Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Return of el Jefe de Jefes

Sunday, November 1, 2009 |

Executions in Guerrero state have been on the rise over the past two weeks, with notes accompanying the bodies signed by a mysterious new player on the drug scene, "El Jefe de Jefes."

It was not until the discovery Oct. 18 of five bodies accompanied by similar notes in the resort city of Acapulco, Guerrero state, that "El Jefe de Jefes" was identified as the leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), Arturo Beltran Leyva.

The notes read, "This is what happens to thieves, kidnappers and traitors. Be careful, Manuel Torres. Sincerely, Arturo Beltran Leyva, El Jefe de Jefes."

More than 30 executions have been claimed by El Jefe de Jefes in notes left on or near dead bodies in Acapulco and Guerrero state and have contributed to Guerrero state's becoming one of the most violent in all of Mexico in recent weeks.

The BLO is known to have been very active in the Guerrero region and southwestern Mexico for some time since breaking away from the Sinaloa cartel and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera in late 2007. The group has maintained a relatively low profile since the beginning of 2009 after a very active 2008, when it organized a string of assassinations of high-ranking federal law enforcement officials in Mexico City in May 2008.

The BLO intelligence apparatus drew national and international attention when Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched Operacion Limpieza in August 2008 and uncovered a vast network of federal officials who were on the BLO payroll for providing information regarding counternarcotics operations.

All of this occurred while the BLO methodically executed operatives and supporters of Guzman Loera in the Guerrero, Morelos and Mexico states in an attempt to weaken the Sinaloa cartel's grip in that region. It appears now that the rivalry has been renewed between the BLO and the Sinaloa cartel, only with a different member within the Sinaloa organization, Manuel Torres Felix (who was referred to in the aforementioned note).

Manuel Torres Felix is a high-ranking lieutenant under Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia. Zambada Garcia and Guzman Loera are essentially partners in the Sinaloa cartel. Zambada Garcia's primary area of operations is the Pacific coast from Jalisco state down to Oaxaca, which includes Guerrero state, so it would come as no surprise to find a high-ranking member of Zambada Garcia's network, like Felix, operating in this region.

Other organizations operate in the Guerrero region as well, such as La Familia and Los Zetas. One of these other organizations could be leaving the notes and attributing them to Arturo Beltran Leyva, but given the overlapping geography of the BLO and Zambada Garcia's operations and the bad blood between the two organizations, this is likely not the case (repercussions from posing as Arturo Beltran Leyva would be quite severe).

Given the violent nature of how the BLO pursued its campaign against Guzman Loera in 2008 and the body count in the current campaign, more notes, executions and overall violence can be expected in the Guerrero region. And further violence in and around Acapulco and Guerrero does not bode well for the struggling tourism-based economy.

Oct. 12
Four armed men robbed two fishermen in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. The thieves took their boat, 30 kilograms of shrimp and nets.

Morelos Federal Electric Commission employee Amelia Avila Vasquez was shot to death from a moving vehicle as she was driving through Cuernavaca, Morelos state.

Oct. 13
Soldiers raided the Laguna Technological Institute after receiving information that protesting students had firearms. Authorities found no weapons on the premises.

Unknown gunmen abducted a man in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, after a chase and 20-minute gun battle through Indeco Naranjo colony. Witnesses said another man fled from the pursuers in a stolen pizza delivery car.

Soldiers discovered that many firearms and a large quantity ammunition were missing from the Pueblo Nuevo, Guanajuato state, Public Security Secretariat office. The army conducted the search after former Mayor Jose Duran Gonzalez fired all public employees several days earlier.

Eight Mexican police officers were injured after two separate violent encounters with soldiers in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The policemen were shot and beaten after drawing their weapons on soldiers at a security checkpoint.

Fishermen discovered the bodies of two men believed to be Mexican army lieutenants in a lake near Acapulco, Guerrero state.

Oct. 14
Soldiers captured rifle ammunition, three vehicles and six kilos of cocaine in a raid on a house in Cuernavaca, Morelos state.

Four unidentified people executed a suspected drug trafficker near the Hotel Progreso in Cancun. Police did not immediately identify the victim, referring to him only as "Juan N."

Oct. 15
Unknown attackers shot Tiquicheo, Michoacan state, Mayor Maria Santos Gorrostieta four times and killed her husband as the couple drove to the municipal building.

Five people were executed before noon in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. One body was not immediately identified.

Two gunmen on a speed bike shot Pablo Gutierrez Baez as he exited a taxi on Agustin Yanez Avenue. Baez died minutes before reaching a hospital.

Gunmen attacked a police convoy in Tijuana, injuring three police officers. One of the injured officers, Jose Luis Torrijo Rivera, died Oct. 17.

Oct. 16
Police discovered nine decapitated bodies in an abandoned pickup truck in Acapulco, Guerrero state. A threatening message signed by La Familia was discovered near the bodies and severed heads.

The body of a naked man was discovered hanging from a pedestrian bridge over the Tijuana-Tecate toll road.

Oct. 17
Police in Tijuana discovered a decapitated woman who also had her hands severed. The body was found in a black plastic bag in a tunnel.

Oct. 18
One gunman died and four others were arrested after an attack on a police convoy in Tijuana. Three officers were injured.

Seven people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

Two men were killed by unknown attackers shooting from three cars in the Gomez Palacio shopping plaza, north of Durango.

An unidentified man's body was discovered in an irrigation canal in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. The body had several bullet wounds.

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