Tag Archives: The Gulf Cartel


Mexican Drug Cartel Structures (2006–present)


Mexican Drug Cartel Structures (2006–present)

Beltrán Leyva Cartel(Armed wing: Los Negros)

Arturo Beltrán Leyva • Alfredo Beltrán Leyva • Mario Alberto Beltrán Leyva • Carlos Beltrán Leyva • Héctor Beltrán Leyva • Edgar Valdez Villarreal •
Current leaders:
Héctor Beltrán Leyva • Mario Alberto Beltrán Leyva • Edgar Valdez Villarreal • Sergio Villarreal Barragán •

La Familia Cartel

Nazario Moreno González • Carlos Rosales Mendoza • José de Jesús Méndez Vargas • Julio César Godoy Toscano • Enrique Plancarte • Arnoldo Rueda Medina • Servando Gómez Martínez • Dionicio Loya Plancarte • Rafael Cedeño Hernández • Alberto Espinoza Barron •

Gulf Cartel(Armed wing: Los Zetas)

Juan Nepomuceno Guerra • Juan García Abrego • Arturo Guzmán Decena • Jesús Enrique Rejón Águila • Jaime González Durán • Heriberto Lazcano • Miguel Treviño Morales •
Current leaders:
Osiel Cárdenas Guillén • Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén • Jorge Eduardo Costilla • Heriberto Lazcano • Miguel Treviño Morales •

Juárez Cartel

Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo • Rafael Aguilar Guajardo • Amado Carrillo Fuentes • Pablo Acosta Villarreal •
Current leaders:
Vicente Carrillo Fuentes • Juan José Esparragoza Moreno •

Sinaloa Cartel

Héctor Luis Palma Salazar • Joaquín Guzmán Loera • Adrián Gómez González •
Current leaders:
Joaquín Guzmán Loera • Ismael Zambada García • Ignacio Coronel Villarreal •

Tijuana Cartel

Ramón Arellano Félix • Benjamín Arellano Félix • Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix • Carlos Arellano Félix • Luis Fernando Arellano Félix • Eduardo Arellano Félix • Francisco Javier Arellano Félix •
Current leaders:
Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano • Edgardo Leyva Escandon •

Sources: geo-mexico.com, borderlandbeat.com

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Gulf cartel boss gets 11-plus years in prison for seeking safe prison release through bribe

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A one-time Gulf cartel boss imprisoned for assaulting two U.S. agents more than a decade ago was so fearful of returning to Mexico that he jeopardized his own scheduled release from prison by trying to bribe his way to safety.

A federal judge sentenced Juan Carlos De la Cruz Reyna to more than 11 years in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to bribing a public official, ending an elaborate case that involved undercover agents in two states, a visit to Atlanta for De la Cruz’s parents, and a private flight for De la Cruz — who thought his nearly $800,000 in bribes had worked.

De la Cruz’s goal was to be released to allies in Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, rather than in a rival’s territory or to Mexican authorities.

“I committed this crime so I could save my life,” De la Cruz said just before receiving his 135-month sentence. Five accomplices received prison terms ranging from two years to 11 years.

Beginning nearly a year before De la Cruz was set to be released, he and his accomplices negotiated with an undercover agent they thought was a corrupt U.S. immigration official. To keep the ruse going, the government even arranged for De la Cruz’s parents to visit him in prison in Atlanta and fly him on a private jet to an immigrant detention centre in South Texas.

The government played along, collecting $797,000 from his accomplices between May 2011 and March 2012. But the day before De la Cruz expected to be turned over to his accomplices, authorities moved in to arrest everyone.

“His (De la Cruz’s) motivation for paying such a high bribe was self-preservation,” his attorney, Reynaldo Garza, told the judge. “All he wants to do is avoid being strung up from a lamp post.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Young said those concerns were of De la Cruz’s own making as a former plaza boss for the Gulf cartel.

“The life he led is what created that,” Young said.

The 37-year-old De la Cruz feared that the U.S. would drop him off in Mexico in unfriendly territory. He’d been close to the Gulf cartel’s old guard, but many of its leaders have been captured or killed since then. Its brutal enforcers, the Zetas, are now enemies, and what remains of the Gulf cartel has split into factions that have chased several of their rival plaza bosses into the hands of U.S. authorities in the past year.

