Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

That One Time El Chapo Reached Out to the DEA

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

In 1998, when Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera was imprisoned in Puente Grande, he contacted DEA agent Joe Bond and offered to inform him about places, people and key operations of his rivals (the Arellano Félix, the Beltrán Leyva and Héctor Palma). 

He asked in return for the charges against him to be dropped in the United States. In 2001, already at large, Guzmán reiterated the offer. 

In a book about the drug lord that will begin circulating in the United States next July, journalist Noah Hurowitz recounts both attempts and how the then newly appointed director of the AFI, Genaro García Luna, proved unreliable.

In March 1998 Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera met secretly with DEA agents to offer them information about the Beltrán Leyva, El Güero Palma Salazar and Mexican politicians who protected the narco; all in exchange for being forgiven for his crimes in the United States, reveals the American journalist Noah Hurowitz in his book El Chapo, the untold story of the most infamous drug baron in the world.

He adds that in September 2001, in another meeting, El Chapo sent one of his brothers to arrange another meeting with the DEA, attended by Genaro García Luna, who betrayed a representative of the U.S. federal agency.

The author confirms, in an interview with Proceso, the 1998 meeting: "From documents of the Court I learned of that meeting. In 2019, on the outskirts of Washington DC, I met with Joe Bond (one of the agents who attended), who showed me and explained the internal report he wrote for the DEA after having met El Chapo."

The work of the young reporter who covered the hearings of the trial against Guzmán Loera in 2018 and 2019 in the Federal Court of the Eastern District in Brooklyn, New York, will go on sale in the United States on July 20, under the Atria Books label, of Simon & Schuster publishing house.

In chapter 5, "I am Tito", he describes Chapo urged to betray his enemies from the Felix Arellano Cartel as an argument not to be extradited and tried in the United States. Although there was a rumor, it had never been corroborated that Guzmán was one of the many informants who approached the DEA.

"On November 7, 1997, Joe Bond was in his office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico when he received a call from one of the sailors who guarded the entrance doors to the building," Hurowitz writes in the aforementioned chapter. 

"The marine explained to him that a man wanted to pass a message to his boss."

Bond, of American father and Mexican mother, born in Mexico City, went to the entrance of the diplomatic headquarters, where an individual who would later be assigned the code name Electra identified himself as Chapo's brother-in-law.

"Really?" Bond replied, interested and suspicious.

"Yes," Electra told him. El Chapo wanted to talk to the DEA.

The advance edition of Hurowitz's work that Proceso received from the author and the publisher highlights the challenge that this petition meant for Bond. The drug trafficker was imprisoned in Puente Grande and that's why the Mexican government had to be informed.

The DEA agent had to plan the meeting and find a reliable Mexican government official who would not leak the information. Bond elected the then deputy prosecutor José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos.


CJNG Attacks San Juan Nuevo For Killing El Rayas, Michoacán

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat 

Left: Aftermath of CJNG attack June 30 2021, Right: Deceased man alleged to be El Rayas, photo from June 27 2021.  

A ten minute long shootout between alleged Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) members and Municipal Police within the town of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, Michoacán left two municipal officers wounded, and various homes shot up. The head of the Michoacán Police says this new CJNG attack may be in retaliation for the killing of alleged CJNG plaza boss "El Rayas" a few days before.

On the morning of Wednesday, June 30 2021, residents of the Michoacán town of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro made calls to the emergency line to report an active shooting they could hear occurring nearby. 

The sound the residents were hearing was that of a gun battle going on between Municipal police officers and armed men. Multiple news sources state that the armed men were members of the CJNG. Noventa Grados reports that the armed men arrived in town in a 20 vehicle convoy.*

The shootings were taking place across multiple different areas. The unknown armed men and police officers could be seen to be chasing each other through the streets. The high-powered gunfire exchanges could be heard for approximately ten minutes, according to later witness accounts. 

Three houses were shot at by the unknown armed men but no one within those houses were injured as a result. Noventa Grados reports one of these houses was the Security Council for Peace’s main base. Two municipal police officers were wounded. One of the officers sustained his injuries from falling out of a moving police patrol vehicle. Another officer sustained his injuries due to being partially run over by a police patrol vehicle. 

