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

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Arellano Felix Family and the CAF

By Buggs for Borderland Beat

Nestled in the city of Tijuana in Baja California, the Arellanos Felix Organization (AFO) or Cártel de los Arellano Félix (CAF) were one of the greatest cartels that were born out of the fragmentation of the famous Guadalajara cartel. After the arrest of the Guadalajara cartel leaders, first Rafael Rafael Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, years later, the last great capo of the organization Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo was arrested. After that, the Guadalajara cartel was divided into different smaller cartels and assigned to different states in Mexico.

In Chihuahua, the Juarez cartel was led by Amado Carrillo Fuentes; in Sinaloa, the Sinaloa cartel was led by El Chapo Guzman, Mayo Zambada, Juan Jose Esparragoza El Azul and El Guero Palma.

The Arellano Felix inherited the plaza of Tijuana from Jesus Labra Aviles, their known leaders were Ramon, Benjamin and Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix who took the border city as the home base of operation for the cartel . The two cartels only had two things in common, their business of drug trafficking and their origins were from Sinaloa.

In the 80s and 90s, the organization dedicated itself to distributing cocaine and marijuana from its Colombian suppliers, the famous Cali cartel in Colombia, with the objective of introducing as much coke as possible into the United States. There was so much growth that at the same time there was the growth of other organizations where the friction for the control of drug distribution in Mexico began.

Joaquin Guzman Loera and Mayo Zambada formed alliances with Amado Carrillo Fuentes where he facilitated the introduction and handling of drugs across the Juarez border, the same was true of the Arellano Felix brothers, who charged him a share for trafficking in their territory. The activities carried out in Tijuana were so great that El Chapo and Mayo grew economically to enormous proportions, although operating in competing type of business, they were able to maintain a truce/agreement.

The first drop of water fell from the glass with the execution in 1988 of a compadre close to El Chapo, Armando Lopez Esparza El Rayo de Sinaloa. He was executed at the hands of Ramon Arellano Felix who, without giving a thought, killed him with a shot to the head. It has been said that El Rayo de Sinaloa caused an altercation after arriving at a party without an invitation, he was detained at the entrance while looking for Benjamin Arellano to speak on behalf of El Chapo Guzman. It was also personal because of jealousy that kept igniting the tension, El Rayo de Sinaloa had fallen in love with one of the Arellano's sisters of the family, Enedina Arellano Felix. To the brothers this was an insult that a member of an adversarial organization was trying to seduce one of their women.

The Arellanos waged a war against the family of El Rayo de Sinaloa, they executed Javier Lopez Esparza who was the brother of El Rayo de Sinaloa and as a consequence a close friend of the family was executed in Zapopan his name was Jorge Barba Franco.

After an outstanding debt between the Mayo Zambada and the Arellano Felix, the group decided to execute El Mayo Zambada for the debt of millions of dollars of profits from trafficking of drugs through the city of Tijuana. Benjamin and Ramón decided to execute him without getting the green light. He sent a group of sicarios to carry out the execution but one of the sicarios backed out at the precise moment that generated an argument among them and the sicario that had backed out was killed by his colleagues. When the rest of the sicarios return to their home base, Ramon Arellano executed the other sicario for failing to carry out his order. Mayo Zambada fled to Sinaloa and was named as enemy number one of the organization.

After a failed attempt to execute El Chapo in 1991, the organization recruited street gang members of the Logan Heights of San Diego, California, providing them military training. AFO was one of the first cartels to recruit US street gangs to perform the duties of sicarios in Mexican soil.

Chapo Guzman's response was immediate. In November of 1992, in the city of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, a group of sicarios arrived at the night club "Christine" and sprayed the place with gunfire. The AFO's brothers Francisco Javier and Ramon Arellano Felix were inside. The brothers were not hurt but the hail of bullets killed six people and also wounded many others. It has been said that Mayo Zambada and Guero Palma also participated in the planning of the attack, the latter seeking revenge for the death of his wife and children at the hands of a Venezuelan sicario hired by the Felix Arellanos.