De la Cruz was first charged in the U.S. after cartel gunmen boxed in two U.S. agents travelling in Matamoros in a vehicle with diplomatic plates on Nov. 9, 1999. Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the Gulf cartel’s notorious capo now imprisoned in the U.S., also was there.

According to court documents, De la Cruz pointed an assault rifle at U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Joe Dubois. On the other side of the agents’ vehicle, Cardenas approached the window of an FBI special agent and threatened to kill him if he didn’t get out.

“At one point during the assault, De la Cruz Reyna reached in through the open window and tried to open the door of Agent Dubois,” according to court records. “Agent Dubois struggled with de la Cruz Reyna to prevent him from opening the door.”

The vehicle was eventually allowed to leave, but the agents were warned not to return to Matamoros.

De la Cruz would go on to become the cartel’s plaza boss in Tampico. Cardenas’ nephew testified at another trial last month that De la Cruz arranged flights carrying cocaine from Tampico to the border.

But it wasn’t until March 2009 that De la Cruz pleaded guilty to two counts of assault on the agents.

He was nearing the end of that sentence when he first explored obtaining an investor visa so he could stay in the U.S. after his release. He invested $460,000 in U.S. properties that he hoped would earn him such a visa.

When he learned he wouldn’t qualify as a convicted felon, he turned to the bribery scheme. He tried to sign over the U.S. properties to the undercover agent as collateral — but he found out they held no value and realized that he’d been swindled.



DEA Agent: Gulf Cartel is in trouble

BROWNSVILLE — A reputed Gulf Cartel plaza boss’ account of the events leading to his fumbled attempt for safe harbor in Texas gelled with mounting intelligence the organization was in trouble, a Matamoros, Mexico-based Drug Enforcement Administration agent testified Thursday.

“He said that there were problems with the Gulf Cartel, that they were basically invading the plaza of Rio Bravo, that basically he was forewarned that (Reynosa-based cartel rival “X-20”) Mario Pelon had sent an assassin,” DEA Agent Elias Gonzalez said, recounting his Oct. 27 interview with defendant Juan Roberto “Primo” “X-5” Rincon-Rincon.
Rincon-Rincon is facing a life sentence on two counts of drug conspiracy. His trial began last Wednesday and is expected to go to the jury today.

During the DEA interview, Gonzalez said, he spilled details of an operation that had a $95,000-per week payroll — including $20,000 for “security” from the Mexican federal police — maintained by a set per-kilo fee structure for getting drugs across the Rio Grande.
But things had been falling apart and, by his own account, Rincon-Rincon had had a rough 48 hours.
“M-4,” identified by Gonzalez as Hector Delgado Santiago of the rival “Metro” faction of the cartel, had ordered the assassination of a man called “X-18” and was summoning Rincon-Rincon and others loyal to acting cartel chief Jorge Eduardo “El Cos” Costilla to “meeting” at a remote country road.

Rincon-Rincon, who according to testimony is the self-described boss of the smuggling zone opposite eastern Hidalgo County, had spent the evening and morning in a firefight, and the Metros were reportedly sending truckloads of fresh men.
He was certain the meeting meant death to those from the Costilla faction.
“Basically he said that he did not attend this meeting because he felt that everybody who did attend would be killed,” Gonzalez said. “He had no choice but to flee his plaza.”

Rincon-Rincon, neighboring plaza boss Jose Luis “Wicho” Zuniga Hernandez and two of their men had barely crossed the Rio Grande when they tripped a U.S. Border Patrol sensor and were apprehended.
Gonzalez said he was “shocked” and “dumbfounded” to learn agents on routine duty had captured two plaza bosses just days after the cartel’s heir apparent, Rafael “El Junior: Cardenas-Vela, was arrested in a Port Isabel traffic stop.
Cardenas-Vela, nephew to one-time Gulf Cartel kingpin Osiel Cardenas Guillen and, until his arrest, another rival to the Costilla faction, was the prosecution’s key witness in the trial.

Source: mysanantonio.com


Naked, mutilated bodies found in Mexico

The dismembered bodies of 17 men were found on Sunday on a farm in central Mexico, in an area disputed by violent drug cartels, officials said.

The bodies were dumped in the town of Tizapan el Alto by the border between Jalisco and Michoacan, said Jalisco state prosecutor Tomas Coronado Olmos. The bodies were discovered as Mexicans celebrated their Independence Day.