CB Television reports that the police officers were overwhelmed and decided to withdraw from the immediate area in order to avoid any casualties. The unknown armed men at some point fled the area. In the aftermath, patrol cars and civilian cars were found to have been riddled with bullets. 

Photo taken by resident of San Juan Nuevo showing the aftermath.

State and Military forces arrived in the area and the two injured officers were taken to receive medical treatment. State forces report that checkpoints have now been set up and various patrols have been undertaken to prevent further violence. There have been no arrests in relation to this shooting as of the writing of this story. 

As previously covered on Borderland Beat, on June 26 2021, alleged members of the CJNG got into a skirmish with members of the “Council for Peace of San Juan Nuevo” which led to the death of one Council of Peace member and two CJNG members, one of whom was identified as a regional plaza boss who went by the alias “El Rayas”.

The head of the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), Israel Patrón Reyes was later asked for a comment on this second shooting in Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro. Reyes said he presumed that the attack could have been a reaction against the municipal police by members of criminal groups. 

Israel Patrón Reyes commenting on the Nuevo San Juan attacks. 

"What is known is that it could be a reaction to the previous event where three men were killed and in that sense it is presumed that perhaps some allies of this criminal cell generated some aggression against elements of the police," he said.

Reyes also gave an update on the current status of the two officers injured in the attack, commenting that although they are both in serious condition, they do not believe either is at risk of dying from their injuries. 

Photo taken by resident of San Juan Nuevo showing the aftermath.

Photo taken by resident of San Juan Nuevo showing the aftermath.

Photo taken by resident of San Juan Nuevo showing the aftermath.

Sources: La VozEl Sol de Zamora,  Noventa GradosRed 113CB TelevisionMiMoreliaArticle 2

*Note: Of all the news sources consulted for this story, only Noventa Grados gives an estimate for the number of vehicles in the convoy.

Fugitive US Sex Offender Dies After Shootout With Police in Downtown Tijuana

"MX" for Borderland Beat

US national Anthony "Lucky" Luciano was living in Tijuana, Baja California after he was charged with sexual assault against a minor in the US in 2019. He died in a shootout with Tijuana police officers yesterday, but he injured several people in his attempt to escape arrest.
Two elements of the Baja California State Security and Investigation Guard (GESI) were injured by gunfire when they tried to capture a US citizen who was wanted for sexual assault against a minor. After a persecution and armed confrontation, the fugitive of US justice was apprehended. However, he died from his injuries hours later.

Information obtained by Zeta Tijuana newspaper details that at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29, four elements of the corporation arrived at Zona Centro in Tijuana with the intention of arresting Anthony "Lucky" Luciano, 53, a man from Los Angeles who fled the US after he was charged with sexual assault against a minor on 12 November 2019.

At the intersection of Segunda and Arias Bernal streets, the police officers spotted the fugitive. When they walked up to him, Lucky took out a firearm and began to shoot at the police. While on the run, he stole a Mini Cooper car with two people onboard and road it to Benito Juarez street, initiating a police chase.

The vehicle chase culminated on F. Martínez and Benito Juárez streets after Lucky collided with a parked taxi. The fugitive got off the unit and began to shoot at the police officers, who also opened fire at him. Lucky was then shot by responding police officers and was arrested. He suffered gunshot wounds on his thorax and head.

Three people were injured during the shootout but were reported as stable. In addition, two police officered suffered minor injuries. The two people who were inside the Mini Cooper when Lucky hijacked it were not injured but suffered a nervous breakdown. 

The shootout forced traffic authorities to close down 2nd Street, from Revolucion to Mutualismo streets, for several hours.

Zacatecas: CJNG Enforcers Light Up a Mechanic

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

A video went viral in which three hitmen, alleged members of organized crime, tear a mechanic to pieces with gunfire. Strong images have begun to become a trend, despite the cruelty of the execution.

