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Saturday, January 21, 2023

CDG Matamoros Part 1: From Cartel to Faction

Author’s Note: What began as a straightforward article about the current state of affairs and future prospects for the Cártel del Golfo Matamoros faction snowballed as writing background information expanded the scope of the article beyond the initial plan. In an effort to better serve the readers a multi-part series of articles has been decided upon.


The Overlooked Plaza 

The easternmost city in Mexico along the United States border, Heroica Matamoros (H. Matamoros or simply Matamoros for short) seems unremarkable; the third largest border city in the state of Tamaulipas, behind Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, fourth along the Texas border once Ciudad Juárez is thrown in the mix, sixth along the border as a whole, well behind Tijuana and Mexicali. Yet this city of 542,000 people, comparable in size to Sacramento, California, the 34th largest city in the United States, has shaped the course of cartel history in Mexico and is poised to continue to do so, even as it is now often overlooked.




The Birth of a Cartel 

While opium networks dotted the Mexico/United States border as far back as the 1800s, Matamoros is often considered the pioneer of Mexican drug cartels. During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), when alcohol was outlawed throughout the United States, Juan Nepomuceno Guerra Cárdenas began smuggling whisky into Texas. Thereafter, he expanded his criminal network into other illegal goods in what became known as the Cártel de Matamoros (Matamoros Cartel).

In the mid-1970s he retired from his life of crime, handing over control of the organization to his nephew Juan García Abrego, who oversaw what was then primarily a marijuana smuggling business. The Cártel de Matamoros evolved into the Cártel del Golfo (CDG, Gulf Cartel) in the 1980s, expanding operations through the state of Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo León, as Juan García Abrego took advantage of the waning power of the Guadalajara Cartel to forge direct ties to the Cali Cartel in Columbia, shifting his criminal empire into cocaine trafficking.


It was alleged that, during the 1988 to 1994 presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the CDG received protection from the government and, in fact, it was said that the president’s brother, Raúl Salinas, frequented parties thrown by Juan García Abrego. While the CDG under the leadership of Juan García Abrego was in the spotlight, a criminal cell that would change the face of Mexico, operated in the shadows.

The Cárdenas Guillén Family 

Much has been reported about the Cárdenas Guillén brothers, yet to this day there is a level of uncertainty in some details. Four brothers, all children of Manuela Guillén Mancilla, are well known and documented: Mario, born in May 1958, Antonio Ezequiel, born in March 1962, Homero Enrique, born in March 1966, and Osiel, born in May 1967. Their father, it would seem, was Enrique Cárdenas Gracia, who was listed on the birth certificate of Homero.


Another brother, named Agustín Cárdenas Guillén, with an unknown birthdate, has been infrequently reported over the years. Based upon the information known about his son, it is uncertain but likely that he was older than the publicly known brothers. Furthermore, it is not known if he is alive, although it has been speculated that he died prior to his brothers coming to prominence. 


Additional mysteries were uncovered through the work of ComputerJA on the Borderland Beat forum, which is now inaccessible, although copies of some posts have been recently rediscovered. Enrique Cárdenas Gracia is not thought to be the biological father of the Cárdenas Guillén brothers or, at the very least, not all of them. Instead, according to some sources, he was their uncle and the actual father has not been revealed, although another individual, Rafael Cárdenas Martínez, was listed on the birth certificate of Mario. 


Furthermore, ComputerJA confirmed the existence of a sixth Cárdenas Guillén brother, Rafael, who had been theorized previously based upon circumstantial evidence, and that he was born in December 1950, making him the oldest brother, although his birth certificate had been erased from the government database.


Brothers in Crime 

The early days of the Cárdenas Guillén brothers was hardly noteworthy; Osiel used to wash law enforcement trucks in Matamoros, which lead to his nickname “El Costroso” (crusty) for always being dirty, along with Antonio, whom it appears he was always closest to. At some point thereafter Mario helped Osiel start a mechanic shop.


In all likelihood the mechanic shop was just a front for their true business; Mario had started a minor drug organization, with Antonio handling cocaine purchases, quite possibly from members of the CDG, Osiel handling retail drug sales, and Homero handling small scale trafficking into the United States.


Eventually it reached the attention of authorities; Mario was arrested in 1995 and imprisoned in Matamoros on organized crime and drug trafficking charges and sometime thereafter Osiel Cárdenas Guillén joined the CDG.


Becoming "El Patrón" 

In January 1996, the reign of Juan García Abrego ended; he was arrested by the Mexican army and extradited to the United States the following year, plunging the CDG in a period of instability as a number of leaders came and went.