Coronado Olmos didn’t reveal the identities of the slain men but said the bodies were naked, mutilated and stacked with chains around their necks near the highway linking Guadalajara and Morelia. They had been killed elsewhere and dumped on the property.

“Our border regions with other states are vulnerable to this kind of action and the dumping of bodies,” the prosecutor said.

Authorities haven’t said who they think was behind the killings but the area is a cartel battleground and Mexico’s crime groups regularly leave behind such grisly remains as they battle for control of trafficking routes and markets..

Michoacan state is home to the Familia Michoacana and the Caballeros Templarios organised crime groups, and Jalisco has seen violence by the brutal Zetas and the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels.

Signs were put up last week in various Jalisco municipalities in which the Caballeros Templarios threatened the Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

A shootout between local police and an armed convoy last Monday left two people dead and two injured in the same municipality near the border between Jalisco and Michoacan.

In May, authorities found 18 human heads and remains packed into two abandoned cars along the highway connecting Chalapa and Guadalajara, Jalisco.

On Friday in Tamaulipas, 16 bodies were found across the state just two days after the arrest there of one of the region’s top drug bosses, Gulf Cartel head Eduardo Costilla Sanchez. Nine of the bodies were found in Nuevo Laredo along the Texas border and seven were found in near the town of San Fernando, where 74 dead migrants were found in August, 2010.

More than 47 500 people have been killed in Mexican drug violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against the cartels, according to the latest official figures. Some civil groups and activists say the figure is higher. – Sapa-AP

Mexico NAVI

Gulf cartel will likely survive arrest of high-level leaders

The history of major arrests of Mexican drug “cartel” leaders during the administration of President Felipe Calderón (2006-December 2012) indicates that despite important apprehensions, many Mexican organized crime groups prove resilient. Thus, the arrests this week by Mexico’s Marines of two long-time high-level leaders of the Gulf cartel are not likely to decimate the organization.

Unlike many arrests in Mexico, where mid-level lieutenants are portrayed as cartel heads the moment they are arrested, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, or “El Coss,” appears to have been the genuine article: a true cartel head. Also arrested this week was Mario Cardenas Guillen, the brother of former Gulf cartel head Osiel Cardenas Guillen. Mario Cardenas Guillen‘s arrest marks the death or arrest of the last of the Cardenas Guillen brothers.

When Osiel Cardenas Guillen was arrested in 2003 and extradited to the United States in 2007, El Coss and Cardenas’ brother, Tony “Tormenta,” rose in the organization’s ranks. Tony Tormenta was killed in a shootout with Mexican naval forces in 2010.

The Mexican Navy has also made important arrests of drug kingpins, which suggests it has targeted the Gulf cartel for some time. As Wikileaks cables have demonstrated, the Mexican Navy is more willing to act on intelligence provided by the United States on the whereabouts of cartel heads — e.g., it was willing to act on U.S. intelligence on the whereabouts of Arturo Beltran Leyva, killing him in 2009. Unlike that operation, the arrest of El Coss appears to be a Mexican operation according to U.S. officials, suggesting that Mexico has developed its own electronic surveillance capabilities. This is in line with reporting by El Universal and Slate.com that Mexico has dramatically increased its use of surveillance technology in the drug war. It should also be noted that Mario Cardenas Guillen’s arrest contributed intelligence to the El Coss arrest, according to Mexican government officials.

The arrests will certainly be disruptive for the Gulf cartel, but don’t hold your breath waiting for its demise. The Gulf cartel has roots in smuggling networks stretching back to the prohibition of alcohol in the United States. Further, it has deep connections in the social fabric of northeastern Mexico and, as the recent U.S. asset forfeiture of a former state governor in Mexico shows, powerful political ties. Finally, it boasts extensive U.S. domestic wholesale transportation networks.

Analysts, pundits and even government officials have said that the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO, or the Tijuana Cartel) is dead, or have often said that “it is a shadow of its former self” following the arrest of Benjamin Arellano Felix in 2002, the arrest of his brother El Tigrillo in 2006, and the arrest of his other brother, El Doctor, in 2008. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy was so eager to declare victory that she simply renamed the organization the Fernando Sanchez Organization (FSO)—named for the nephew of the Arellano Felix Organization founders who likely took control of the organization in 2006. Needless to say, the moniker did not stick. The AFO continues to function, according to recent articles in the Mexican political magazine Proceso.

