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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Leasing a Narco-Plaza with Signs of Alliance

Considered as the cartel that has evolved the fastest in such short time and with plenty of connections in a dozen Mexican states where it has found protection through public officials, "La Familia Michoacana" is building their ground work to establish their dominance in the plaza of Tijuana, the most buoyant city in the drug trafficking business after only Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo.

The top capos of this organization, in partnership with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS), headed by Joaquin Guzman Loera, began to operate in this border city allegedly with the backing of the command of the Mexican Army and have managed to maintain close contacts with the Tijuana Cartel, whose leader, Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, gave them full authority to set foot in the city with the condition that they pay the so-called "derecho de piso," or "fee for the right to operate" which means a fee for each shipment that crosses the U.S. in exchange for using the region and infrastructure that are under the protection for trafficking drugs.

As fast as this agreement was forged in late 2009, the plaza in Tijuana resurfaced as a point of drug trafficking, under a high level of impact in violence - with no regards to the insecurity, as the kidnappings and robberies continue unabated, and three cartels seem to be operating in the city, apparently undisturbed by any federal or local authority.

Then it is fair to say that the region of Baja California has entered a process of restructuring: the Sinaloa cartel settled in Mexicali, the Arellanos of Tijuana cartel operate in Rosarito and Ensenada, while a cell of La Familia set ground in Tijuana. La Familia has agreements with the two other cartels and it is possible that there is an alliance between the three cartels to shore up this area that for decades was dominated by Benjamin and Ramon Arellano Felix, former heads of the Arellano clan.

This means that the Tijuana cartel has no competition to fight against in their territory. In early 2010 Teodoro Garcia Simental, El Teo was arrested along with much of the group of sicarios that had been generating high volume of violence in the plaza.

Now Federal authorities believe that the operational tasks of the criminal organization are in the hands of Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, the "jefa" is his aunt Enedina Arellano Felix, who is responsible for handling money laundering, currency exchange houses, pharmacies and various other companies.

This region is so fertile for smuggling drugs into the United States thanks to La Familia Michoacana who could extend their tentacles from Michoacan all the way to Tijuana, according to official data contained in the preliminary investigation PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/018/2010.

In the inquiry it was established, for example, that Nazario Moreno González, El Chayo, founder and head of La Familia, worked for months in the emergence of that criminal organization and met with several top drug lords to forge partnerships which enabled the organization to extend their domain to other regions such as Baja California, Tamaulipas and El Bajio.

Months before he was killed in a shootout with elements of the Army that managed to find him in a village in Michoacán, where he was celebrating in a party, El Chayo had already achieved his strategic plan.

According to the investigation that was cited, Moreno Gonzalez met with Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano. The goal: to open up the region in Tijuana to traffic cocaine, marijuana, as well as crystal meth and other synthetic drugs, these would include ephedrine that arrived in Michoacán from Asia and Germany.

The master plan of Nazario Moreno did not end there: after forging agreements with Sanchez Arellano he traveled to Tamaulipas and met with the head of the Gulf cartel, Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, El Coss, who gave him authorization to traffic drugs through Tamaulipas.

Like he did with Sanchez Arellano, El Coss also leased the plaza and the entire public and political infrastructure that protects the trafficking of drugs in that border state, where La Familia began operating in early 2010.

According to the protected witness Carlos, who in his testimony provided details of an alliance between La Familia and other criminal groups, Nazario Moreno also spoke with Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen a few months before he was killed by members of the Navy in an operation carried out on November 5, 2010 in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

And that is not all: to expand his scope and strengthen some agreements of protection, Moreno Gonzalez allegedly met, along with military commanders, with who is considered the most skillful strategist drug trafficking in Mexico: Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, El Azul.

An excellent negotiator, stealthy and able to sit at the table with antagonistic groups, Esparragoza Moreno was, according to the witness Carlos, a good representative for Nazario Moreno to build his expansion plan.

This way, La Familia Michoacana started their adventure in narcobusiness in their ability to operate in other regions where they had been previously prohibited for many years, because they were considered a very violent group, they were even compared as being equally brutal as Los Zetas.

After forging these agreements and negotiating to secure the border region, the heads of La Familia began to restructure their organization, after the death of Nazario Moreno the new chief became Jesus Mendez Vargas, El Chango.

At the forefront of the operations was Servando Gómez Martínez, La Tuta, and a key position in the strategy of the business and negotiations is Juan Reza Sánchez, El Juanito, who as soon as he could sent several men in to Tijuana and others were sent to Sonora under the leadership of a character known as Tinoco Morales.

This way, La Familia Michoacana, which emerged in 2006 in Michoacán, now has a domain in several Border States. According to the witness Carlos, the alliances now allow them to operate in Michoacan, Baja California, Sonora and Tamaulipas, which is ranked as the third most powerful cartel in Mexico, after the Sinaloa and the Gulf cartel.

The Evolution
Dominated for decades by the Arellano Felix family, whose leadership emerged in the eighties, the Plaza of Tijuana was impenetrable. Any criminal group that sought to position themselves in this region was wiped out by the power of the brothers Ramon and Benjamin Arellano Felix, who consolidated their cartel to make it not only in the most powerful until the early 2000, but also the best structured.

