Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The surrender of 'El Fantasma'

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 |

Alejandro Sicairos Rio Doce (3-17-2013)

Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

The unusual arrest of El Fantasma: not a single bullet fired against the chief of El Chapo's gunmen.

Nobody warned Jonathan Salas Aviles that the Army was going for him. Not his bodyguards, not the police agents who worked for him, not the"punteros" (drug vendors) scattered around the Valle de San Lorenzo. Not his boss, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.

Nobody. That's why, on Saturday, February 9, when El Fantasma was awakened by the sound of helicopters flying over his house in Colonia San Angel, Costa Rica township, the first thing he saw from his window was the military encirclement laid out around him.

There was no way out. The soldiers, around 200 of them, extended in a 300 yard radius around his home, with three layers of security, everything designed to allow no person to go in or out.

The decline of El Fantasma was predictable.  His presence had become uncomfortable for Chapo Guzman as well as for Ismael El Mayo Zambada, because he always had a military operation on his tail looking for him.

In March of 2012, after Salas Aviles escaped a pursuit laid out against him by Navy forces around Oso Viejo, Mayo Zambada ordered him to get out of the Costa Rica and Quila area and go into hiding in the area around El Dorado and the coast of Culiacan.

However, El Mayo continued to receive complaints from the inhabitants in those three townships, who were terrified of El Fantasma's violent acts, who was just as likely to break into a private party carrying high powered rifles, to beat up peaceful residents or, with his bodyguards, to go into City Police installations to beat up police officers or release detainees.

With Military Intelligence always on his heels, Salas Aviles had become even more shy, which leads his relatives and gunmen to speculate what people suspect: it was an agreed upon,  negotiated delivery, which resulted in soldiers not firing a single bullet when they arrested one of the Sinaloa cartel's most hardened men.

The presumption that it was a negotiated surrender is laid out in the recommendation that, in July 2012, the Army made to then-president Felipe Calderon to go after the smaller cartels, called "satellites" to decrease the indices of violence associated with drug trafficking. In the same report (Rio Doce 524), the Intelligence Cabinet said there was an agreement to reduce violent acts and to act only in response to attacks by rival criminal organizations.

The only thing for certain is that El Fantsma was arrested in the most unbelievable manner possible. "That's it; let's go" ("Ni modo, vamonos."), was the only thing he said to the soldiers who identified him and placed him under arrest and quickly transported him to the Attorney General's Specialized Unit for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO: Subprocuraduria Especializada en Investigacion de Delincuencia Organizada). Minutes later, they placed him aboard a helicopter and took him away from Ismael Zambada's cherished turf.

Well aimed operation


Up until the afternoon of the day before their arrest, Jonathan Salas Aviles paid tribute to his alias. He had gotten together with his bodyguards in the shade of a guamuchil tree in the middle of an empty lot which is located between Infonavit San Angel and the Center of Barrio Los pintos.

He would often meet there with his crew, always with well shaped women, beer and the pickup's sound system at full blast. He went around without a care. He seemed not to know that the Army and Federal Police were issuing bulletins saying he was one of Chapo Guzman's chiefs of sicarios, considered by police to be a bloody gunman who was feared even by the rest of the gunmen in the Sinaloa cartel.

From the time he arrived to the Culiacan valley in the middle of the nineties decade, accompanied by his parents who had come to Veracruz to work as farm laborers, he was seen as a ghostly being who would disappear for weeks at a time and wrap himself in a sepulchral silence when he returned, not saying where or with whom he had been.

In the area of Eldorado and Costa Rica, he connected with drug vendors who introduced him to people close to Chapo Guzman, who began to trust him because of his skill with weapons, a product of his military training.

He earned a reputation for being slippery. On February 18. 2012, he vanished before getting to a roadblock that was waiting for him at El Salado, and on March 2, 2012, after a ground and airborne operation carried out by the Navy, they mistakenly thought they had killed him in Oso Viejo.

He liked the nickname of El Fantasma (the Ghost). It bothered him to be addressed by his given name and would ask people to refer to him by his alias. He was always careful not to leave a trail, to protect his identity, and he followed that precaution even before the soldiers arrested him, because he suddenly vanished in his pickup with his bodyguards, without anybody else in the party knowing where he went.

