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

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Cartel Members Threatening to Kill More Lawyers in Ensenada, Baja California

"MX" for Borderland Beat; Semanario Zeta
 Prosecutor Hiram Rivera Lizárraga (left) and lawyer Ruben Arenivar Garza (right); both were killed in Ensenada
Without directly taking responsibility for the murder of lawyer Ruben Arenivar Garza and prosecutor Hiram Rivera Lizárraga, the so-called Ensenada Cartel is threatening to kill lawyers who "change sides" and do not give in to their orders. According to state investigators, Arenivar Garza and Rivera Lizárraga's murders were carried out by a local drug cartel and/or by corrupt members of the Ensenada Municipal Police force.

As reported by Borderland Beat, Arenivar Garza was murdered a few blocks from his law firm on 24 April 2020. In his latest case, he defended Tijuana Cartel kingpin and ex-police officer Ricardo Bozada Alvarado ("El Bozadas"). But new information has surfaced since then. Investigators say he also defended members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the rival Sinaloa Cartel.

"He worked for all sides", an investigator said. "When a lawyer defends a criminal from a certain drug cartel, that criminal group thinks they own that lawyer", a state attorney said.

Murder cases
Arenivar Garza was killed in broad daylight in one of Ensenada's busiest neighborhoods. He was attacked and killed while he was inside his vehicle. Three bullets went through his neck and face, which made him lose control of his vehicle and collide with a wall outside his law firm.

Multiple witnesses were at the scene when he was shot four times by gunmen in a drive-by attack. The attackers were wearing military uniforms but were not covering their faces. Authorities stated they had the images of some of the assassins's faces but said they were working to make them clearer.

His death was the 73th homicide registered in Ensenada between March and April 2020. According to state prosecutor Guillermo Ruiz Hernández, most of these murders – including Arenivar Garza's – are tied to the drug trade in Baja California. Drug traffickers are competing for the control of Baja California's coastal access, including Ensenada's Integral Port Administration (API).
Arenivar Garza's vehicle, as found by authorities
While Arenivar Garza's family and friends held a wake in a local funeral home on 26 April, cartel members broadcasted a death threat in one of the funeral home's TV screens. They were able to access the screens by controlling the funeral home's website through a remote device.

They said they were going to kill anyone who made money from illegal activities. "Becoming rich overnight with ill deeds never leads to a happy ending", the message read. Investigators arrived at the scene later that day but were not able to provide more details on the death threats.

A couple of days later, cartel members hanged a banner threatening Ensenada lawyers outside of Arenivar Garza's office, Bufete de Abogados Paz y Asociados. Arenivar Garza worked with Omar Paz and Guillermo Sam, who denied any connection to a drug cartel and said they rented the building from Joaquín Bolio, a state delegate.

The captures of Tijuana Cartel members José Luis Escudero Escandón ("El Quieto"), Ricardo Bozada Alvarado ("El Bozadas") and David López Jiménez ("Cabo 20") are all tied to this turf war as well. These members competed against the Sinaloa Cartel cells in Ensenada headed by Víctor Padilla Murillo ("El Chatarras") and René Arzate García ("La Rana").

State authorities confirmed to Tijuana-based Zeta news magazine that Arenivar Garza could have also been a money launderer for a Ensenada criminal group, but they did not specify which one.

Investigators at the crime scene where Arenivar Garza was killed
Those who knew prosecutor Rivera Lizárraga remember him as an honest, humble and hard-working drug investigator. "He was a clean, dedicated and relentless", some of his colleagues told Zeta magazine reporters. He was killed in front of his family on 28 April 2020, a few days after Arenivar Garza was murdered. Gunmen pulled him next to his vehicle while he was parked outside his home. Seven shots were fired from close range. 

In February 2020, state authorities told Zeta news magazine that Rivera Lizárraga and his family had received death threats from a criminal clan known as Los Venados. The clan is composed of three brothers:  Germán, Jesús and César Ulises Villavicencio, who head a drug trafficking ring in Isla de Cedros (an island off the Baja California coast) and in multiple neighborhoods in Ensenada.

Los Venados wanted Rivera Lizárraga dead after he seized several properties they owned in the area. The death threats were considered serious, and Rivera Lizárraga was forced to leave Isla de los Cerdos with other agents who were working with him on the case.

Rivera Lizárraga left to Nayarit with his family for two weeks but then returned to Ensenada. Rivera Lizárraga's colleagues later told Zeta reporters that he did not receive protection from the government despite these threats. "Let's see if [this] ... is an act of corruption by municipal police authorities", one investigator said.

Investigators also believe that Rivera Lizárraga could have been murdered after seizing a drug house owned by the CJNG. In 13 April 2020 in Ensenada, agents headed by Rivera Lizárraga busted a house where they arrested drug dealers María de la Cruz Rosales Valdez (aged 69) and Luis Alberto Estrada Fuentes (aged 19) with 100 grams of marijuana and 97 grams of crystal meth. 

"There are unconfirmed rumors that someone in the State Prosecutor's Office – who was not Rivera Lizárraga – collected MXN$500 to release the detainees and reopen the house that belonged to the CJNG," one state agent said.