The rivalry really started from the beginning when El Chapo Guzman and El Guero Palma were initially recruited to lead the Sinaloa cartel, since the Arellano Felix brothers felt threatened by them. The only barrier that was keeping them from killing each other was Felix Gallardo, a direct family member of the Arellano Felix. After the arrest of Felix Gallardo, there was nothing to keep the Sinaloan association from waging war against the Arellano Felix.

After this, the Arellano Felix brothers counterattacked in May 1993. Sicarios waited for the arrival of El Chapo Guzman at the Guadalajara International Airport, where a confrontation took place at the airport parking lot. The loud sounds of automatic gunfire could be heard all around the airport. In the confrontation Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo was killed for confusing him with El Chapo Guzman. El Chapo Guzman fled the place taking a commercial flight bound for Tijuana, Baja California. This intense confrontation resulted in collateral damage of innocent people.

In June of 1993, El Chapo Guzman was detained in Guatemala after having fled the country for being the alleged suspect of the cardinal's death. He had escaped all the checkpoints and operations while on the run until he was found in San Marcos, Guatemala. When he was arrested a colt 38 caliber handgun with the initials "A.C.F" was found on his possession. The initials were that of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, it is said that it was a gift given to El Chapo.

In December 1993, Amado Carrillo Fuentes survived an attack in a restaurant in Mexico City. The attack was ordered by the Arellano Felix brothers. The attack was carried out by a CAF sicarios Fabian Martinez González El Tiburon or 9-9, Federico Sanchez el G1 and Merardo Leon Hinojosa El Z3. They killed the bodyguards of Amado, while Alcides Ramon Magaña El Metro repelled the aggression with his team. Amado and his family lived except for Amado's wife was wounded in the attack. This only escalated violence against the Arellano Felix Organization from rival organizations.

In June 1994, at the luxurious Camino Real hotel in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the birthday of the Sinaloan businessman Luis Enrique Fernandez Uriarte El Kiki was being celebrated. El Mayo Zambada had been invited to the party. At two in the morning a car parked in front of the hotel. They though Mayo was present at the party but he decided not attend. A car bomb in the style of Pablo Escobar exploded outside the hotel claiming the lives of 5 people, including the alleged perpetrators who were inside the car. The scattered body parts made the scene a true horror story.

In 1995 Ramon Arellano began executing members of his own cartel because they were plotting to take over the organization, as was the case of the Meza Castano brothers who were abducted and killed in Mexico City. Abdelia, sister of Endir and Henain Meza Castaño was riddled with bullets along with a small baby in Tijuana.

Gustavo Miranda Santacruz was shot at and then abducted after he survived the attack. This was the way the Arellano Felix sent a message of terror to those who tried to take control of the organization.

After the confrontations and the wave of violence that resulted in collateral damage and death of relatives, both organizations agreed that families should not be touched, and that children were to be left alone, it would be only between men. After this agreement, there was relative calm within the life of drug trafficking. In 1994, Amado Carrillo was identified as a drug trafficker by Mexico and the United States. In 1995, El Guero Palma had been detained after his plane got in an accident. In 1997, the Arellano brothers entered the DEA list as the most wanted for their huge drug trafficking operation.

In November 1997, the founder of newspaper Semanario Zeta was shot at by a group of sicarios, who fired intense bursts of gunfire at him. Due to the number of rounds fired, the sicarios left Jesus Blancornelas for dead, but he only received 4 gunshots. Blancornelas survived the attack and was protected by the government of Ernesto Zedillo who sent him a guard of 11 elements of the army that accompanied him and protected him. The weekly newspaper reported on the growing organization and operations of the Tijuana cartel on the border city, this sparked the interest of the public and authorities, so the order was given for his execution.

After the escape of Chapo Guzman in 2001 from Puente Grande in Jalisco, the war took another course. The strength of the Sinaloa cartel and the great relationship with the authorities saw the end of one of the bloodiest chapters in this war after the death of Ramón and the arrest of Benjamin, thus ending the wave of violence.

