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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Failed Attempt To Capture Gulf Cartel's Octavio Leal Causes Road Blockades in Tamaulipas

"HEARST", "Ivan" and "Itzli" for Borderland Beat 


Octavio Leal Moncada, one of the leaders of Gulf Catel’s Hidalgo faction according to leaked National Guard intelligence, was almost arrested on Friday but he managed to escape after members of the autodefensa group he leads created blockades on Highway 85.



The Attempted Arrest in Victoria 


On Friday, May 13, 2022, state Attorney General’s Office agents tried to arrest the allegedly-cartel-associated leader of the group Columna Armada, Octavio Leal Moncada. 


The organization Columna Armada Pedro J. Méndez is an autodefensa (or self defense) group based in the western region of the state of Tamaulipas. The group claims it was created to protect local civilians from the violence of organized crime but, like many autodefensa groups, it is generally believed to be a front for cartel groups.


According to Reynosa-based newspaper El Manana, Columna Armada had a presence in Hidalgo, Mainero and Villagrán during the first few years after its creation around 2010. Eventually it grew to have a presence in Padilla, San Carlos and San Nicolas.



The leader of Columna Armada is Octavio Leal Moncada, who is known by the alias “El Tarzán”. According to the leaked National Guard map of organized crime, which was covered here and here, Octavio is considered to be the “Regional leader of Cartel del Golfo (CDG) in the municipalities of Hidalgo, Villagran and Mainero, the Columna Armada Pedro Jose Mendez group is considered a front for the CDG.”



State Attorney General’s Office (FGE) agents allegedly stopped a group of Columna Armada associated politicians and leaders who were traveling in the city of Victoria on May 13. The group included: 



  • Juan Contreras Castillo, the mayor of Hidalgo
  • Nohemí Estrella Leal, a former congresswoman 
  • Octavio Leal Moncada, alias “El Tarzán”,  leader of autodefensa group Columna Armada 
  • Possibly Cesáreo Leal Perales, alias "El Charro"

There are two slightly differing accounts of the chain of events that occurred during the interaction between the group and the FGE agents. 



The Columna Armada Version of Events


Nohemí Estrella Leal gave an account of what she claimed happened. 


"We had a scheduled event in Guillermo Zúñiga in Santa Engracia, but the professor's medication was missing and so we drove towards Victoria and at the 16th - there by the arches - they began to follow us, they wanted to set a trap around there and we evaded them".


She says that their group was approached by the FGE agents who were inside a number of vans when “we went to buy medicine in Victoria. And the vans wanted the Profe. But the mistake they made was that they started to physically push us and they didn't bring anything - they didn’t have any orders.”


When Estrella Leal says the agents wanted to arrest the “Profe”, she is referring to Octavio Leal Moncada, leader of the autodefensa group and by “orders”, she is believed to be referring to arrest warrants. 


Juan Contreras Castillo said  the agents stopped their vehicle and asked them to lower the window of the vehicle to speak to them. He said the agents "said 'Mr. Moncada, get out of the vehicle' and we told them 'We are not getting out of the vehicle until you show the arrest warrant'." He also alleged that the agents shot at them.


The FGE Version of Events


The FGE has released a statement which gives their account of what happened. They say they did not arrive in Victoria city specifically to target and arrest Octavio. They say they received a report about a group of armed individuals who were spotted riding inside a gray Ford Ranger pickup truck. Their agents surveyed the area and found a vehicle matching that description so they pulled it over for a stop and search. 


They say the people inside the vehicle refused the search and began driving away from the agents trying to speak to them through the vehicle windows. As they were driving away, the FGE statement says, they hit an agent, dragging him along the ground and also hit a FGE vehicle.


The agent says he recognized the driver of the vehicle which hit him as “Cesáreo ‘L’, a presumed member of the organization Columna Armada”. Cesáreo ‘L’ is presumed to be the aforementioned Cesáreo Leal Perales, alias "El Charro".



The Chase & Blockades

A car chase then ensued, with the FGE vehicles pursuing the Columna Armada vehicles on Highway 85 from Victoria to the north. They passed through the town of Hidalgo along their way. 


The Secretary General Gerardo Peña Flores alleged on twitter that a number of CFE workers (federal electricity workers) deactivated a number of state government security cameras in the municipality of Hidalgo in order to prevent state police from being able to track the Columna Armada vehicles as they sped through the town. He tweeted out the photos below as proof of the CFE workers involvement. 