Eventually the CDG settled under the leadership of a former lieutenant of Juan García Abrego, Angel Salvador “El Chava” Gómez Herrera. Osiel Cárdenas Guillén was, or became, a close friend of “El Chava” Gómez during his time as leader of the CDG, to the point they were considered “compadres”. In that period of time Osiel is said to have become an important part of the CDG, with some reports indicating he was operations leader or, possibly, sharing leadership with “El Chava” Gómez .


Despite their friendship, things changed dramatically; in July 1999 “El Chava” Gómez was killed. From the beginning it was alleged that Osiel had ordered the killing in order to seize control of the CDG. It was because of this Osiel earned the nickname “El Mata Amigos” (The Friend Killer), and, as leader of the CDG, "El Patrón" (The Boss). 


The Glory Days

With leadership secured by Osiel, the other Cárdenas Guillén brothers became important members of the CDG, in particular the most publicly known Antonio Ezequiel, who went by the nickname “Tony Tormenta”, Homero, who likely operated discretely from the very beginning, and Mario, who reportedly organized drug shipments from his prison cell in Matamoros up until his actions were discovered in 2003 and he was reassigned to a prison in Jalisco.  


Under the leadership of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the CDG reached the peak of its power, with multiple operational groups, the most famous being Los Zetas, which was made of military defectors turned bodyguards/elite task force. There are numerous notable individuals and events from this era, well beyond the scope of this article. 


What should be noted is that Osiel Cárdenas Guillén was arrested in March 2003, yet he continued to lead the CDG and give orders from behind bars. The CDG continued to grow and expand; it was reported to have operated in 21 of the 32 states that make up Mexico at its peak. All that changed in January 2007; Osiel was extradited to the United States. 

Stormy Days

With Osiel no longer in the picture, leadership passed to his brother “Tony Tormenta”, who directed the cartel in conjunction with Jorge Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla Sánchez, a prominent operator in the CDG who had been a close associate of Osiel. Sometime in 2007 the imprisoned brother Mario, nicknamed “M-1” and "El Gordo", was quietly released from prison and discreetly joined the CDG. 


A few months into the leadership of "Tony Tormenta", Los Zetas held a meeting of its high ranking members and voted to become autonomous from the CDG. Shortly thereafter they negotiated a power sharing agreement, with their leader Heriberto “El Lazca” Lazcano Lazcano, joining “Tony Tormenta” and “El Coss” to oversee the CDG-Zeta alliance, an arrangement that would last less than 3 years. 


The January 2010 killing of Sergio “El Concord 3” Peña Solís created a rift between Los Zetas and the CDG that led to a full scale war between the former allies. In the midst of this war “Tony Tormenta” was killed in a military operation in Matamoros seeking to arrest him in November 2010 and the seeds were planted for further divisions within the CDG.

Chewing the Fat

While it is generally regarded that  “M-1”, also known as "El Gordo", took the place of his “Tony Tormenta” as leader of the CDG alongside “El Coss”, a nephew, Rafael “El Junior” Cárdenas Vela, son of the mysterious aforementioned Rafael Cárdenas Guillén, became increasingly prominent in this timeframe. Amidst rumors that “El Coss” had given up the location of “Tony Tormenta” to authorities in order to solidify power, “El Junior” Cárdenas acted on his own accord, resulting in a number of conflicts with individuals directly linked to “El Coss” up until his arrest in October 2011.

A month before the arrest of “El Junior” Cárdenas, the leader of a group within the CDG known as Los Metros, Samuel “El Metro 3” Flores Borrego, was killed. Los Metros, which controlled Reynosa, Tamaulipas and cities to the west, had borne the brunt of the war with Los Zetas since the split and the death of “El Metro 3”, allegedly at the hands of fellow CDG member Juan Reyes “R1” Mejía González, was met with deep suspicion. 


With many blaming “El Coss”, alleging that he had ordered the killing in an effort to further expand his power, Los Metros broke away from the CDG, becoming an independent faction under the leadership of Mario “Pelón” Armando Ramírez Treviño. From that point on, open hostilities between Los Metros and the rest of the CDG would frequently take place.


With tensions started by “El Junior” Cárdenas under the surface, the rest of the CDG continued under the leadership of “M-1” and “El Coss” for nearly a year. In September 2012 “M-1'' was arrested and 8 days later “El Coss” too was arrested. It was then that leadership quietly passed to the final brother, Homero “El Majadero” Cárdenas Guillén, also known as "El Orejón".