Sequence of Rivera Lizárraga's murder, as captured by a surveillance camera
Criminal clients
Lawyer Arenivar Garza defended the following clients prior to his death:

Ricardo Bozadas Alvardo ("El Bozadas"): Former federal police officer and member of the Tijuana Cartel. He was accused of smuggling 200 kg of cocaine in the Ensenada port on 4 March 2020. Arenivar Garza was defending him for an August 2019 kidnapping case he was reportedly involved in. El Bozadas was charged with the kidnapping of a lady and his boss El Quieto is also mentioned in the case.

Ismael Quintero Arellanes: Nephew of Rafael Caro Quintero. He was arrested in 29 January 2020 by the Mexican Navy during a joint operation with Mexico's Attorney General's Office (FGR) in Culiacan, Sinaloa. The U.S. government requested for his extradition. Arenivar Garza was defending him for his outstanding marijuana, heroin, cocaine and meth distribution charges and for reportedly using firearms to further a drug conspiracy. Quintero Arellanes's charges range as back as January 1980 and up until June 2018.

Leopoldo Lizárraga Ochoa ("El Polo" and/or "El Pantera"): He is a fugitive Sinaloa Cartel operator in Ensenada. In 2012, he was charged with vehicle theft, and in 2015 he was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and theft. Investigators believe he is responsible for carrying out an armed attack against Tijuana Cartel member Gabriel Ayala Fonseca ("El Tres Animales") in January 2016. El Tres Animales survived the attack but four people were killed. In September 2016, Arenivar Garza successfully promoted a legal motion in favor of El Polo/El Pantera.

Héctor Daniel Quiñónez Cortez: A small-time drug dealer who was charged with the murder of U.S. citizens Ray Edgar Ball (aged 72) and Jo Ann Butler (aged 69) in Bahía de los Ángeles, a coastal bay in Ensenada. The motive was determined to have been a robbery. Quiñónez Cortez was able to go free after Arenivar Garza won the case. He showed the judge that no eye-witnesses placed Quiñónez Cortez at the crime scene and that the evidences against him were insufficient.

Manuel Enrique Villa Flores and Jesús Daniel Sánchez Serrano: These two men who were charged with the murder of Jesús Ramón Flores Sánchez (aged 28) in January 2020. The victim was an avid cyclist, university student and employee of a Baja Corp, a port company in Ensenada.

Ensenada Cartel: Two Theories
Regarding the identity of the members of the so-called Ensenada Cartel, local authorities are still working to decipher them and the cartel's structure. There are two hypothesis:

(1) The Ensenada Cartel is composed of ex-associates from the Tijuana Cartel. Most of its members work for the Sinaloa or the CJNG but want to become independent of them. 

(2) The Ensenada Cartel is composed of people aligned with the CJNG. These members arrived in Baja California sometime in 2015 and merged with local drug traffickers who were based in Ensenada prior to their arrival. Based on the banners left by the criminal group, investigators suspect they are competing against the Sinaloa Cartel.

Lawyers Condemn Government Inaction
On social media, three of Arenivar Garza's colleagues condemned the murder and asked the government to help protection lawyers in the area. They complained that so far the government has not been responsive. Lawyers highlighted that although Ensenada had experienced high levels of drug-related violence in recent years, they had never seen direct attacks against those in their field.

This wave of violence in Ensenada has been boiling for several months, but it worsen since March 2020 with the 7 March murder of cartel member Jael José Morales Léon ("Cabo 30"); the 9 March murder of ex-police officer Juan Francisco Chávez Ibarra; the banners threatening former municipal police chief David Ochoa on 20 and 23 April; and the 24 and 28 April murders of lawyer Rubén Arenivar and prosecutor Rivera Lizárraga. 


  1. Curruption exposed at many levels, governor could even do anything to keep the pricecuter safe. Then CJNG pulled some puppet strings to get the drug house back, I can't believe it.

  2. "Those who get rich in ill deeds never leads to a happy ending"

    Man if that ain't the pot calling the kettle black!!!

  3. No more turism to Ensenada

    1. Theyve closed off ensenada due to covid. Only residents allowed in. This from my local source this afternoon.

  4. Lawyers all over the world are making fortunes from the WoD.

  5. Lopez Obrador wants an investigation on the Fast and Furious issue that occurred 10 years ago. Shows out where his priorities are, should be giving out masks and care packages to the needy.owering the CV and cartel violence.

    1. i am posting an article about it. need to do a little research

    2. Kool de Chivis your on top of things.

  6. Every time I drive through Ensenada I think about the good ol days.

  7. Read in Zeta this week, that El Mercenario sent signed flower arrangements to the casket of the money launderer who was hit in front of the OXXO in his raptor. Should give more weight to the theory that Sinaloa people ordered that.

    1. Thanks for the info, J. That entire article is currently in our draft pages. These Zeta articles take me a while to translate because they have so much detail. I wish outlets like Zeta existed for our Tamaulipas news...

  8. How come cartels think when someone works for them or a conjunto performs for them they own them ?? Come on man just because you have guys backing you up with Aks and a pocket full of money more than you'll see in your miserable life think you own them like the USA government owns you and let's you work as long as they want ??

  9. I thought cdsnitches had ensenada on lock but what can i spect if they cant even control culoacan menos una plaza fuera de su sinaloca

  10. 5:42 do u need a band-aid?? 😂


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