According to published versions, it happened in the state of Zacatecas, where the men sprayed the mechanic with an AR15 rifle. The authorities have not confirmed or denied the fact. The victim has also not been officially identified.

In recent days there have been armed clashes in the Durango-Zacatecas border, an area that is disputed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS). In addition, a video is already circulating on Twitter in which alleged hitmen take out the heart of a man who is dying.

Despite security and censorship measures, social networks have become dissemination points for organized crime. Although the content is strong, users tend to comment and share photos and videos.

Warning: Graphic Video


60 Charged in San Diego-based Sinaloa Cartel Meth Investigation

"El Choclo" for Borderland Beat

Some of 90 guns seized from a methamphetamine distribution network, on display at DEA San Diego on June 29, 2021. (Kristina Davis: The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman announced charges Tuesday afternoon against 60 alleged local members of a San Diego-based methamphetamine ring accused of working for a distribution network for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

Grossman was joined at 2 p.m. by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), San Diego County Sheriff's Department and others for a news conference, which was held at the DEA's office on Viewridge Avenue.

The members of law enforcement at the news conference were flanked by two tables bristling with firearms of all types, as well as boxes at their feet bearing more weapons.

Grossman described Operation Crystal Shielf as a "multi-jurisdictional investigation targeting a sophisticated San Diego-based network used by the Sinaloa Cartel to distribute methamphetamine throughout the United States and to smuggle drug proceeds back into Southern California."

The "massive" San Diego network moved "tons" of meth around the nation, including to Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, as well as to Australia and New Zealand, Grossman said.

The drug dealers moved the narcotics around the country utilizing various means, including FedEx and UPS, according to investigators. The members of the ring will face firearm, money-laundering and drug-distribution charges. Grossman said law enforcement has seized more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine, 90 firearms and more than $200,000 during the investigation.

Several firearms and baggies of meth seized as part of a DEA investigation into a meth distribution network in San Diego are on display. (Kristina Davis/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
So far, 44 of the 60 defendants are already in state or federal custody, the prosecutor said.

"Distribution networks like this one are the arms of violent cartels, reaching out into our communities," Grossman said.

"They're also supplying a deadly stream of methamphetamine and other deadly drugs."

"San Diego is one of nine major transportation-hub cities identified under DEA's Operation Crystal Shield," said John Callery, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s San Diego Field Division.

"Together, these cities account for about 75% of all methamphetamine traffic within the United States." Callery said that the targets of Operation Crystal Shield were purchasing over 100 pounds of meth a week, "which is an enormous amount for any city in the United States, Callery said.

Ryan Korner, who is the Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office, described how the criminal moved the money across international borders.

"From the evidence gathered in this case, the IRS ... and our law-enforcement partners were able to identify the mechanics of the money-laundering organization," Korner said at the news conference.

"One method utilized was moving tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds to the network's leaders via Paypal, Zelle, Venmo and Cash App accounts, in addition to shipping bulk cash." Grossman said that Assistant U.S. Attorney and Matthew J. Sutton will be one of the lead prosecutors on the case.

"The defendants in this case used cars and motorcycles with hidden compartments, they used trains, commercial airlines, the U.S. mail and commercial delivery services like FedEx and UPS to deliver their deadly methamphetamine. To protect their illegal operations, the defendants ... used encrypted communications services to communicate with each other. That is, until today."

San Diego property that US authorities searched. Description: "The residence ... is a single story family residence, with cream stucco exterior with white trim with gray asphalt shingle roof". Image was released by the US Department of Justice in the search warrant document (see sources below).

Sutton said that the lead defendant in the case, Reyes Espinoza, was the one with the alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and was the main supplier and served as a conduit, the main source of supply for the meth ring, responsible for importing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine into San Diego every week.

Espinoza lived in San Diego and also had a residence in Minnesota, which has been seized as part of the investigation. Earlier this month, a man who allegedly laundered drug money for the Sinaloa Cartel was arraigned in San Diego federal court on conspiracy charges.

Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza (AKA Rey Midas), 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2015, and charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.

