Friday, December 27, 2019

Oaxaca/Vicente Guerrero: Ministerial Agent Killed in Ambush Intended to Free “La Bestia”

Oaxaqueño for Borderland Beat  Source  Source   Source

Friends and relatives of José Bernabé Brizuela, accused of organized crime, arrived from the state of Colima to plead on behalf of their reltive who they say is in danger of death.

“We come from Colima and come to defend the rights of José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz since he is suffering an injustice. Z-40 threatened him with death when he was in the Altiplano and he told him he was going to kill him.” Reports of Beastia being a Zeta have been debunked and now say he is CJNG. 


La Bestia no purgó condena | El Imparcial de Oaxaca
  

On Monday afternoon, somewhere around 14:30 and 15:15 hrs local time, an ambush staged by hitmen took place in the town of Vicente Guerrero, located some 15 kilometers south of Oaxaca’s state capital Oaxaca de Juárez. Reportedly, sicarios blocked the federal highway 175 (Oaxaca – Puerto Escondido) by means of piles and mounts of stones and dirt in order to bring a caravan consisting of security forces to a halt. The caravan included Ministerial Agents from Oaxaca as well as their counterparts from the state of Tamaulipas and was on its way to transfer José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz, aka “La Bestia”, from Oaxaca to Tamaulipas. 

In addition to the blockage, the hitmen were travelling aboard a van and a stolen taxi. In the course of the subsequent shootout intended at freeing “La Bestia”, one Ministerial Agent (of Oaxaca) was killed while four other people were wounded. 

Reports regarding the injured are conflicting, however, two of them are said to be agents including one from Tamaulipas. Despite the casualties, the hitmen failed in their aim of freeing “La Bestia” and fled in the taxi and by foot leaving the other car abandoned.

Oaxaqueño Analysis:

Reports about José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz, who is among others also known as “La Vaca”, are scarce. Before the ambush, the now about 36-years-old was incarcerated in a federal prison in the small town of Mengolí de Morelos, situated near Miahuatlán and about 62 kilometers south of where the failed rescue attempt took place. His transfer from Oaxaca to Tamaulipas was based on an arrest warrant issued in Nuevo Laredo. Not only are reports about “La Bestia” rare, but also conflicting, particularly when it comes to his cartel affiliation. Some of the reports mention him being a Los Zetas leader, others state he is a Juarez Cartel operative, and yet others identify him as being part of CJNG.

So, let’s try to get this as straight as possible by taking a closer look at the few information available on him collected over the past years. In April 2011, he was reportedly captured in El Mezcalito, located in the south of the city of Colima. Nonetheless, he is said to have been released shortly after due to reasons which remain unclear. Other reports locate him between 2010 and 2013 in and around the state of Colima as well. He is accused of being responsible for many murders happening during this time period in the area of Colima. Apparently, "La Bestia” was in charge of the coast of Colima and Michoacán on behalf of the Juarez Cartel. 

More precisely, he purportedly was the head of a criminal cell dedicated to handle drug shipments which arrived through the ports of Manzanillo (Colima) and Lázaro Cárdenas (Michoacán). Having said that, his criminal activities reportedly also included kidnappings and the selling of drugs. It needs to be mentioned that the same source which identify him as Juarez Cartel chief also names him as a CJNG ally. Eventually, “La Bestia” was arrested in May 2013 in the town of Comala, situated just a few kilometers outside of the city of Colima. Two of his hitmen were killed in the course of the security operation which led to his arrest. Subsequent reports mostly identified him as CJNG operative. Another report even ventured as far as naming him head of sicarios of Mencho’s son Rubén Oseguera González, aka “El Menchito”.

I could not find information about the date when he was transferred to the federal prison in Oaxaca. However, according to reports from October 2015 (which again identified him as a Juarez Cartel leader), he was imprisoned in the infamous maximum-security federal prison of Altiplano at that time. Finally, in October 2016, he was sentenced to 34 years in prison.

Interestingly, the only reports I could find connecting José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz with Los Zetas were some of the most recent ones about the failed ambush in which he was dubbed by a few reports as “Los Zetas leader”. Los Zetas have had a presence around the area where “La Bestia” was active some years ago, particularly in Michoacán where they were the dominant force for quite some time. However, taking into consideration his presumed affinity with CJNG, which appears plausible considering the fact that he was most prominently active in and around Colima, an affiliation with Los Zetas seems quite far-fetched. 

Especially against the background of CJNG’s origins in 2010 and the years to follow. In their beginnings, they were rather known as “Los Mata-Zetas” (“Zeta-Killers”) than as CJNG. Thus, it seems somehow unlikely that “La Bestia” has been a Los Zetas member/leader for the past years. The only possibility could be that he switched side to Los Zetas during his time in prison in Oaxaca, given Oaxaca has had a strong Los Zetas presence in the past years. Nevertheless, this possibility seems quite far-fetched and highly unlikely as well.

The theory of José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz starting as a Juarez Cartel operative as written above appears much more feasible. Having said that, my guess is that somewhen between 2010 and 2013, he switched to CJNG (maybe slowly, starting as only an “ally”, or mabye much faster). Considering that between 2010 and 2013, the Juarez Cartel was getting weaker and steadily lost influence (while CJNG got stronger and steadily gained influence), such a change of sides would have made sense from a strategic point of view. Maybe he also (has) served as kind of a connector between the Juarez Cartel and CJNG, which, to the best of my knowledge, never have had openly confronted each other since CJNG was founded in 2010 but rather have had common enemies (i.e. the Sinaloa Cartel).

Having said that, please bear in mind that the above conclusions are pure speculations of mine based on the rare conflicting reports about “La Bestia” and the developments in the Mexican underworld in the last decade.

Lastly, let’s think about the potential perpetrators who staged the ambush on Monday afternoon. Due to the reasons highlighted above, I would rather dismiss an involvement of Los Zetas sicarios based on my disbelief of “La Bestia” being affiliated with them although it needs again to be made clear that Los Zetas maintain a presence in and around Oaxaca de Juárez and the state of Oaxaca in general. An involvement of the Juarez Cartel (which anyway is no longer existing in the way it was around 2010) affiliated hitmen seems implausible too.

 Their stronghold is way up northwards in and around the state of Chihuahua. As a result of that, only CJNG is left as possible perpetrator. There are two facts which make this theory even more likely. Firstly, CJNG has gained more and more ground in the state of Oaxaca in the past, making it one of the key criminal players in the state. Secondly, officials of the federal prison in Mengolí de Morelos where “La Bestia” was held were threatened by a CJNG manta placed in Miahuatlán in May 2019. This not only shows CJNG’s presence in the area, but also their potential link to José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz.

Generally speaking, further reports and developments surrounding José Bernabé Brizuela Meraz need to be awaited in order to shed some more light on this criminal figure and his ties.