Blows to the Cartel:

  • Ramon Arellano Felix, the bloodiest leader of the organization, was killed in February 2002 in Mazatlan, Sinaloa. He travelled to Mazatlan to execute Mayo Zambada, but he was stopped by police. Ramón pulled out his weapon against the police officers, but they shot back, hitting him in the head. This ended the life of the drug trafficker who was wanted by Mexican and US authorities.
  • Benjamin Arellano Felix, the leader of the organization, was arrested in Puebla in March 2002. After a police operation at a residence in Angelopolis in the city, Benjamin was found with his family. Benjamin is said to have been seeking a little bit of peace for himself and his daughter who had a degenerative disease. Thus the leadership of the organization fell to the other brothers. Benjamin was extradited to the United States.
  • Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, the eldest of the brothers, was arrested in 1993 by the federal judicial police in Tijuana and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2004, after serving the sentence, he was detained by an extradition order to the United States. In 2006. The order was carried out and he was extradited to the United States. In 2008, he was released after a sentence reduction for good conduct. He was released and was not wanted by Mexican authorities. Rafael refrained from participating in illegal activities. In October 2013 he was executed by old gangs by order of the Mayo Zambada. The sicario was the famous Chino Antrax who came in disguised as a clown and executed Rafael Arellano Felix at a party

    Rafael had been seen along with Julio Cesar Chavez in his fight against Greg Haugen at the Aztec Stadium in 1993, the images came out nationally, but nobody realized that it was Francisco Rafael who was in company of Chavez in his fight. Rafael wearing a wig was able to conceal his identity. Their great relationship from both led to many meetings and vacations, all paid by Francisco Rafael.
  • Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, the youngest of the dynasty, was detained near La Paz while he was in a boat on the ocean. El Tigrillo was caught by surprise by an operation by the DEA when he was fishing in the company of one more group. El Tigrillo was of lower rank in the organization, his life of pleasure for the parties he held did not take him serious as the boss of the organization.
  • Eduardo Arellano Felix, leader of the organization after the arrest and death of his brothers, was detained in Tijuana after a confrontation with federal forces. At the time of his arrest, his daughter and a group of sicarios who accompanied him, started a confrontation, but authorities managed to arrest El Doctor as he was nicknamed.

After the blows received, the leadership fell on the sister Enedina Arellano Felix and together with her son Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano El Ingeniero took over the operations of the cartel. Luis Fernando is currently detained and confined in a maximum-security prison waiting to be extradited, was the leader of the new generation of lieutenants of the Tijuana cartel.

Members of the CAF Old School

  • Jesus Labra Aviles, discovered the Arellanos. He was detained and extradited to the united states.
  • Arturo Everardo Paez El Kitty, part of the group of narcojuniors led by Ramon, arrested and currently an FBI informant.
  • Amado Cruz Anguiano. collaborator of the organization and detained in Tijuana.
  • Ismael Higuera Guerrero El Mayel, a collaborator of the organization, he was arrested in 2000.
  • Fabian Martinez Gonzalez El Tiburon, chief sicario of the Arellano Felix brothers. Committed suicide before being arrested in a police operation.
  • Merardo Leon Hinojosa El Z3, sicario and bodyguards of the organization.
  • Fabian Reyes Partida El Z1. sicario and bodyguards of the organization.
  • Miguel Hodoyan Palacios El 8-8, sicario for the organization.
  • Manuel Aguirre Galindo El Caballo, collaborator of the organization, arrested.
  • Gilberto Higuera Guerrero El Gilillo, brother of El Mayel.
  • Efrain Perez Pasuengo El Efrea, Benjamin's bodyguard. detained in Tijuana.
  • Jorge Aureliano Felix El Macumba or 8-4, collaborator of the organization. detained in Tijuana.
  • Rigoberto Yañez Guerrero El Primo, collaborator of organization. Arrested.
  • Armando Martinez Duarte El Loco, Chief of security escorts of the Gilillo.
  • David Barron Corona El CH, sicario, died in the attack of the founder of the weekly Zeta Jesus Blancornerlas, came out of the Logan gang neighborhood.
  • Federico Sanchez El G1, sicario of the organization,
  • Lino Quintana Z5, sicario and died for hindering and murdering a sicario from the same organization and for not killing Mayo Zambada.
  • Fausto Soto Miller, El F-7, sicario and cook for the organization.
  • Emilio Valdes Mainero el 6-6, collaborator of the organization.
  • Arturo Villareal Heredia El Nalgon or 6-1, a collaborator of the organization, was arrested along with El tigrillo.
  • Gustavo Rivera El P-1, collaborator of the organization, arrested.
  • Adrian Gutierrez Elenes El Cachorro, sicario of the organization.
  • Marco Antonio Garcia Simental El Cris or 8-9, sicario and bodyguards of the organization. arrested.
  • Luis Ramirez Vazquez El Guero Camarón, arrested together with Eduardo Arellano Felix.