He was previously designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for allegedly laundering money for top cartel leaders, including Joaquin "El Chapo'' Guzman Loera, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Summary of Charges
  • Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)
  • Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1) and (h))
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C., § 841(a)(1))
  • Importation of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960)
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)

Maximum Penalties
For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release.

For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

For the firearms charges, term of custody up to 10 years imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.

Operation Crystal Shield - 60 Defendants (Sinaloa Cartel) by MX on Scribd

Mexico Freezes Bank Accounts of 153 People Linked to Six Drug Cartels in Michoacán

"MX" for Borderland Beat
Police officers patrol a road after other officers were ambushed by cartel gunmen in Michoacan, currently one of the most violent states in Mexico. 
Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) froze the bank accounts of 153 cartel members and collaborators from six criminal groups based in Michoacan.

The UIF said that these groups are involved in money laundering and have used drug proceeds to fuel extortions, murders, and kidnappings throughout the state. Many of the individuals sanctioned are being investigated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Mexican media outlet Milenio confirmed that in recent weeks the federal security cabinet headed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has intensified talks with states like Michoacan to redouble their public security efforts.

In the case of Michoacán, the federal security cabinet's operation was carried out an investigation with the UIF and the State Attorney General's Office (FGE) to track down dozens of cartel members and collaborators.

Officials with knowledge of the investigations confirmed that the 153 people identified were part of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), the Knights Templar, La Familia Michoacana (LFM), Los Viagra, the United Cartels (CU), and an independent cell linked to the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO).

The names of the individuals or the banks they used were not released to the press.

Both federal and state authorities tracked the movements of these groups for weeks and detected connections to the Mexican financial system, which led the UIF to request the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) to order the immediate freezing of these accounts.

Sources: Milenio

Mayor-elect of Penjamillo, Michoacán, Kidnapped by Armed Men

"MX" for Borderland Beat

Party leaders say that Gilberto Mejia Salgado had received death threats.
The mayor-elect of Penjamillo, Michoacan, under the Solidarity Encounter Party (PES), Gilberto Mejía Salgado, was kidnapped this morning by a group of armed civilians while he was opening his business.

The kidnappers, who were carrying handguns, arrived in a red truck without license plates, then parked it on a street in front of Penjamillo's downtown square. Witnesses said that Mejia Salgado was forced into the vehicle.

Gilberto Mejía was elected on 6 June 2021 in a tight election. He won with a 83-vote difference against Paulina Marlene Herrera González, who was part of a three-party coalition.

Penjamillo, adjacent to Guanajuato and Jalisco, is a turf disputed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and United Carteles (CU). Other groups like Los Viagra, La Familia Michoacana, and the Knights Templar Cartel have been active in this area.

Political violence has also added another layer to the cartel war in the region. These criminal groups seek to control towns like Penjamillo by infiltrating local party candidates and other municipal officials.

On June 10, the former mayor of Penjamillo, José Leyva Duarte (2015-2018), was shot to death on the highway leading to Angamacutiro. His murder is currently unsolved.

Three years earlier, in 2018, former Penjamillo mayor Francisco Piceno Camacho suffered the same fate. He was assassinated in Mexico City shortly after elections.

Political campaigns in Mexico were marked by violence. From September 2020 to June 2021, more than 50 politicians were assassinated.

Police officers arrive at the business where Mejia Salgado was kidnapped

Director of Investigations in the Oaxaca State Police Shot Dead

"MX" for Borderland Beat

San Antonio de la Cal is close to Oaxaca City and is part of the metropolitan area.
A director of the State Investigation Agency (AEI) in Oaxaca, Omar Sabino Chepetla Jiménez, was assassinated on Tuesday afternoon in San Antonio de la Cal Municipality.

The official was driving his Nissan NP300 truck, without license plates, when unknown assailants shot him from a moving vehicle. Chepetla Jiménez was pronounced dead at the scene.

Local media outlets say that the road where Chepetla Jimenez was killed is a popular location for criminals to carry out hits or leave bodies for public display. 

Elements of the Oaxaca State Police and National Guard arrived at the scene moments later to cordoned off the site, but they confirmed that no one was arrested.