But the soldiers knew that when he left the guamuchil tree, he feinted a departure from Costa Rica when he was really going to a nearby house, no more than 100 yards away, to sleep. The bodyguards were the ones who left the town in a convoy.

Around midnight, a column of military vehicles traveled by highway and arrived at the west entrance to Costa Rica. From there, the contingent advanced on the periphery of the town until 200 soldiers manned the security zone surrounding Salas Aviles.

Once the pincer movement closed, three armored Marine helicopters landed in a soccer field in Centro del Barrio.  The sound of their rotors awakened El Fantasma and the rest of the neighbors who never noticed the troop movements.

The soldiers went straight to the house where Jonathan Salas had been sleeping. They knocked on the door and asked him to surrender. Somebody opened the door and told them the person they were looking for was not there. Once again, it seemed that El Fantasma had vanished.

Jonathan Salas had taken off, jumping over the fence in back of the house into the adjacent house, apparently inhabited by his mother. He changed his clothes and lay down pretending to sleep. The soldiers got to him and, on the verge of calling the operation a failure, recognized him, compared facts and took him away.  

Look who's talking


The arrest of El Fantasma infused with courage not only the Army, which had failed once and again to capture him, but also Governor Mario Lopez Valdez, Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera Gomez, and even in the  mayor of Culiacan, Aaron Rivas Loaiza, who, previously reluctant to discuss drug trafficking, now recognized the success of the operation and speculated that it would contribute to greater public tranquility and security.

After verifying the arrest made by the commander of the Third Military Region, General Moises Melo Garcia, Malova (Governor Mario Lopez Valdez) quickly declared that they were not expecting any reaction from organized crime as a result of El Fantasma's arrest.

He denied that he would request federal reinforcements to guarantee the safety of residents  of Sinaloa because, he said -- and these were his exact words -- "General Melo has not given me an indication that he feels overwhelmed, I would have to wait for a signal from them, by virtue of the fact that I'm grateful for the work he has done, I don't want to be disrespectful of the high command by knocking on doors in Mexico City without them telling me to."

The governor talked the same way he did on March 2, 2012, when the Navy believed they had killed El Fantasma. On that occasion, before the death of Jonathan Salas had even been confirmed, he stated that it "would bring Sinaloa a little bit of peace and tranquility."

"One less person to go around committing crimes," he ventured.

But the courage felt by the authorities also reached the Attorney General Higuera Gomez, who assumed that the arrest of Jonathan Salas demonstrates the interest there is in stopping violence in Sinaloa:

"Said person was causing serious criminal indicators (sic)in the northern and central zones of the state, and with his capture, there will be a great accomplishment in the security index, which has been going down in the past two years," said the state prosecutor.

Well into the subject that had been taboo for state and municipal governments, Mayor Aaron Rivas Loaiza declared that he expects tranquility will increase in Culiacan with the arrest of the alleged chief of security of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.

"I expect that peace in Culiacan will be even better, that there will not be any problems because they caught this character, I expect things will not change," he said.

The governor, the attorney general and the mayor had lost their fear of their own "ghosts."

Hunting without bullets


In Sinaloa, it has become customary for the Army to arrest members of organized crime groups in peaceful operations, without a confrontation between the hunters and the hunted. When it involves objectives who are difficult to locate and capture, common sense would indicate that these would be arrests that take place in the middle of gun fire from soldiers and capos.

On January 27, 2004, the the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA: Secretaria de Defensa Nacional) disclosed the arrest of Javier Torres Felix in an operation that didn't report any major incidents in the Colinas de San Miguel sector in Culiacan.
 
Although the head of  SEDENA at the time, Ricardo Clemente Vega, compared him with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, el JP did not offer any resistance, and many of the neighbors in the neighborhood in which the military carried out the deployment never even knew about the "big fish" with the Sinaloa cartel, who was extradited to the United States in April, 2006, where he is about to be released.

Something similar occurred on January 21, 2008, when Alfredo Beltran Leyva, El Mochomo, was arrested in Colonia Burocrata in Culiacan. The police mobilization took this individual, considered a key man in the organization led by Chapo Guzman, by surprise.

