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

Monday, April 24, 2023

CDG Matamoros Part 8: The Drums of War

"Itzli" for Borderland Beat. 

June 2020 to June 2021: The Matamoros faction appears to be growing in power as it extends its reach into San Luis Potosí, but the path forward looks uncertain amidst an arrest of a key figure, a betrayal, and overstepping in their conflict against Los Metros.

Continued from Part 7: Shadows of El Contador

San Luis Potosí

The state of San Luis Potosí was ignored by drug traffickers up until 2007, as it was seen as an area only worth passing through. This changed when Los Zetas were sent by the Cártel del Golfo (CDG, Gulf Cartel) to expand into new areas and the municipalities of Tamuín, Ébano and Ciudad Valles, which border Tamaulipas, were the first to be taken over.

When Los Zetas split from the CDG in January 2010, the state of San Luis Potosí became divided as well, with the eastern area, known as the Huasteca Potosina, being controlled by the CDG in Ciudad Valles, and the western part by Los Zetas. Los Zetas would go on to make Rioverde as their principal center of operations in the state and fought against the CDG for control of the Huasteca Potosina. Among those involved in this war on the side of Los Zetas was Alfredo “El Alemán” Alemán Narváez, up until his arrest in November 2011.

As Los Zetas morphed into the Cártel del Noreste (CDN, Northeast Cartel) in 2015 and Zetas Vieja Escuela (ZVE, Old School Zetas) broke away from them in 2016, as discussed in Part 4, San Luis Potosí became even more fragmented, as there were now three cartels operating in the state. Thereafter, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG, Jalisco Cartel New Generation) began entering the state, further complicating the cartel landscape.

In March 2020, the Mexican Navy held a press conference in which they presented a map showing the cartel organizations operating in San Luis Potosí, along with their respective leaders in the state. It was later reported that this information was mistakenly released.

From this, it became clear that ZVE, an ally of the Matamoros faction, controlled four municipalities in the Ciudad del Maíz area, and a presence in neighboring Rioverde under the command of Samuel “El Picas” Rodríguez. It was also reported that ZVE controlled 7 municipalities in the Querétaro/Hidalgo/Veracruz border region and had a presence in Matehuala beginning the month before when “El Pikas” was sent to take control of the area.

In the presentation, the CDG was shown to have the largest area of control in San Luis Potosí under the leadership of Alejandro “El Cano” Ochoa García, who was a veteran member of the cartel going back to the days of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén. While the CDG faction he was affiliated with was not presented, information exists placing him in association with the CDG del Sur faction of Tampico, which was an ally of the Matamoros faction.

The presence of CJNG in the municipalities bordering Guanajuato was presented as being led by the aforementioned “El Alemán”. He was said to have been released from prison sometime in 2015, although it is not clear as to when and where he became criminally active again, as well as what motivated him to join the CJNG, assuming this information was correct, rather than Los Zetas, CDN or ZVE as one would expect, as he was a member of Los Zetas prior to his arrest.

Los Alemanes & Los Espartanos

It does appear that “El Alemán” being a member of the CJNG was either incorrect or his time working with them was relatively short lived. On June 12, 2020 a video emerged in which the CJNG accused the commander of the San Luis Potosí ministerial police of making alliances with the CDG and a previously unmentioned group called Cártel de Los Alemanes. While Los Alemanes were naturally assumed, and later confirmed, to be led by “El Alemán”, which faction of the CDG was unclear.

Two weeks later, video of CJNG members patrolling in San Luis Potosí provided key information to begin understanding the nature of the CDG in the state at the time; the CJNG was on the hunt for Los Espartanos, a previously unreported cell within the CDG. While one may have assumed that, based on previously reported information, that Los Espartanos were affiliated with “El Cano”, over time it became clear that Evaristo “El Vaquero” Cruz Sánchez, discussed in Part 6 and Part 7, had created Los Espartanos, most likely as an armed wing of the Matamoros faction in San Luis Potosí, either in June 2020 or some point prior to that.

While Los Espartanos were not widely reported, Los Alemanes became increasingly prominent throughout the summer. On November 7, 2020, a video was released by the Cártel de Los Alemanes, in conjunction with the CDG, announcing that they would be fighting for control of the Huasteca Potosina. There was no doubt that it was a reference to the Matamoros faction, as the person speaking said they had the full support of “El Vaquero”.