Chepetla Jimenez had a degree in Business Administration and served as a member of the Federal Police for 29 years. In September 2019, he joined the Oaxaca State Police as Deputy Director and later as Director of Investigations, a position he held until his death.

According to Mexican federal authorities, there are at least six major criminal groups in Oaxaca: Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), Sinaloa Cartel, Guerreros Unidos, a faction of the Gulf Cartel, and remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization and Independent Cartel of Acapulco.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Tamaulipas: The Northeast Cartel Taunts Gulf Cartel With Their Dead

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

A new video from the Mexican underworld has just surfaced online. For this broadcast the Northeast Cartel has released the images of dead hitmen alleged to be Los Metros. 

Los Metros is a criminal organization faction of the Gulf Cartel with a presence in Tamaulipas, mainly in Reynosa. This faction was formed in the late 1990s or early 2000s when Osiel Cardenas Guillén headed the cartel.

The following film depicts 5 deceased males scattered on the ground under the cover of darkness. They’ve been shot, bones are vividly seen broken, and an 18 inch machete is stuck in the right side of a mans face. 

Digital message translation is as follows:

We’ve released this video just so that you can see how the lives of your enforcers ended. You fucking cowards never could get support from your counterparts. We’re still here doing our thing. We are the absolute Cartel del Noreste you fucks. 

Warning: Graphic Video


Pueblos Unidos, Self Defense Group in Michoacán to be Disarmed by Authorities

"Socalj" for Borderland Beat

The head of the Ministry of Public Security, Israel Patron Reyes, stated that the self-defense groups are breaking the Law on Arms and Explosives Fire (Photo: JUAN JOSÉ ESTRADA SERAFÍN / CUARTOSCURO)
Self-defense groups or organized crime? Criminal or stigmatized? A series of dilemmas has called into question the grouping of the security body called Pueblos Unidos, which arose from the exhaustion of the residents of four Michoacan municipalities: Arios de Rosales, Salvador Escalante, Nuevo Urecho, and Taretan.

The armed civilians, who took over the main entrances to the regions two weeks ago, could be thwarted and dispossessed of their weapons as the authorities consider it a violation. The head of the Ministry of Public Security, Israel Patron Reyes, has assured that the self-defense groups are breaking the Law on Arms and Explosives Fire. Although Patron Reyes presented the proposal, he did not specify when or where disarmament will begin. The new group of armed civilians could be in collusion with organized crime.

Michoacán is one of the states where the boundary between self-defense and drug trafficking becomes more blurred. In Aguililla, where a group of civilians operates, the authorities have warned that they have ties to Carteles Unidos. against the rival criminal group, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG).

Already in the past, the federal government had started a dialogue with criminal groups to reach an agreement. Then, the specialists warned that it was a negotiation without rules. Criticism and controversy forced the authorities to reject the possibility of a pax narca. 

Pueblos Unidos announced their formation on June 14, supported by avocado businessmen against the CJNG (Photo: JUAN JOSÉ ESTRADA SERAFÍN / CUARTOSCURO)

As reported by Borderland Beat, on June 14, Pueblos Unidos appeared in videos, in which they explained why they formed the group: the workers live in some main avocado production points, which has brought violence, clashes, and uprisings to the Mexican state, including the of the activist Raúl Medrano Álvarez, who disappeared on the alleged orders of Miguel Ángel Gallegos Godoy, alias Migueladas, a former self-defense member accused of leading the Knights Templar group.

The new group of civilians received the support of the avocado businessmen since, according to their own statements, the Michoacán authorities have not spoken out due to the violence unleashed by the cartels. Important self-defense movements have already been gestated in the entity before. The most representative was led by José Manuel Mireles when he and other residents rose up in arms to fight against local criminal groups.

Source: Infobae

4 People Killed by Gunmen During Indigenous Assembly in Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua

"MX" for Borderland Beat

Guadalupe y Calvo is a municipality in southern Chihuahua, located on the heart of the Sierra Madre mountain. It has a population close to 5,000, many of them indigenous Tarahumara people.
Armed men killed four people during a rural assembly in Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua. The incident took place while people from Redondeados rural community were voting for their local commissioner.