Because of the unusual characteristics of the arrest, the brothers Arturo, Hector, Carlos and Mario Beltran Leyva accused the Sinaloa cartel of having betrayed  him and started a merciless war against Guzman Loera and Ismael Zambada.

More recently, on October 13, 2012, the Army announced it had killed Manuel Felix Torres, El Ondeado, without any reports of a confrontation between the soldiers and the man who was considered the chief of gunmen and personal bodyguard for Mayo Zambada.

In all of these cases, because they were events characterized by the peaceful capture of renowned celebrities in organized crime, it has been speculated that they had been "placed" within reach of the Army and that the arrests were negotiated between high ranking military commanders and the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel.

Day to day fear


In Costa Rica (Sinaloa), fear is now a way of life. To lock yourself indoors when the sun sets and come out only when the sun is shining has become a kind of curfew that the residents have imposed on themselves due to the presence of drug trafficking gunmen who have taken control of the area.

Most of the police, they all say, quietly, are colluding (with criminals) and the few good elements don't dare "pull the lion's tail." In the San Lorenzo valley, everybody knows who who's going bad and who's OK.

"There's no peace any more, everything that let people live peacefully, to go out into the streets without fear of not coming back, is gone," says Guadalupe Rivera Valenzuela, the president of the Council for the Defense of Human Rights of  the town of Costa Rica.

A social activist in no-man's land, she hopes what decent families also hope for. That with the arrest of El Fantasma, or any other criminal, peace will return and end the state of vulnerability and terror that deprives some of their sleep and others of their lives.

In Costa Rica, there has been no Ministerial Police force for two years and the City Police are frequently humiliated by the gunmen. That's why the early morning military incursion on February 9 has reanimated the hope that peace will be reestablished.

It's only a matter of going into the Colonias and neighborhoods to sense the fear that dominates the place. The breakdown of public services and the abandonment of public security disguises the fear that any stranger who arrives there may be a gunman. The instinct for survival has taught them to keep quiet, to not give information, names or details of those who keep them afraid.

Guadalupe Rivera says that so long as the military do not commit abuses against the civilian population, their operations will be well received by the people. "What we want is peace, no matter who imposes it. Peace, so that the abuses, the robberies, the murders will end."

They have faith that the arrest of Jonathan Salas will bring peace to the Costa Ricans. But then she recalls a phrase that Ismael El Mayo Zambada spoke in his interview with Julio Scherer: "In jail, dead or extradited, their replacements are already around here." 

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61 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

wow - very detailed.

Anonymous said...

Chapo and mayo call the shots they gave him up its just business ..... Amazing article by the way

Anonymous said...

Wow guud story vato see we all knw it his jefes turned his ass in to much placa keeping him around gotta go keep em coiming señor pone dedo Guzmán

Anonymous said...

Any word on the picture that the government provided? Its not the same one that was all over the internet years back. Anyone know whats up with that?

Anonymous said...

sin balas? no mames, mas bien al estilo snitchaloense!

Anonymous said...

looks like chapo snitched him out, that fucking dwarf is always setting people up, even his own people

Anonymous said...

Un Vato- This was a brillant article. So much detail was given that was informative on many levels. I knew so little about what the innocents have endured. Peace seems to be a common thread within this area. To have to live in fear daily must cause most of them to have PTSD,given they appear to live in a war zone. The capture of "The Ghost", now makes sense to me. If in fact there was a deal to get rid of him, it couldn't happen to a better person. His behaviour is classic sociopath. Only he is important and everyone else is expendable. So many of these cartel members are exactly the same. My prayers go out to all the innocents he endured his rein of terror. And, may they have some reprieve of peace. Even though your comment by El Mayo at the end of the article makes it appear unlikely. Once again, thank you. As always, Texas Grandma. Peace to all innocents.

Anonymous said...

This business is not for flashy people seeking fame its a discreet business you dont want or need heat from the law in your own backyard . .M1 had like 20 corridos he was an assasin not a hollywood movie star that's why he got turned in .now el fantasma is incarcerated .El Senor Chapo has decalred no more corridos for any one besides him

Anonymous said...

