The Tijuana cartel, one of the most powerful in the past three decades, has suffered a major blow that has broken it up but its main operational structure remains intact along with money laundering, now under the leadership of a new generation of drug traffickers led by Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, who is known as "El Alineador."
According to data confirmed by the Attorney General's Office (PGR), Sánchez Arellano is the son of Alicia Arellano, who along with Enedina Arellano Felix was involved in money exchange operations and managed real estate companies, businesses created under criminal avtivities in the '80s and '90s by two brothers Ramon and Benjamin who fell in disgrace.
Just after the death of Ramon and Benjamin Arellano's imprisonment, who recently lost an injunction to prevent his extradition to the United States, Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano positioned himself as an important element of the cartel, although his power was secured after his younger uncles were arrested: Eduardo and Francisco Javier Arellano Félix, known as "El Doctor" and "El Tigrillo," respectively. They are now standing trial in U.S. for drug trafficking.
According to his criminal record "El Alineador" is 35 years old and gained strength as a boss with the Tijuana cartel after aligning himself with Teodoro García Simental, "El Teo" or "El Tres Letras." The same way done by his uncles Ramon and Benjamin when they began drug trafficking in the early 80s, Sanchez Arellano began to plant terror in this border city and in much of the Mexican territory.
It was very common to see during the day and at night convoys of SUV's full of armed sicarios driving through the main streets, chasing rivals, triggering gun battles and killing anyone who tried to enter their alleged territory without authorization, while at the same time city police provided protection to the leaders of the cartel .
Despite his young age, Sanchez Arellano is a feared figure. He counts with a solid criminal structure and shares his power with his half brother, Samuel Zamora Arellano, who is called "El Ingeniero."
It was not until during the time when Sanchez Arellano and García Semental became allies that the rise of the new generation of the Tijuana cartel began. The criminal organization reached levels never before seen in U.S. territory.
For his part El Teo formed his own base of sicarios among who stands Raydel Lopez Uriarte, "El Muletas." His brother, Juan Manuel García Semental, "El Chiquilín," is the head of security; Ángel Jácome Gamboa, "El Kaibil," was chief of the towns of Rosarito and Ensenada until he was arrested by soldiers in March.
Until last October another character known as "El Coki Veloz" also operated in Ensenada along with "El Tres Animales. Paul Salomón Sauceda, "El Paul," is responsible for the transport of drugs in the eastern part of Tijuana. Two other members of the cartel, "El Rambo" and "El Bronco," are based in Rosarito with control over some 350 narcotienditas.
According to official data within the structure of "El Teo" is embedded Luis Gilberto Sánchez Guerrero, former Tijuana police, known as "El Gil," who commands a cell of that organization.
At its peak of success, which began shortly after 2004, the society of Sanchez Arellano-Garcia Simental was the most vigorous. Despite being one of the hardest hit cartels in the past nine years, The Tijuana cartel has very serious ramifications in the United States. Their presence has been registered by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) in places like Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville (Tennessee), Indianapolis and Charlotte (North Carolina), Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Florence (South Carolina), and Phoenix (Arizona ).
The band has achieved greater power when it opened new routes and built several narcotúneles, many of them discovered by the PGR, while others are operating throughout the border region of Baja California. According to the PGR, within the Mexican territory the Tijuana cartel dominates cities like Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada, except for the state capital of Mexicali which is under the control of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera.
According to reports from the PGR and the Federal Public Security Secretariat, cartels of Tijuana and Sinaloa, despite being rivals, allows the criminal organization La Familia Michoacana to use their routes to the northern border in order to ship the drugs they produce to the United States.
The partnership between Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano and Teodoro Garcia Simental did not last long and broke apart. Discord arose by the ambition of power and now both are rival enemies. For that reason they divided the state, the larger towns and cities.
And it is with an open logistical and organizational resource of "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, the drug lord Garcia Simental became public enemy number one of Baja California.
Now El Teo proposes to achieve what El Chapo or Amado Carrillo failed to do: to dislodge the Arellano Felix family, whose hegemony remains intact in the city of Tijuana.
Garcia Simental has a long history in the trafficking of drugs: his family grew up under the thumb of the Arellano Felix. Marco Antonio, his brother, known as "El Cris," began in the 90s as an assistant of Ismael Higuera Guerrero, "El Mayel" (he was extradited to the U.S. in January 2007), a lieutenant of the Arellano and one of the most effective smugglers of drugs that has ever been with the organization.
Since his inception "El Cris" has been well known for his use of extreme violence. After the capture of the Mayon, in May 2000, he joined the band led by Efrain Perez Pazuengos, "El Efra," who was a sicario for Higuera Guerrero.
Thanks to his ability for kidnappings, executions and levantones, "El Cris" obtained the green light of the drug lords of the Tijuana cartel to create his own cell and take over the eastern section of Tijuana, including the communities of Cerro Colorado, El Florido and Mariano Matamoros, among others.
After the capture of Benjamin Arellano Felix in February 2002 in the city of Puebla, Francisco Javier Arellano, "El Tigrillo" assumed leadership of the cartel and appointed Manuel Arturo Villarreal Heredia as his head of sicarios. Both were captured in February 2007 by the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the boat Dock Holiday. (Process 1582)
The call of "Nalgón" was responsible for the appointment of cells and divided in zones the city of Tijuana. Thanks to his successful services of criminal activities "El Cris" was given the area as a reward.