Witnesses said that three gunmen wearing ski-marks stormed a building at around 2:00PM on Sunday, 27 June 2021, and shot at several attendees.

Three people were killed at the scene: the siblings Omar Cuauhtémoc and Luis Arnaldo Vargas Guzmán, aged 45 and 47, respectively; and Aurelia Valencia Primero, 52. A fourth victim, Javier Vidal Valencia, aged 56, died at the hospital hours later.

Residents said that the police were slow to arrive at the scene following multiple emergency calls. They also said that the police did not agree to set up a security measure for the 800 voters that day.

This massacre occurred a few days after a large shootout was reported in Guadalupe y Calvo between gunmen of La Linea and Gente Nueva. Sources spoke of "dozens" of dead, but no authority confirmed the death toll. Eye-witnesses told the police that cartel members took the bodies with them after the shootout.

Guadalupe y Calvo borders the state of Sinaloa and is believed to be a turf controlled by Gente Nueva. This municipality is part of Mexico's Golden Triangle and has large regions of opium poppy cultivation. In addition to drug production, illegal logging is also a profitable activity disputed by drug cartels in the area.

Officials from the State Investigatory Agency who were not authorized to speak with the press confirmed that the shootout broke out after La Linea, the former paramilitary group of the old Juarez Cartel, made an incursion to Guadalupe y Calvo in an effort to take control of Gente Nueva's turf.

Guadalupe y Calvo Municipality is considered part of the Lower Sierra region in Chihuahua. This region has historically been under the control of Sinaloa Cartel.

Sources for recent cartel clash: Borderland Beat archives; El Diario de Chihuahua

Mexico's Supreme Court Decriminalizes Recreational Marijuana Use

"El Choclo" for Borderland Beat

Mexico’s supreme court has struck down laws prohibiting the use of recreational marijuana, moving the country toward cannabis legalization even as the country’s congress drags its feet on a legalization bill.

In an 8-3 decision on Monday, the court ruled that sections of the country’s general health law prohibiting personal consumption and home cultivation of marijuana were unconstitutional. Adults wanting to cultivate and consume their own cannabis will be able to apply for permits from the health secretariat. Criminal penalties for possessing more than five grams of marijuana or selling the drug remain in place.

Prior to Monday’s decision, adults could petition courts for individual injunctions to grow and consume cannabis. The supreme court first granted injunctions in 2015 in favor of four applicants seeking injunctions to consume and grow marijuana.

As courts granted more injunctions, the court declared jurisprudence on the issue – and in 2017, the supreme court ordered congress to draft laws for creating a legal cannabis market. But congress has asked the court for extensions, twice arguing that technical aspects of the bill required more time and once citing the pandemic.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ruling Morena party – which identifies as left-leaning – has held majorities in both houses since September 2018.

“There’s a lack of political will,” said Lisa Sánchez, director general of the non-governmental group México Unido Contra la Delincuencia.

“This is a step forward for the rights of cannabis users,” said Zara Snapp, co-founder of Instituto RIA, a thinktank. “But there’s still work to be done in congress to be able to regulate the market in a socially just way.”

Proponents express hopes regulation could diminish some of the violence caused by Mexico’s illegal drugs trade, although organized crime factions no longer focus on marijuana trade as they once did, having shifted their focus to cocaine, synthetic drugs, kidnapping and extortion.

Some observers expressed skepticism that the ruling will change much in the short-term.

Raúl Bejarano, a graduate student studying cannabis regulation, says the cost of permits from the health secretary should cost less than hiring a lawyer to seek an injunction, but the health secretariat could still impose barriers in the application process.

“This is probably what the present government was looking for,” says Bejarano. “It exempts them from their responsibility of creating a regulated market.”

Advocates say this decision underscores the need for legislators to expeditiously pass a measure to implement a comprehensive system of legal and regulated sales. They want to ensure that a market is established that’s equitable, addresses the harms of criminalization on certain communities and promotes personal freedom.

Lawmakers came close to achieving that goal over the past three years—but failed to get the job done.