The war of El Ingeniero and El Teo for the plaza of Tijuana.

After the arrests and deaths within the cartel, a restructure was seen within the organization. The surname of the Arellano family was still intact in the cartel. The nephew Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano took the place of his uncles. He associated himself with Teodoro Garcia Simental El Teo or El Tres Letras, who was the brother of El Cris or 8-9.

This was a new uplift for the Tijuana cartel and the growing new generation of the cartel. In 2004 the great operations were seen again on the border of Tijuana, new shipments arrived and passed through new routes, and the construction of tunnels gave rise to a new power of the organization.

After a couple of years the alliance was fractured by ambitions for power, this fracture divided the state and the main plazas. El Ingeniero blamed El Teo for the deaths and kidnappings in the city that were not authorized, thus heating the plaza in Tijuana.

The Gunfight in the Cañaveral

Fernando Sanchez Arellano called for accountability to El Teo, but he did not attend the meeting because it was clear to him that he was going to be killed. Instead, he sent his group of sicarios known as the Rs, a group led by Raydel Lopez Uriarte El Muletas, a compadre of El Teo. A confrontation began against the people of the Arellano Felix led by Fausto Sanchez El 7-7 and supported by Armando Villareal Heredia El Gordo relative of Nalgon Villareal. Dozens of cars, gunmen and weapons participated in the confrontation.

This resulted in 16 dead and several wounded, as well as the seizure of weapons and vehicles. On the part of the Tijuana cartel the biggest blow to them was the death of their head of sicarios El 7-7 in the confrontation, El Gordo villareal fled in an armored Humvee. El Teo who had the highest number of sicarios killed, but were members of lower rank.

Given this El Teo traveled to Sinaloa to make an alliance with El Chapo Guzman and El Mayo Zambada. They agreed to remove the family of the Arellano Felix from Tijuana. This betrayal marked the course of the city, a wave of violence between both rival groups fell on the city.

On behalf of Fernando Sanchez Arellano were:

  • Armando Villareal Heredia, the right hand of El Ingeniero was arrested in Hermosillo, Sonora in 2011.
  • Jorge Briceño El Cholo or 5-5, brother-in-law of El Tigrillo and operator in Tijuana for El Ingeniero. It is not known exactly his whereabouts, it is said that he was killed by treason, others that he died of an illness, but he disappeared without a trace.
  • Manuel Ivanovich Zambrano Flores El Jimmy or 100, was arrested in Los Cabos. It is said that he had quarrels with El Muletas.
  • Isaac Manuel Castro Godoy El Dany or El Gody, the main collaborator of the Sanchez Arellano. He was detained in the southern peninsula of Baja California. He also came out of the Logan neighborhood in San Diego.
  • Melvin Gutierrez Quiroz El Tocayo, El Melvin or El Casper. Executor and came out of the Logan neighborhood, he was arrested in Tijuana.
  • Raymundo Corona Bartolome, operator of El Ingeniero, apparently, he is free.
  • Fernando Avila Valenzuela El Tio, operator of El Ingeniero, seems to be free.

On the part of Teodoro Garcia Simental were:

  • Raydel Lopez uriarte El Muletas, compadre and head of sicarios for the organization of El Teo. El Muletas was arrested in 2010.
  • Juan Manuel Garcia Simental El Chiquilin, brother El Teo and head of security for filiberto in the city of Tijuana. He was arrested in 2010.
  • Filiberto Parra Ramos la Perra, head of sicarios was arrested in 2009 in Tijuana.
  • Angel Jacome Gamboa El Kaibil, Plaza boss for El Teo, was arrested in 2010.