M1 was killed in a shoot out with the Mexican Special Forces but your article says there was no confrontation. IT seems when someone in Sinaloa cartel becomes notorious he is automatically arrested without a single shot except M1 and Nacho.

Anonymous said...

The Federation is taking some hits, wonder who will be the next to go, maybe "The Hairdo! " The plot thickens.

Anonymous said...

In jail, dead or extradited, their replacements are already around here." PAWNS

Chivis said...

To me the photo does not look like him...

Anonymous said...

The Hairdo! Ha Ha Ha! El Pienado! I think Damaso is next !! El Bravo is now accepting applications for El Fantasma replacement if you pass 1st interview then 2nd interview is with El Patron Chapo medical dental 401k but no corridos .
CIA Special Activities Division 28.7

Anonymous said...

puta snichaloans , aint got no balls , Z

Anonymous said...

Thats not the real Fastasma. The real fantasma is an older male maybe in his 40's or 50's. This guy is known as El fantasmita. Just like last year when they said that they had killed el fantasma but it was just another guy know as el fantasma. So to me this is not the real Fantasma. Just like the mexican gov. said that they had caught the son of el chapo and it wasn't him, well soon enough we will be hearing the same thing for el fantasma

Anonymous said...

Has the Mexican government officially released any Photos of El Fantasma??? The one on Mundo doesn't look like him at all.

Anonymous said...

I am very confused now,www.proceso.com.mx/?p=333960.Look at this picture of him?That is El Fantasma?That dude been around for ever surely he older than that,at least 10 years older,anyone know any ages for these cats,the picture commonly thought to be him dont look anything like him,some shady shit goes on,but if they say that is dude?

Anonymous said...

Not to glamorize these guys, but yeah, they have all these corridos that they are so bad, and evil and they can kill you with a look, but the Mexican Army shows up and they start waving white flags, they just about put the handcuffs on themselves. With the exception of M1 and Nacho, I mean they both went out fighting. I've seen the pic of M1 and he looks all fucked up, then you got Nacho Coronel, he looked like he had bullet impacts and blood. So my point is that as bad ass as they think they are, as tough as they make their corridos for them, they are all a bunch of p******. No guns, no "cuernos", no "pecheras", no "convoy y blindadas".

Echo 2

Anonymous said...

Any comments from you Chaputo nut huggers?lets see them make a corrido of how they ratted him out.

Anonymous said...

Exactly guys are too comfortable.. back in the day reporters were killed for writing articles on narcos, because attention brings unwanted and unneeded heat. I dont evn see it as chapo n mayo snitchn I see it as them cleaning house n protecting their business from these guys that are making the spot hot! Just like in the US be discreet n mind yur own n youll live long -

Anonymous said...

Where can you find his picture

Anonymous said...

your an idiot dude, read the story he knew it was his time to go and take a break. they really have no charges agaist him. Its called playing the game you moron the Sinaloans aren't worried just about Mexico they're playing feild is bigger. There you go with obsession with hugging nut fucking homo...

Chivis said...

Notice to READERS
RE: New Fantasma Foto

About the photo published by RioDoce over the weekend. I did not yet post it because IMO it could not be him. He is too young and looks nothing like the photo of before, however the main issue was the age. So I wanted to dig around more.

I can tell you that not ONE federal or state agency has this photo posted anywhere, not the official federal websites, state websites, not FB pages not twitter.

My sense is we must now scramble around trying to get info and fotos that were once freely shared by the calderon administration, but under EPN there is no transparency so we have to make a guess at times which is real or not.

If the photo, first published by RioDoce then Proceso and then the narco blogs is truly the man then he must have been in grade school when he began because the photo is one of a very young person.

That said, I will put the photo up in a bit here on Vato's post ....Paz, Chivis

Anonymous said...

3:26 PM
"If the photo, first published by RioDoce then Proceso and then the narco blogs is truly the man then he must have been in grade school"
Exactly what i was thinking,the age is the biggest point,this guy has mentions going way back for years,plus,the picture looks nothing like him?Lets see if we get a clearer view from some of the readers?
Some of our Mexican bros perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Pinche jotos. Nomas matan a gente pero cuando los van a capturar se entregan los culos, enves de ke les den pelea a los militares y pelear asta la muerte. Son puros vatos culos los del cds

Anonymous said...

