Arellano’s body was later found dismembered with a cardboard message reading CJNG. Just two days before Arellano’s death, on December 8, two more officers were killed in León and Celaya. It is not clear if the CJNG claimed responsibility in those killings.

The recent rash of crime in violence in Guanajuato is not new. In July of this year, for example, another outbreak occurred in the state with four attacks on police in ten days. Two officials were killed, including the head of the Attorney General’s Antinarcotics Unit (Unidad Antidrogas de la Fiscalía General del Estado, FGE), Francisco Javier.

Federal Response

In response to the outbreak in violence against police, members of Mexico’s National Guard (Guardia Nacional) are being sent to reinforce the situation in Irapuato, Guanajuato. The mayor, Ricardo Ortiz Gutiérrez, announced that hundreds of additional National Guard troops were set to arrive on December 17, adding to the 200 already stationed there as part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ongoing security strategy.

Source: BBC News

Mayor Ortiz Gutiérrez emphasized how important it will be to ensure coordination and communication between the different security agencies on the ground, including local, state, and now federal. “Now what we need to ensure is good coordination, a strong front made up just as much by Municipal Police (Policía Municipal) and State Police (Policía del Estado),” he said, “so that we can truly be more efficient in our work, not going at it alone, but truly a united force that can confront [the challenge].”

Before the influx of new National Guard troops arrived, however, security challenges boiled over with the agents already on the ground. In the early hours of the morning, members of the National Guard clashed with a group of armed civilians in a neighborhood in Irapuato that resulted in the death of one National Guard agent and seven civilians. The day after, Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez announced that members of the Mexican Navy (Marina) would be joining the National Guard troops to try to pacify the situation.

Crime and Violence Statewide

In general, violence in Guanajuato has increased dramatically in recent years. Justice in Mexico’s most recent “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico” report published April 2019 explored the issue. The authors found that Guanajuato had the second highest number of intentional homicide cases (2,609) in 2018, according to data from the Mexican National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP). It also was the state with the largest annual increase in total homicides, which saw more than double the 1,084 homicides registered in 2017. Much of that increase was concentrated in the cities of Irapuato (374 homicides) and León (350), but several smaller towns registered dozens of homicides each, including at least nine municipalities with homicide rates in excess of 100 per 100,000. Guanajuato also had the highest number of organized-crime style homicides in 2018 with 2,233, according to data reported by the Mexican newspaper Milenio. It is currently on track to be the most violent state in the nation in 2019, according to SNSP data.

Data collected from Milenio shows Guanajuato’s dramatic increase in organized-crime-style homicides from 2017 to 2018. Source: Justice in Mexico.

Much of this violence appears to be linked to the problem of petroleum theft (huachicol) and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima, CSRL). Guanajuato is an alternative distribution channel through which stolen petroleum is transited. It became a hotly contested corridor in 2018 among organized crime groups like the CJNG and the CSRL, the latter cartel which actually came into existence after a split from the former in 2017. The BBC News reports that some of the continued violence threatening Guanajuato can still be attributed to this ongoing battle between the two. Similarly, a Congressional Research Service report detailing organized crime throughout Mexico notes that Guanajuato is also home to turf battles between the CJNG and its rivals Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

To learn more about organized crime and violence in Mexico, click here.

Sources:

Calderón, Laura et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico. April 30, 2019.

“Policías en la mira, los atacan cuatro veces en 10 días.” AM. July 12, 2019.

López, Karina. “Realizan homenaje a policía caído en ataque.” El Sol de Bajio. July 16, 2019.

Villafaña, Laura. “El martes llegan 250 elementos de la Guardia Nacional a Irapuato: alcalde.” Zona Franca. December 14, 2019.

“Mexico violence: 12 police killed in one week in Guanajuato.” BBC News. December 16, 2019.

“Civiles armados atacan a Guardia Nacional en Irapuato; hay 8 muertos.” El Universal. December 17, 2019.

“Emboscan y matan a jefe de la policía en Acámbaro, Guanajuato.” El Universal. December 19, 2019.

“En menos de un año dos jefes de Policía de Acámbaro fueron asesinados.” AM. December 19, 2019.

Espino, Manuel. “Rodríguez Bucio supervisa puestos de seguridad en Irapuato y Salamanca.” El Universal. December 19, 2019.

Villafaña, Laura. “Llegada de la Guardia Nacional a Irapuato.” Zona Franca. December 19, 2019.

Beittel, June S. “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations.” Congressional Research Service. December 20, 2019.