Gulf cartel internecine conflict


The real threats to the continued functioning of the Gulf cartel are its internecine conflicts and its competition with Los Zetas, its former security-force-turned-rivals. There appears to have been an internal rift within the Gulf cartel between factions known as Los Rojos and Los Metros in 2011 over an issue of leadership succession in the Reynosa plaza. It appears that the Metros emerged victorious, controlling the Gulf cartel leadership although the Rojos “retain considerable manpower.”

Divided Zetas

Further complicating the power dynamics in the region, the Gulf cartel’s rivals, Los Zetas, also appear to be suffering an internal split between those loyal to Heriberto Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” and Miguel Angel Trevino, known as “Z-40.” The Gulf cartel has been reported to have an alliance with the Sinaloa cartel against Los Zetas since the Gulf-Zeta split in 2010.

A bipolar organized crime structure

These arrests can be viewed in terms of the broader organized crime struggles in Mexico. Despite the increase in the number of Mexican “cartels” following the government’s militarized onslaught, a bipolar structure has emerged in Mexican drug trafficking. Much like the Cold War, where smaller powers allied with the United States or Soviet Union, Mexican organized crime has consolidated its alliance structure between two major powers, the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas. Smaller cartels find themselves allying with one of these powers, as the Gulf cartel has allied with the Sinaloa cartel against the Zetas since 2010.

Viewed through this lens, it is most likely that former Gulf cartel factions will continue their alliance with the Sinaloa cartel to counter the more immediate local threat from Los Zetas. Any defections from the Gulf cartel to the Zetas would likely be from the Rojos faction, which has lost members to the Zetas in the past and which is likely more disgruntled following the victory of the Metros in their internal struggles. The Zetas may take this as an opportunity to consolidate power in northeastern Mexico in the vacuum left by the arrest of El Coss. However, if reports of Zeta internal strife are accurate, they may be in no position to go on the offensive.

El Coss

Mexican navy says it has captured man believed to be leader of weakened Gulf drug cartel

MEXICO CITY – A man believed to be the leader of the Gulf drug cartel, which controls some of the most valuable and violently contested smuggling routes along the U.S. border, has been arrested by Mexican marines, the navy announced.

If confirmed, the capture of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez on Wednesday could open a power vacuum and intensify a turf war south of the Texas border in northeast Mexico, a region that has seen some of the most horrific violence in the country’s six-year war among law-enforcement and rival gangs.

The navy said in a brief statement late Wednesday that a man detained in the northern state of Tamaulipas said he was the capo known as “El Coss.” One of Mexico’s most-wanted men, the 41-year-old is charged in the U.S. with drug-trafficking and threatening U.S. law enforcement officials. U.S. authorities offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

The Mexican navy gave no details of his purported arrest but was expected to present the alleged drug boss to the media in Mexico City on Thursday morning.

The Matamoros-based Gulf Cartel was once one of Mexico’s strongest, smuggling and distributing tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the United States under the leadership of the Cardenas Guillen family, three brothers who took over from one another as their siblings were captured or killed.

Costilla was born in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. He worked for several years as a local police officer before joining the Gulf Cartel in the 1990s and became a lieutenant for then-leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

After Cardenas Guillen was arrested in 2003 and imprisoned in the U.S., Costilla joined the capo’s brother Ezequiel in running the cartel. The tumult at the top prompted the powerful Sinaloa cartel to move in from its base along the Pacific Coast and launch a war for control of Nuevo Laredo, the busiest cargo crossing between the United States and Mexico

The Gulf won the fight, backed by a gang of assassins recruited from the Mexican military special forces. Emboldened by their success in holding Nuevo Laredo, the enforcers known as the Zetas began asserting their independence and split from the Gulf Cartel in 2010 after the slaying of a Zeta member in the city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, that Costilla is believed to have ordered.

The resulting fighting between the two former allies transformed northeastern Mexico, an area home to cattle ranches, sorghum fields and the industrial city of Monterrey into a war zone rocked by daily shootouts and gruesome violence that included decapitations and corpses hung from bridges.