Word in Culiacan is El Bravo just got nabbed in the sierra de Badiraguato...shit just got crazy,or gonna get crazy,from a really good reliable source.!!!

Anonymous said...

Bummer!!! I guess all the corridos were wrong? How can this be?! All the this time I thought that if there was a government dumb enough to send someone after him it would take at least four or five batallions of delta force soldiers to take even slow chapos super soldiers down??!! The U.N must be wondering if they accidently pissed off (you know who) el senor. The forum fanclub must be going apeshit! I think el bravo, los zombieados, gaynthrax, los 3000000000 talibanes, and the chapo gaytes are gonna go knock on PN door to talk to him. You guys just wait. He's probably at the nice prison where the rest of the normal prisoners are but the one in the mountains that looks like a castle and has anything they want.

Anonymous said...

Thats not him. Mexico cant fool me shiiiiiiitttttttt

Anonymous said...

Fantasma was good friends with chapos son edgar.. After his death el fantasma started working for el chapo.. He is not old at all

Anonymous said...

I call bull lol

Anonymous said...

Es el fantasma de costa rica sinaloa. El otro fantasma nunca lo van a agarrar porque es un fantasma no existe.

Anonymous said...

Its called Castle Gayskull with a really flamboyant Skeletor.


Att- El Chiludo

Anonymous said...

Thats why he ran to moms amd hid in bed. Pendejadas, no que los muy muy?

att- el Chiludo

Anonymous said...

That can't be the real Fantasma! The guy in the picture looks cross eyed and retarded!

Anonymous said...

I REALLY doubt this is El Fantasma´s pic, but I´m pretty sure the goverment got him this time, the press here in Mexico usually print any pic available without confirming first. Remember the pic of El Ingeniero from CAF?

Anonymous said...

The way things work in Mexico, the people in power decide how they will utilize the government resources like the federal forces. JAGL escaped from prison under a PAN prez and protected under the PAN Calderon presidency. That might explain why his operatives are starting to fall under thePRI admin. EPN., who probably favor other cartels. This is according to my Mexican dad.

Anonymous said...

El famoso dedo guzman...poniendo a todos los p.....dejos k jalan kon el ....se la pasa traicionando a todos. Se va a kedar solo..los beltranez, juarez. Y Z van a chingarlo con la ayuda de PN .....ya valio madres...sapito gushman...ya no tienes palankas.

Anonymous said...

This fantasma looks like hes from oaxaca not sinaloa! Lol I think these guys have the wrong guy or wrong picture jaja

Chivis said...

When Jonathan Salas Aviles was declared dead last go around, it was soon discovered that though the dead man shared the same name it was not El Fantasma. They had no connection to each other and the government quickly corrected the error. I believe this time he was captured and is detained. If he stays there or gains freedom is the guess of anyone.

Once again the government did not declare the man in the foto at top is El Fantsma, this was a declaration of RioDoce, a reliable publication but this is not an official photo release.

Anonymous said...

Lol fantasma laughing at all this comments topical they ratted a guy that has nothing to do with this BS payd him a bunch of money to say he is El fantasma and they keep awaya the heat from them no big brainer. No wonder they dint even shoot one bullet

Anonymous said...

He did what he had to do. Its either be executed or turned n and spend a few years n prison. If u read the article u would c that he was causing too much attention to that area and heat towards chapo n cds. It was a strategic move but what I don't get is the fact thatif he was chief of security for chapo then y would they turn him in? If he snitches, it could put chapo's ass in the crosshairs of the military. In the article it states the ghost is head of sicarios and it says he's head of security, so which is it???????????

Rompe Culos said...

He's not a chinola dumb Fuck ....he's a sureño.....just like el Bravo.......

Rompe Culos said...

ARriba Yo mi Apa y el FANTASMA........***

Anonymous said...