The Senate approved a legalization bill late last year, and then the Chamber of Deputies made revisions and passed it in March, sending it back to the originating chamber. A couple of Senate committees then took up and cleared the amended measure, but leaders quickly started signaling that certain revisions made the proposal unworkable.

That’s where the situation stood for weeks as the court’s latest April 30 deadline approached. There was an expectation that the Senate would again ask the court for an extension, but that did not take place. Instead, lawmakers have begun floating the idea of holding a special legislative session in order to get the job done this year.

Cannabis use for medicinal purposes has been decriminalized in Mexico since June 2017. Experts say the legal recreational market could be worth billions of dollars in Mexico, where authorities seized 244 tons of marijuana in 2020.

Resident of Dallas, Texas, Among the 57 People Gone Missing in Nuevo Laredo–Monterrey Highway This Year

"MX" for Borderland Beat; TY to "Anonymous"

José de Jesús Gómez Córdova went missing on 3 January 2021. His family has not heard from him since he crossed into the Mexican border at Nuevo Laredo.

A man from the Dallas, Texas, area is among the 50 people that have disappeared this year on the highway between Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. 

Jose de Jesus Gomez Cordova, 45, went missing in January while driving from Irving, Texas, to Guadalajara, Jalisco.

Gomez Cordova is originally from Guadalajara but was living in the Dallas area for over 15 years. He was a legal, permanent US resident and made frequent trips to Mexico to visit his relatives.

“My brother spoke with my mother to tell her that he was already in Laredo, Texas, and the next day he would leave for Monterrey, to get to Guadalajara,” Magdalena Lira Córdova, 36, Gómez Córdova’s sister, said in an interview.

“Two days passed, he no longer answered phones, we completely lost contact with him.”

As reported by Borderland Beat, at least 7 US citizens have gone missing in or near Nuevo Laredo this year, making it one of the most dangerous places for US citizens on Mexican soil.

However, the US embassy has not issued a statement yet on this specific matter. Following the recent killing spree in Reynosa and the travel alert issued by the incumbent Nuevo Leon governor, the movement of US personnel in this area was greatly reduced.

Borderland Beat Analysis
There are two ways to go from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey. The most common and quickest route is to take the Federal Highway 85D, a toll highway (autopista).

The other is to take the Federal Highway 85, a non-toll (libre) route that runs parallel to the other. Unlike the 85D, this freeway goes through several towns and rural communities and is about 30 minutes slower.

Sources consulted by Borderland Beat say that most of those missing have lost contact with their families in or around Kilometer 26 of the highway 85D. This point of the highway is where the toll booth (garita) ends when driving from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo. This portion of the highway is part of the state of Tamaulipas.

The area shown in orange is where most of the people in this highway have gone missing. The media calls the Nuevo Laredo - Monterrey highway the "Highway of Death" (La carretera de la muerte). This portion of the highway on Kilometer 26 is being dubbed "The Death Stretch" (El tramo de la muerte). 
The cartel has several lookouts posted across the highway that notify other cartel members of potential targets driving through. Kilometer 26 has several abandoned warehouses (bodegas) where lookouts may hide to target drivers.

Cartel members generally target drivers driving SUVs or pick-up trucks (with four doors). These vehicles have a lot of places to tuck contraband away, and are efficient for rugged terrain should they go off-road. 

Nuevo Laredo is under the control of the Northeast Cartel (Cartel del Noreste, CDN), a splintered group of the old Zetas cartel. It is rival to the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo, CDG), based east of Nuevo Laredo all the way to Matamoros.

US Citizens Missing
In mid-March, three women from Laredo, Texas, disappeared after crossing to Nuevo Laredo for a doctor's appointment. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes they were kidnapped.

The following month, a man from Arkansas, disappeared near Nuevo Laredo after visiting his girlfriend in Monterrey. His whereabouts are also unknown.

In late May, two more US citizens from Houston, Texas, disappeared after they crossed the border into Nuevo Laredo. They were heading to San Luis Potosi to visit a sick relative. They never made it to their destination.