The Silent Fool

While “El Majadero” led the core of CDG in Matamoros, plazas in the southern part of Tamaulipas, which had been more directly linked to “El Coss” than the Cárdenas Guillén family in recent years, began operating independently, forming the CDG del Sur (Gulf Cartel of the South) faction. Nevertheless, open hostilities between the CDG of Matamoros and CDG del Sur never occurred and, in fact, they would proceed to work together in an alliance of sorts. 


In November 2013, “El Orejón” was allegedly hospitalized and it was unclear if he ever fully recovered; he died of a heart attack in March 2014, leaving the CDG without a Cárdenas Guillén brother to lead it for the first time in fourteen years. 


(To be continued…)


37 comments:

  1. Good to see you back Itzli

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  2. The introduction made me laugh- ''I was planning on a single article, but when I went back over the history again I decided to make an article in 77 parts, cos its just too fucking complex''. Keep em coming Itzli, this was great.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed my copout introduction. I swear I tried to keep things to the point but when I got to page four of background information to get to the point that I would focus on I was like, screw it I better chop this up in sections. Appreciate the kind words.

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  3. Awesome post. Love these articles that have history behind them it gives so much better context to things that happen. Bravo. Keep it coming.

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  4. Classic Itzi material!

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  5. Cant tell the story of tamaulilpas organized crime without mentioning Virgilio Barrera a trafficker of heroin in the 40s till he was busted. Snitched on off course. Then it was Juan N. Guerra whom was a smuggler of american goods into mexico and made millions but not one person that even knew the man personally ever said he was a drug trafficker. He was the most powerful man in tamaulipas and smugglers paid him to use the border he controlled. In his older age he met an up and coming Abrego and to help him during marijuana growing seasons he gifted his nephew with some construction companies before Abrego started smuggling cocaine instead of bud Another name that cant be forgotten was el Cacho Espinoza whom was a drug trafficker and a killer gaining power as Guerra got old. El Cacho was big when Abrego was coming up. They even killed rival drug dealers together. But shit got bad when el Cacho started to talk bad about Abrego and Guerra saying he had more balls than the old man and his nephew. Abrego ordered the death of el Cacho by el comando de la muerte. A zetas predecessor. And the cdg was born. Guerra was like a saint withing organized crime circles and was like a consiglieri to Abrego till Abrego got arrested. Interesting fact about the cdg. Abrego himself and anyone working with him or in his piece of the border cld only smuggle cali cartel coke. No medellin cartel coke was smuggled by cdg members or associates. Abrego forbid it.

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    1. 7:10 the past is the past, but please don't speak on current events.

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    2. Matamoros que de nadie se deja
      Cuna del cartel del golfo
      de los lobos y los zetas.

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    3. Any insight on a gentleman by the name Herminio Montelongo?

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    4. Absolutely awesome information, I appreciate you taking the time to share that with us. I did consider putting some information on El Cacho but passed for the sake of brevity. Kind of glad I did because I would not have done justice with it considering how much information you bring up that I was not aware of. Thanks again!

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    5. @10:57 PM Sorry, that name is not on my radar but now you got me curious...

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  6. Virgilio Barrera Juan N Guerra Garcia Abrego then el cabezon Sosa then Malerde then Chava Gomez then Cardenas Guillen. All Tamulipas bosses. Then it was el Coss el Tormenta and Lazcano. After them 3 the cdg turned into factions. The cdg was the most powerful cartel in Mexico from the late 90s till the split with the zetas in 2010.

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    1. I think Tijuana might say otherwise

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    2. Yeah tijuana was never as powerfull because the arellanos were always at war. The arellanos cldnt even get their money safely to their colombian plug so the Colombians looked for another trafficker that cld safely get their mony to colombia and they found Beltran Leyva whom became a boss amongst the top of the sinaloa cartel. The arellanos had perhaps the best border territory straight into southern california but were to violent for their own good. In his day Amado Carrillo was the most powerful just by the weight the man was capable of moving but he didnt last long.

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    3. 7:32 yes TJ was the "stronger" cartel after Amado "died" and many of his lieutenants left CDJ. So about 3 years as El Señor de la Frontera.
      Once Chapo "escaped", avoided recapture and reached an agreement with the government to first take down the TJ people, their reign was over.
      So around 2000-02 La Compañía very likely overtook CAF as the most powerful.
      For a while BAF and OCG had an agreement when both were in Almoloya and we're using their people to eliminate enemies, one being the Managing Editor of Zeta TJ who was shot by El Verdugo after leaving a medical appointment in TJ.
      As is his nature, the duplicity of OCG led to him ordering his people to teach his former aliado BAF a lesson and test his Karate skills when they had a disagreement. Not effective when putazos are being thrown.
      Aren't both going to be released within a couple years?