The chase continued past Hidalgo, out to the town of El Tomaseño. There FGE agents encountered a roadblock on the highway that was created by other Columna Armada members. These members did not let the agents nor any kind of vehicular traffic pass, covering the escape of the group the FGE had tried to arrest. These members declared the road blockades were made in protest of the actions of the agents, saying they had acted unjustly. 



These members did not let the agents nor any kind of vehicular traffic pass, covering the escape of the group the FGE had tried to arrest. These members declared the road blockades were made in protest of the actions of the agents, saying they had acted unjustly. 


Video Sources: Freelance Para La AP






The Columna Armada group then got out of their vehicles and gave interviews with reporters about the situation. In the video below, Octavio Leal can be seen in the beige shirt.


The group said they would not stop blocking all traffic until soldiers from the Army (SEDENA) and the National Guard arrived in the area and guarantees were made that ensured no leaders from Columna Armada would be arrested by the agents. It is presumed soldiers were requested because they ultimately report to the federal government and not the state government. 




Octavio Leal said "The guarantees of free transit are trampled. We must demand the rule of law. We must demand the federal government to bring in the Army and the National Guard. What we are defending is the working class, the screwed people of this town, that is why we ask for the solidarity of the truck drivers." 


Octavio Leal Moncada, leader of Columna Armada giving an interview


Octavio Leal requesting the National Guard come into his territory is a bit strange after he famously scolded on video a number of soldiers who Columna Armada had kidnapped back in July 2019


Even just a year ago, in April 2021, Octavio Leal was leading a march of over 1000 participants in protest of the recent actions of the National Guard. 


Regardless Juan Contreras Castillo said that the attempted arrest was the state government repressing anyone who disagrees with them, blaming the governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca. 


Mayor of Hidalgo, Juan Contreras Castillo giving an interview


He said "They grab you, detain you and plant [contraband on] you. And all because we are supporting the fourth transformation. That is why we consider that only the National Guard and the Army can provide security and not the GOPES and the State Police, who act arbitrarily. That is why we trust the federal forces more and we are also going to request it in writing". 


Video Source: Laura Toledo

Video Source: Josué

Video Source: Denisse Romero



For more than 4 hours, all traffic was stopped on Highway 85 near El Tomaseño while representatives of the National Guard and SEDENA spoke with leadership of the Columna Armada. Finally, at around 7:00 pm the demands of Columna were met, negotiations ended, and the blockades ended.



Some of the Other Alleged Crimes of Octavio Leal


It should be noted that Octavio Leal has been accused online, by outlets like Valor por Tamaulipeco, of ordering the assassination of the former Municipal President of Hidalgo Marco Antonio Leal Garcia in 2010 as well as ordering the execution of Julio Cesar Leal Garcia in 2015. 


Octavio Leal has also been accused online of participating in the car bomb attack that occured in the city of Victoria in 2012. The attack is believed to have targeted the Secretary of Security Rafael Lomelí Martínez.  



As evidence of Octavio’s involvement, there was a leaked audio recording (uploaded above) of radio transmissions made between two CDG - Los Metros members who are a man with the alias “El Chiricuas”, code M-85, and Cleofas Alberto Martínez with the alias "Guero Cleofas", or "Comandante Cleofas", code M-105.


At one point they can be heard saying, as translated by Ivan:


“Hey boss Moncada said that whenever possible he will go and talk to boss Toro to set up a car bomb against the fucking police [local police], poli negros [Fuerza Tamaulipas], Army military police, poli azules [state police], navy military police, fuck them.  

 

Tell him that the commander from Victoria is sending them a car bomb.  

 

[Toro approves for a meeting with Moncada]  

 

He says tell him yes to come and see him Monday - to come down if he can."



The El Toro mentioned in the audio was the alias of the leader of the Los Metros faction at the time, Juan Manuel Loza Salinas, code M-42. 



The naming of Moncada as a jefe or “boss” when CDG members are speaking to one another stands as further proof of Octavio’s involvement in cartel organizations and that Columna Armada is merely masquerading as a defender of civilians.






2 comments:

  1. I remember the photoshoot with moncada, Mireles and cabeza a few years. old man's been doing this longer than most people reading this have been alive

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wasn't Monchada algo tied to Osiel Cardenas back in the day? I remember reading something about that. This guy has been around the block for a while, probably since JGA if you really dig...

    ReplyDelete

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