El fantasma is not from sinaloa he was born in veracruz raised in sinaloa .. so ur guess is almost right not much difference from Oaxaca n Veracruz. They almost look the same lol

Anonymous said...

its just business fellas. Just like any other corporation or any job site you work in. When the brass gets tired of you its time to go. this punk is lucky Mr. Chapo gave him life and not death.

Anonymous said...

2:51pm. "BACK IN THE DAY THEY USED TO KILL JOURNALISTS". What a sweetheart. Reliving old memories of great it used to be You and 6:21 pm should get together and exchange " Business" stories. Just another day for you two jackels. LOL at you losers.

Anonymous said...

Dummies on here, this Fantasma guy is MZ operador, not the real Fantasm of JAGL, who operates in Tijuana, Mexicali and those regions, they whacking out any Zambada connected personnel in Sinaloa, I'm surprised they haven't burnt down the daycare center and milk industries....atte. ThinkTank 28.7 TCR sponsored Cartelnomics 101 active

Anonymous said...

That ain't nowhere near el fantasma hahaha this guy is just a random guy they saw on the street and payed a few pesos to say he is. Fantasma is more heavier set than this guy plus he light skinned. Attm. P@RR@ND3RO

Anonymous said...

Andas bien mal viejo cuando salga el aguila el sr. Mochomo ala ver..los z y carillos todo volvera comp antes con el chapo guzman y Mz. La alianza se ba aser de nuevo pero primero.le dan gas al pinche enano del isidro. Attn. P@RR@ND3RO

Anonymous said...

Rompe Culos said...
"He's not a chinola dumb Fuck ....he's a sureño.....just like el Bravo"......
Be cool bro,be cool,some of us just saying,tryin to find shit out,thats all my man,fuckin funny shit though...Anyway they sayin this guy is him?Who the fuck knows?

Anonymous said...

This does not look like the man wanted in the fliers. The supposed Fantasma appeared as a mid to heavy set dark complected man in his late 40s to mid 50s.

Just saying......$haggo V.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please search the internet for a previous flier....dis not the ghost...it look like he a cub and not a veterano like shown in previous fliers.

Chivis can you confirm en buena onda?
I know you might have in your files.

Anonymous said...

This guy is not the real Fantasma and I can assure you that first hand. El Fantasma is in his 40's already and looks his age and heavier than photos published online. Parrandero that information about Mochomo rejoining the alliance has been going around for a while but I questioned why wait until he gets out when Chapo Isidro is really making a mess which is what's pissing BLO people off...

Anonymous said...

@3:06pm Hahahahahahahaha.....nah dude,he got snitchaloaed......Chapo strikes again...you could be next!!!

Anonymous said...

I smell blood in sinaloa after el JT gets out

Anonymous said...

El fantasma is in culiacan, this is a random guy the government picked up to keep the heat from cds.arriba pomonasur13 gang cyclones.saludos to all my surenos out there in streets of ptown.

Anonymous said...

Fuck chapo.fucken rat

Chiludo$ said...

Ora .........chola......relax........

Anonymous said...

I smell blood in sinaloa after el JT gets out

February 20, 2013 at 8:07 PM


I think so too. First off they set him up, killed his nephew (M1 son), lied to M1 about it, sent Ondeado to destroy and wreak havoc on the Beltranes, and then set up M1! of course all of ths is based on whats been said or has happened, but either way the worst thing is that more blood will be spilled, more innocents will get dragged into this. This has gone beyond simple drug trafficking, this is pure genecide, this pure terrorism. When you start dragging innocents, kids, entire families it's goes beyond sickness. How do they even have time to drug deal when they are so busy killing each other? All the money they make in one deal, they turn around and spend it on weapons and ammunition and armored vehicles, so what the point in dealing anymore??? They set each other up, they turn on each other, they gun for each other and the innocents pay....

Echo 2

Anonymous said...

No confirmation yet if that photo is accurate or not?

Anonymous said...

To those who say Chapo snitched him out, if any of you had any common sense and management savvy you wouldn't blurt out such non-sense. Seems to me Chapo likes to run a tight knit operation and is focused on his business and nothing more. This Fantasma character proved to be a loose cannon and brought too much attention to the organization. In the regular world he would just get fired, any good manager would do that, in his world it was either death or jail, Chapo you can say spared him.

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