In 2003, according to investigations by the PGR, the Tijuana cartel already had a different type of structure: while the Gulf Cartel, one of their main rivals groups, had a pyramidal structure, the Tijuana cartel was structured horizontal, and it was present in 20 states. For many years it maintained, as no other, a base of hired sicarios on salary who would execute business owners as well as police officers in Tijuana or Mexico City or Sinaloa or Jalisco. It did not matter the location.

That year, the PGR reported that the Tijuana cartel was the first Mexican criminal organization that established an alliance with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). From this strategic approach the Tijuana cartel began exchanging weapons for drugs. That is how Arellano Felix became famous for having the most advanced weaponry as well as being Mexico's most violent cartel.

But his time of splendor came to an end, although the cartel thrives in the Mexican criminal map. While at other times they rivaled with Joaquin Guzman Loera, the Arellano had to give up the plaza of Mexicali so the capo of the Tijuana cartel could grow in that border.

And although this organization has been given up for dead, the truth is that it's more alive than ever before. Only in December 2010, the Drug Enforcement National Police of Peru reported to the U.S. embassy in Lima on the presence of Mexican cartels in that country since 2007. In particular, Peru was referring to the Tijuana cartel that was well connected with high-ranking Peruvian army.

According to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks (07LIMA3764), the presence of Mexican criminal organizations has increased in Peru, second largest coca production country in Latin America.

In 2008 the Public Security Secretary of Baja California, Daniel de la Rosa Anaya, confirmed the rumors: that El Chapo Guzman was already settled in the state. And he did not hesitate to say that the Arellano and El Chapo Guzman were responsible for the increase of massacres in Tijuana, as well as the beheadings and dismemberments around the state.

Although Tijuana was the second city which hosted the joint operations against drugs in 2007, when Calderon began a crusade against drug trafficking, the level of corruption from cartels has even reached Mexican Army.

Source: El Diario


  1. Arent CDS fighting with La Familia in Baja California? I remember a guy was kiled and said it was because he worked for la familia. Signed by "El Fantasma".

  2. Hey Buggs, can you provide the link to the original article? Thank you!!

  3. Good story. At least they are working together for now, and not turning the plaza into a hell hole of massacres and dismembering. That must have been a controversial move on Fernando Sanchez's part, the hatred of Sinaloa runs deep in the Tijuana family, but business wise, it was a sound decision. My guess is the recent violence is small internal conflicts between the groups, like the problems in Sonora, between Mayo and Chapo's people.


  5. Buggs and the link? I have been looking for it with no luck. Thank you!

    Also, I was reading Zeta newspaper the other day contradicting all that says here. That CDS is taking over la plaza, taking out AFO and LFM. Basically saying that AFO had become too weak to enforce its own treaties and quotas which left it wide open for LFM and CDS.

  6. Sorry seems like you just updated your comments section...Thank you once again.

  7. I think it's a combination of all that. Some people respect the agreements, others do not, but, I don't think that Zeta article said CDS was taking out CAF, or LFM. They have been killing LFM members, who apparently weren't respecting the agreements. But who knows? On the subject of contradictions, this is the exact opposite of the so called alliance between Juarez, Zeta's, and Beltran Leyvas.

  8. I in no way condone the violence generated by different drug cartels, but the CAF has always been the one to think first in terms of business before anything else. It definitely was very smart of El Inge to work an agreement with Sinaloa and LFM instead of trying to defend their plaza like La Linea is doing in Cd. Juarez.

    The day CAF is driven out of TJ, that day Tijuana will be in deep shit.

  9. Maybe in recent years, out of lack of power, but Benjamen and Ramon were not known as team players at all, and were pretty much on their own throughout their reign. They were hated by the Gulf, Juarez, and Sinaloa cartels, they had alliances with no one. Ramon was a hot head, and I think the bitter war started because Ramon murdered a Sinaloa member at a wedding or something.

  10. That's true about Ramon being hot headed. But El Chapo tried many times to enter Tijuana by force. Back then, when Ramon and Benjamin were around, they didn't need to have allegiances with anyone. If you rule the party, why invite outsiders? You gotta remember that if Bejamin and Eduardo allowed Ramon to do what he did, it's because there really wasn't anyone above them that could really be a threat to them. They paid the government of Xico Leyva and the federal government and were loyal in that sense to the government.

    Once things started getting heated, with El Tigrillo's apprehension in 2006, Benjamin's in 2002, Ramon's death that same year, CAF has still put business before anything else.

    Extortions and kidnappings wasn't something CAF did until La Perra, El Cris, Muletas, El Teo showed up. Enedina and company got pissed and then April 28th occurred.

  11. The la famillia cartel member which was killed by El fantasma was a traitor/snitcher.

  12. well thats the way business should b done.. not just running into somebody's turf and cause a war and heat for both sides n then you gotta spend more money on guns n bribery... BLOOD IS BAD BUSINESS ... ARRIVA JALISCO Y SINALOA

  13. Blood is bad business???
    Seems El Lazca hasn't gotten the memo...

  14. This was expected chapo has been fighting for the T.J plaza for 20 years and hes never came close to wining it like hes doing in juarez right now he should do the same there and pay to smuggle drugs like it used to be


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