In mid-June, three more US citizens that were visiting their relatives in Sabinas Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, went missing when they drove back to the US via Nuevo Laredo. 

Sources: Dallas News; Borderland Beat Analysis & Archives

Matehuala, San Luis Potosí: Alleged Thief and Extortionist Left Tied to a Post

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

A man was left naked tied to a post after being overpowered by unknown individuals. It’s believed this male was assaulted, stripped, and forced to be bound with cardboards wrapped around his body.

The act was done to shame him by vigilantes once it was learned that he was humiliating the women he stole from in town. 

Message reads as follows:

To all the citizenry of Matehuala. This was my fate for stealing and extorting from women here in town. I would steal their purses, cellphones, and their identifications. 

Just as well I would steal whatever intimate photos I found in their phones. And load them onto social media sites for sale if they didn’t pay me the extortion I demanded. 


Cop Connected to Former CJNG Member El Moreno Murdered in Tecate

"MX" and "HEARST" for Borderland Beat

Authorities in Baja California announced that Jesús Manuel Aragón Estrada, a Tecate Municipal Police officer, was murdered on Sunday. He was believed to have been part of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). Aragón Estrada was under investigation for his suspected cartel ties. He joined the police force in 2012 and was still under suspension on the day he was killed.

At approximately 6:00am on the morning of Sunday, June 28, 2021, Aragón Estrada was driving on Gutiérrez Durán Street in the Downey neighborhood of Tecate. When he reached a part of Gutiérrez street that was close to a Francisco I High School and an Autozone store, multiple unknown armed men riding aboard vehicles shot towards Aragón Estrada in his gray Honda CRV, hitting him multiple times.

The scene of the shooting of Aragón Estrada.

Two white pick-up trucks with California license plates, one a Ford Lobo and another a Ford F-150, were abandoned at the scene. Witnesses said that the gunmen fled towards the highway leading to Tijuana. Multiple high-powered bullet shell casings were found near the scene. Surveillance cameras were present near the scene of the shooting and the footage will be reviewed by law enforcement as part of the investigation into Aragón Estrada’s death. 

Photo of Jesús Manuel Aragón Estrada.

The agent was identified as one of the key figures in the rise of homicidal violence in Tecate, the Prosecutor's Office said. It is presumed that Aragon Estrada was the CJNG's liaison in the police force and prosecutor departments, which received weekly payments for providing information and security to the CJNG.

State authorities added that the police officer provided protection to El Moreno. The officer’s brother Juan Carlos Aragón Estrada is believed to be alias "El Guacho", the head of sicarios and suspected right-hand man of El Moreno.

In addition, a source said that Officer Aragón Estrada was involved in drug sales and distribution in Tecate along with his mother, nicknamed “La Doña”, who reportedly has drug dealers in Infonavit Colosio and Paraiso neighborhoods.

According to several investigators who have interviewed multiple CJNG members, the police officer was a trusted member of the cartel under local kingpin Dany Isaac Ortíz Covarrubias alias "El Moreno". El Moreno used to belong to the CJNG however it is believed that around August 2020, El Moreno left the organization. 

ZETA Tijuana weekly reports the Tecate rumors were “they took him [El Moreno] out of the cartel, for being violent and por jalar la marca,” or “for hurting the brand”. Moreno has since been threatened multiple times in CJNG narcomantas that label him a traitor, such as one placed on December 23, 2020

Of note, El Moreno’s alleged second-in-command Jorge Andrés Quiñonez Ramírez alias “El Buches” was arrested alongside other El Moreno group members on April 26 2021, in the vicinity of the Loma Tova, Tecate. The men were found to be in possession of 3 short barrel firearms, 1 long barrel firearm, and 21 grams of meth. According to El Mexicano newspaper, useful data from their cell phones was able to be extracted by authorities.

Sources for Officer Aragón Estrada

Zeta Tijuana Article 1, Article 2, Milenio, El Mexicano 

Sources for El Moreno, El Buches

El Sol de Tijuana, El Mexicano, Zeta Tijuana Article 1, Article 2, Punto Norte