Both groups would continue to receive attention in the months to come. In February 2021 an unofficial reward campaign for members of the CDG and Los Alemanes, likely backed by the CJNG, emerged. Two week later, the head of the Mexican Employers' Association in San Luis Potosí was killed  and the CJNG produced a video claiming that “El Vaquero” had ordered the killing, with members of Los Alemanes, including “El Alemán” and José Pedro “Peter Carreteras” Bárcenas Martínez, being held responsible for carrying it out.

The Hunt for El Vaquero

As mentioned in Part 7, “El Vaquero” was at the forefront of the Matamoros faction while “El Contador” was in prison, which led the state of Tamaulipas to offer a 2 million peso reward for information leading to his arrest in February 2020. The hunt for “El Vaquero” was further expanded in September when he was added to the “Se Busca Información” initiative, a most wanted list of criminals affecting both the United States and Mexico. 

The very next day, September 10, 2020, a ranch east of Matamoros, said to be owned by “El Vaquero”, was searched by authorities and two weeks later, two of his houses in Matamoros were also searched. 

It would be months before any actions of note would take place. On January 23, 2021 Lesly Valencia, described as an operator working under “El Vaquero”, was arrested in Mexico city. Thereafter, “El Vaquero” was inexplicably removed from the “Se Busca Información” list.

The Alliance with the Hidalgo Faction

One of the lesser known factions of the CDG is the Hidalgo faction, named after the town where it was based, located northwest of Ciudad Victoria. This faction was born from La Columna Armada General Pedro José Méndez (often shortened to La Columna Armada), an armed “self-defense group” in Hidalgo, Villagrán, and Mainero that was created in 2010 to combat Los Zetas following their split from the CDG.

The leader of La Columna Armada from the very beginning was Octavio “El Tarzán” Leal Moncada, also known as “El Viejo Moncada”, whose links to the CDG stem back to the days of Juan García Abrego in the late 1980s, when he was associated with notable CDG member Gilberto “El June” García Mena. It has been consistently alleged that La Columna Armada has been a public front for cartel activities.

The alliances of the Hidalgo faction have been poorly documented due to a lack of information. A conversation within Los Metros in October 2015 brings up “Capo Leal Moncada”, which implies an association between the Hidalgo faction and Los Metros in that timeframe. During an interrogation video of members of La Columna Armada from June 2019, they were asked if the Hidalgo faction was receiving support from the Matamoros faction, but the answer was “I don’t know”. While the timing is unclear, the Hidalgo faction was definitely aligned with Matamoros by March 2021, as video emerged of CDG members clearing stating they were working under the orders of Grupo Espartanos and Columna Armada.

The Arrest of El Vaquero

The hunt for “El Vaquero” ended on April 5, 2021, when the Mexican military arrested him and Santiago “El Chago” Villarreal García, with whom he was allegedly meeting with, in Salinas Victoria, Nuevo León, just north of Monterrey. 

A former member of Los Zetas, “El Chago Villarreal” had long been connected to Salinas Victoria, and was arrested there in 2009. Information about him was conflicting at the time of his arrest alongside “El Vaquero”. While some sources would claim he was the head of the CJNG in Nuevo León and was to facilitate a meeting between "El Vaquero" and the CJNG in San Luis Potosí, the majority would merely state that he operated in the state on their behalf. The reality may have been even less than that; another version simply stated that “El Chago Villarreal” controlled the plaza of Salinas Victoria and had links to the CJNG, implying that he may have been independent.

In the days after the arrest of “El Vaquero”, it was reported that he had been drawing a salary from the Matamoros municipal government since January 1, 2018 and had been given a public security identification card indicating that he was working under the Secretary of Public Security in Matamoros.

With “El Vaquero” imprisoned, it appears that José Alberto “La Kena” García Vilano, former codename “Ciclón 19”, took his place.

The Death of Kike Cardenas

Before dawn on February 6, 2021, two months before the arrest of “El Vaquero”, Enrique Homero “Kike” Cárdenas Salinas, was killed in front of his wife and kids as they arrived at their home in Matamoros.