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    4. The most powerful cartel was the Sinaloa cartel before the Beltran Leyva brothers split although the CDG was nearly as powerful before they split with Los Zetas

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    5. The cds was not as powerful as the cdg thats why cdg kicked their ass out of nuevo laredo and killed any cds that they sent to retake it. Oziel was convicted of ordering killings in sinaloa. The cdg went up there and kicked their ass. Kicked cds and milenio cartel out of michoacan Remember carlos rosales was a boss of michoacan but he was cdg allied.When cdg zetas split in 2010 cds became the most powerful cartel in mexico. This are facts.

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    6. Also the arellanos sought an alliance with oziel cardenas when they were locked up in same prison. The arellanos asked the cdg zetas for help against cds. Im not a cheerleader i just like history. Before you comment on my comment please do your research.

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    7. El kelin was boss when oziel got locked up. Then he got locked up and el coss el tormenta and lazcano took over. Lazcano of course was not from tamaulipas originally.

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  7. "There are numerous notable individuals and events from this error, well beyond the scope of this article."

    great line! too true!

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  8. Interesting etymology of the name of the city of Matamoros. Literally "Killer of Moors" or Muslim Killer. Something to do with Spain being pissed off at the North Africans who ruled it.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. After the spaniards beat the moors the aoldiers that fought that war came to the americas. Matamoros is even a surname.

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  9. Great post. Always appreciate your CDG expertise.

    Much to say about Juan N. Guerra. I was fortunate enough to visit his restaurant Piedras Negras Bar & Restaurant when I was younger, but I don't remember much. The restaurant was pretty quiet in the late 1990s, few visited out of fear. But he was generally there on weekdays.

    In its early days the restaurant was the equivalent of the Ravenite or Wimpy's, to name other familiar "social club" hangouts. A block from the Presidencia Municipal, in the heart of downtown Matamoros, across the street from the Teatro Reforma in Matamoros. Famous artists from all over Mexico visited and dined there, as shown in old newspapers. Today, it is an abandoned two-story building. But one can still take a peak through the windows...

    Saludos, Itzli.

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  10. 👍 great post.. been with borderland beat since 2014

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    1. Borderland beat is addicting

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    2. Yessir I been following bb since 2013 💯 I had no business reading and watching narco news as a kid but here I am 💪

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  11. Great read / post. Should be in a major publication but us BB fanatics are lucky to have it here. The links to articles from 2009-11 were also very informative and relevant. Itzi, mica, sol & all ya keep up the good work. Looking forward to next one in series.
    Maybe a series on CJNG from before they formed matazetas to their quick expansion?

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    1. Glad you noticed and enjoyed the links! I wrote the article mostly from memory and old notes but as I got close to finalizing the draft of this part I decided to go and find as many relevant BB articles as possible so anyone that wanted to delve deeper had a good starting point.

      A CJNG series would be great, not sure that I would be the best fit to write it. Now the rise and fall of Las Resistencia would be fun. I've been bouncing around the idea of a series on the fall of BLO and cover the history of several splinter groups, but we'll see how things play out.

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  12. It's worth noting Osiel Cárdenas Is due to be released on or before August of 2024. His sentence is almost done. I wonder what if anything that's gonna do in CDG or what's left of it

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    1. His family probably still runs deep in CDG. He will prob resume as top dog or form his own faction

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    2. Great point! In a future part I will be covering expectations for the CDG Matamoros in the coming year but now that you mention it I will make sure to incorporate Osiel's coming release and how I feel it will affect things.

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    3. I don't think he will be deported. Could be wrong, you never know. But in his US indictment it doesn't have the clause of "No lawful return to the U.S." while other narcos in that same file do.

      Covered this in a piece from 2020:

      http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2020/04/imprisoned-gulf-cartel-leader-osiel.html

      My guess is, he will be removed from prison shortly before his release date, will no longer appear in the BOP, and he will be gone without trace.

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    4. Thanks so much MX, I can always count on you to bring a level of insight that makes any conversation better. I missed that nuance which definitely opens up the door to more possibilities, that said, I agree, he'll quietly disappear and if he's smart live out his days with the money he has stashed away but there is always the chance he emerges in Matamoros. Time will tell.

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