Ezequiel was the cartel’s figurehead until he was killed in November 2010 in a shootout with Mexican marines in Matamoros. Authorities believe Costilla controlled the cartel’s daily drug trafficking activities but kept a low profile. Only two photographs of the round-faced, moustached drug trafficker were ever made public.

HIs removal from the scene could serve as an opening for Sinaloa or the Zetas, who have become the nation’s dominant cartels, to move in on smuggling routes that have been believed to include the border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros, and the Gulf port of Tampico.

El Coss’s capture would be a significant victory for the marines, who were embarrassed in June after announcing they had nabbed the son of Mexico’s top fugitive drug lord.

It turned out the man wasn’t the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but rather Felix Beltran Leon, 23, a stocky, baby-faced suspect whose family said he was the father of a toddler and worked with his mother-in-law at a used car dealership. He remains in custody, authorities say, because guns and money were found when he was arrested.

The announcement of Costilla’s arrest comes just more than a week after the navy said it had detained another brother of Osiel, Mario Cardenas Guillen, in the Gulf Coast city of Altamira.

The navy said when announcing Mario’s arrest the cartel had apparently divided into two wings after Ezequiel’s death.

Arrests of high-ranking cartel leaders often lead to detentions of others, some because officials find intelligence with the suspects, others because detainees swiftly turn against their former comrades and provide information that leads to their arrest.

In November 1999, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and an FBI agent, both assigned to the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, had been followed by a car through Matamoros until a truck cut them off.

They were quickly surrounded by about a dozen heavily armed men, allegedly including Costilla and Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who threatened to kill them. The agents eventually persuaded the gunmen to let them go.

Costilla was also linked to the August 2004 beating death of Matamoros newspaper columnist Francisco Arratia Saldierna, who reported on drug trafficking and organized crime.

Mario Cardenas Guillen1

Brother of imprisoned Mexican cartel boss nabbed

MEXICO CITY – In what one U.S. expert said adds to the unravelling of the once powerful Gulf Cartel, the Mexican Navy has captured Mario Cardenas Guillen, a brother of the imprisoned former kingpin of the smuggling outfit based in cities bordering Texas.

Cardenas, whom Navy officials said is one of the cartel’s several bosses, was nabbed Monday in Altamira, an industrial Gulf port city adjoining Tampico, about 250 miles south of the border at Brownsville. Nicknamed “Fat Man,” Cardenas was arrested in possession of weapons and cocaine, a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

Mexican troops captured Gulf Cartel boss Osiel Cardenas in 2003, and President Felipe Calderon ordered him extradited to the United States in early 2007. After cutting a deal and pleading guilty out of the public eye in a U.S. courtroom in Houston, Cardenas is locked away in the “Super Max” federal prison in Florence, Colo.. He’s due to be released in 2025.

While Mario Cardenas’ arrest is significant, he’s only “a little higher than mid-level” in the gangland pecking order his brother once dominated, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Out of prison 5 years

“He’s not a cold-blooded killer or leader like Osiel was, but he has facilitated the flow of cocaine,” Vigil said of Mario. “He’s a trusted family member. They prefer family members because they can trust them with more responsibility.”

Mexican marines killed Osiel’s brother and appointed successor, Ezequiel “Tony Tormenta” Cardenas in Mata­moros in November 2010. Imprisoned on drug and organized crime charges in 1995, Mario Cardenas had started back to work for the Gulf Cartel upon his release five years ago, the navy spokesman said.

The Gulf Cartel split into sometimes warring factions after Osiel Cardenas’ extradition, with the jailed crime boss’s brothers pitted against a former lieutenant, Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, known as “El Coss.”

Rivalry with Zetas

The group has further weakened since the February 2010 falling out with the Zetas, gunmen recruited by Osiel Cardenas as the Gulf Cartel’s muscle who have now become among Mexico’s largest and most feared crime syndicates.

Gulf Cartel and Zetas factions have been locked in bloody rivalry across northeastern Mexico, particularly in the Greater Monterrey area and in Reynosa and other cities on the Rio Grande.

A Cardenas nephew – Rafael Cardenas Vela, known as “Comandante 900″ and “Rolex” -was arrested last year near South Padre Island, where he had taken refuge from the power struggles and bloodshed in northern Mexico.

He pleaded guilty in Brownsville last March to taking part in a longtime drug conspiracy, but has yet to be sentenced.