During this war between El Teo and El Ingeniero, 1,236 deaths were recorded in Tijuana during the years that it lasted. one of the most striking arrests was that of El Pozolero of El Teo, Santiago Meza Lopez, a bricklayer that dissolved bodies in acid. At least 300 bodies were dissolved while working for El Teo. He was arrested in 2009 at a property where human remains were found.

Given the situation of violence experienced by the population of Tijuana, the federal government of Felipe Calderon launched a war against the drug cartels. The first to fall from this war was Teodoro Garcia Simental El Teo or Tres Letras, he was arrested in Tijuana in early 2010 but this did not diminish the war. It was until the organization of El Teo was disbanded with arrests and deaths.

The factions of El Teo and El Muletas continued to operate, the plazas fighting against the Tijuana cartel and factions of cartels that ventured into the city.

Meanwhile Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano was arrested years after waging the bloody war for the plaza of Tijuana, El Ingeniero was arrested in 2014 in a restaurant while watching the soccer world cup. He was surprised by a military unit. He was sent to the Altiplano prison.

The Tijuana cartel has been weakened and almost eliminated from the drug trafficking map. Enedina Arellano Felix is said to be managing a small group associated with the cartel, a new generation of Tijuana cartel supported and financed by El Mencho. The leaders of the group, El Flakito and Cabo 20, are fighting against factions of El Chapo and El Mayo, la Familia Michoacana and remnants of El Damaso, previously associated with El Chapo.

It is natural for the cartel, after being weakened by the arrests of high-ranking leaders, to seek alliances, to stop the progress of the Sinaloa cartel. The Arellano Felix had made alliances with the Gulf cartel of Osiel Cardenas and its armed group Los zetas, with the Juarez cartel and now with El Mencho of Cartel Nueva Generacion de Jalisco (CJNG).

Tijuana continues to be an important plaza because of its strategic geographical location and is desired by many Mexican cartels. Tijuana has never been a quiet plaza, it is always been a hot area. In the last year of the statistics in 2019 it is shown that it closed with 2,185 deaths attributed to drug trafficking in the city. the number seems to increase after the beginning of 2020 as the growing wave of murders continues to hit the city hard.


  1. Wow, what a great read! Thank you!

  2. Lino Quinyana -z-5 was bisted in chiox sin n sent to prison were he new he was a deadman walking n hung himself in a cell. He was personal body guard fo WL MIN N EL MON. 1000 $ a day was his pay . Lino was n his brother were crazy mither fuckers they aslo brought in alot of killers from northern sinaloa . like el 8-9 n his bro el Teo. N others who had beef with the rest of sinaloa cartel. El guero camaron was aressted by himself . not with el Doc. Desde. EL Monte pa el Mundo

  3. Dont forget bout el viejo Chenco Beltran .hes the one who smoked en racho el cajoncito el limon

  4. Buggs, exceptionally well-written, and really good work on the photo collages as well. Thank you! BTW, for anyone who want a good background on the mid-AFO Tijuana days, I recommend Sebastian Rotella's Twilight on the Line.

  5. Great article, now who is the main boss in TJ?

  6. Right the afo had beef with el JT los Torres who worked el Mayo

  7. La morjarra is out A free man. El Tiburon lil brother. Saludos los Pueblos unidos a MURILLO Beltran.

  8. Benjamin Arellano Felix El Min.. is almost out

    1. almost but has to do time in Mexico so he'll be out when he is 80yrs old.

  9. Isnt "MULETAS" now out of prison, and preparing to make his move to take over tj?? Forget where i read that

    1. I know that la Perra is out definitely out of prison now. I don't know his whereabouts but if he is smart he'd know to stay away from Tia Juana. Times have changed whats left of the Teos are no where what the famous Rs used to be hes been out of the game too long, thats of course if he doesn't beg to join and fall in line with CAF.

  10. @Mosluggo there was an article in zetatijuana about el muletas a few months ago. He is out of prison and is hiding in jalisco. He works for CJNG and is in charge of a crew that works in TJ.

  11. The war started .cuz Teo did not get promoted to run the nuevas Generazion .. He thought he was intilteld... NOOOO MI CABRON. So he started kid napping n ripen off bank tellers etc .


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