In 2004 "El Cris" joined the band with his brothers Teodoro Garcia Simental, who is also known as Eduardo and Diego Garcia Simental. The group was joined by Juan Manuel, the youngest brother, nicknamed the "El Chiquilín."
But soon "El Cris" would fall in disgrace. On June, 22 2004 a group of the SIEDA found him and his bodyguards near Cucapah Boulevard in the community of Este, and a gunfight broke out prompting a chase.
El Cris managed to make it home in Loma Dorada, where he barricaded himself for several hours and opened fire with a .50 caliber machine gun against the federal forces before attempting to flee in an armored van. The superior force of the federal police along with other police agencies imposed their firepower against the extreme violence of the drug trafficker. A bodyguard was killed, another resulted injured and "El Cris" also known as "El 89" was arrested. This is how bloody history of Teodoro Garcia Simental, "El Teo" began to be written.
In a narco-corrido that praises the exploits of El Cris, it is said that upon learning of the arrest of his brother, El Teo thought of rescuing him with his group of sicarios, but seeing from afar that it an impossible task, decided to retreat instead.
Since 2004 "El Teo" has taken over the cell that was left by his brother and until 2008 he worked under the command of Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, who assumed leadership of the Tijuana cartel after the arrest of his uncle, Francisco Javier, "El Tigrillo."
Sanchez Arellano is considered a character so violent as was his uncle Ramon Arellano Felix. It was this group that was responsible for the attack in May 2006 against the secretary of Public Security of the state, Manuel Diaz Lerma, who survived the armed attack in Mexicali. After the attack he resigned.
Under the command of Sanchez Arellano, the cartel of Tijuana has diversified its activities not only to operate in the drug trade, but in Baja California they have also participated in kidnappings. More than 150 abductions have been accredited to the new druglords of the Tijuana cartel, which have generated outrage among the community who have protested through public manifestations.
The kidnappings angered the whole town of Tijuana. Sánchez Arellano blamed Garcia Simental for the kidnappings and both eventually clashed. One night in April 2008, Sanchez Arellano ordered his troops to settle accounts with the El Teo. The armed group was led by Fausto Sanchez, El 7-7. The encounter ended in a shootout. On the boulevard of Insurgentes, at the height of an area known as El Canaveral, several men of Fausto Sánchez dressed in federal police uniforms ambushed the sicarios of El Teo.
At the end of the gun battle 16 sicarios were killed, several injured and dozens arrested. The authorities seized dozens of vehicles and weapons. It is understood that the objective of Sanchez Arellano was to execute El Teo and Raydel Lopez Uriarte, "El Muletas," but both were no shows at the appointment.
It is said that feeling betrayed by the Tijuana Cartel, "El Teo" and his people took refuge in the state of Sinaloa. There, since last year, he formed a partnership with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia with a clear objective: to dislodge Arellano Felix of his turf. For now the Sinaloa can only penetrate the city of Mexicali.
Cushioning the common crime
For Lt. Col. Julián Leizaola Pérez, secretary of Municipal Public Security, the Tijuana cartel remains active and is fighting for control of the city against the Sinaloa cartel, and the groups of Michoacán and the Gulf.
People say that in Baja California, and in particularly in Tijuana, they can only count in the support of the Army and police agencies recognizes that it requires "better skills and intelligence" to arrest the principal leaders of drug trafficking: Teodoro Garcia Simental and Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano.
Leizaola Pérez has managed to evade attempts of being executed by drug traffickers in the two years he has been leading to the fight of his office and says that when he took office, he faced a chaotic situation, because all the police, with the exception of a few, were serving the organized crime.
He explains that in the 11 police districts of Tijuana he found the same staff in charge of the agencies for 20 years without training and openly linked to crime.
He points out that he did not arrive blind to Tijuana having already served as director of the State Preventive Police and he already seen all the corruption by the Tijuana police: "When I arrived the problem was aggravated and the picture was bleak, chaotic. I had to work with a police department that was infiltrated by criminal groups, not just drug narco trafficking, but low and high level crime ... everything."
"It was a mosaic. The gangs were well embedded within the police department itself. Smugglers, drug traffickers, extortionists, kidnappers ... everything was well organized within the police agency. There was a criminal activity in the entire city operating with total impunity. I'm not saying all of the police was fully involved, but this corruption was so entrenched that the good officers were bounded and threatened with death for doing their job."
- How did narco crime infiltrate the police and how do you explain how this county has been governed by a police structure that it's only an extension of the Tijuana cartel?
When organized crime needed to carry out their activities, they would communicate with insiders of the police department at a very high level of command, like directors and deputies, and ordered them to clean out specific areas so they could carry out their illicit work smoothly .
In terms of the corruption, Leizaola explains, "the first thing I had to do was to purge the bad elements from the agency so that we could rely on our police officers, because we could not trust anyone."
In two years in office we have dismissed 478 public servants, including directors, assistant directors, commanders and officers, "for their ties to crime", and 100 have been indicted at the federal level.
From May to August 2009 there was an air of calm in Tijuana, but it was short lived. The Sanchez Arellano organization had placed his rival "El Teo" and his friend Raydel Lopez Uriarte, "El Muletas," who are blamed in dozens of killings, disappearances and abductions.
The clash between these opposing groups flooded the city again with blood and their narco messages: "Here's your people, Ingeniero (Sanchez Arellano), I'll get you," read a card placed on 12 bodies.
The retired military acknowledges that the Tijuana cartel is still very active and that the fight will continue through the city while the federal government attempts to employ a more effective form of intelligence work to destroy the cartels