“Kike Cárdenas” was a son of Homero Enrique “El Majadero” Cárdenas Guillén, as mentioned in Part 2, and played a role in the rise to power of “El Contador”, as discussed in Part 4. Thereafter he was seen as part a group of “narco-juniors” in Matamoros who, while aligned with “El Contador”, seemed more interested in partying and enjoying their family wealth/money gained from extortion rather than actual cartel affairs

Because of this, he was no stranger to online gossip. In October 2019 footage of him appeared online as he was apparently drunk and beating a waiter. The following year, it was said that he and his cousin/fellow “narco-junior” Osiel “Osielillo” Cárdenas Jr., who had been jailed in the United States and released in May 2020, had been threatening the life of a doctor, apparently holding her responsible for the death of their grandmother from COVID.

Rumors pointing to René “El Gordo” Villarreal being responsible for killing “Kike Cárdenas” began spreading that very day of his death, as it was alleged that “El Gordo Villarreal” held personal grudges against him. While the validity of conflict between them may very well have been true, blame would quickly shift a day later; several pictures of “Kike Cárdenas” began appearing online and it was reported that “El Contador” was behind the killing.

On the second day after the death of “Kike Cárdenas”, the narrative shifted as a story spread explaining why he was killed: Selo mamá ron por faltarle el respeto al hijo del jefe alfredo (They killed him for disprespecting the son of the boss Alredo).


A son of “El Contador” appears to have been first exposed online in June 2020, although his name was not given. Two weeks before “El Contador” was released from prison, October 16, 2020, one of his sons was at Caribe, a club in Matamoros, according to an account of the events. The full details are unclear, but it appears that an argument of sorts broke out between the son and “Kike Cárdenas”, along with four young men, culminating in “Kike Cárdenas” slapping the son of “El Contador”.

Thereafter, “Kike Cárdenas” and the other men were kidnapped; while “Kike Cárdenas” was released at some point, three of the men would later be found dead and the fate of the other remains a mystery to this day. With that, it appeared the the incident would blow over, yet it was said that Axel Cárdenas received permission from his father to take revenge for the “disrespect” of “Kike Cárdenas”, thus he was killed.

The Breaking Point of War

The Matamoros faction continued their attacks against Los Metros in Reynosa in 2021 and they managed to abduct Roque Barriga “El Roke” Cruz Fuentes, a notable member of Los Metros, in March, although they later released him unharmed. Thereafter, there was a notable increase in violence in Reynosa, including shootouts and blockades and mutilated bodies as Los Escorpiones made frequent incursions from Río Bravo into Reynosa.

The violence reached a peak on June 19, 2021, when Matamoros launched another major offensive in Reynosa. That day, multiple attacks took place throughout the city, resulting in 15 citizens killed, as well as four members of Los Escorpiones. The news spread quickly and was widely covered throughout Mexico, resulting in a level of outrage that could not be easily contained. The path that the Matamoros faction had taken would prove unsustainable and things would quickly change.

Continued in Part 9: The Unexpected Path


  1. Kike Cardenas and El Primito were related ?

  2. Great work Itzli, dont know how you keep track with all the changes, shifts and betrayals.

  3. Awesome job...I've done Alot of research of Cmndte Alemane and what I've found is that Los Alemanes is apart of ZVE now and Peter or "Piter" Carratas has taken over since the arrest of Alemane and his son just last year

  4. They go from Matamoros to Rio Bravo not the other way around .. Rio Bravo is metros

    1. I respectfully disagree. While Rio Bravo was once a plaza under Los Metros, all pieces of information I have seen show Rio Bravo to be under the Matamoros faction at that point in time. I touch upon this in Part 6, as my research points to the plaza changing hands sometime in 2018.

    2. Matamoros cdg took rio bravo from the metros around the time when pelochas was fighting panilo. They control rio bravo and they appoint the plaza bosses of rio bravo.

    3. Rio Bravo es 100% ESCORPION 🦂💀

    4. From my understanding it's Matamoros running Rio Bravo. And great work Itzli, from the looks of it you have enough info to make this a 100 part series 😁. I'm ready

  5. Family reunions must be akward at the cardenas. Stupid motherfuckers killing each other. Those families shld be united to be stronger. All cousins and in laws. When oziel cardenas gets released its going to be interesting to see how he deals with his family and with the rest of the cdg in matamoros and with the metros.

  6. Does CDG still have heavy presence in SLP?

    1. Short answer is yes they do. I will touch briefly on it in Part 9 and will take a deep look at SLP again in another section as we get closer to the present.

    2. Itzli, you know I suffer in between posts of this series waiting for your next part to drop right. Can't sleep, can't eat, it's bad. Don't make me wait to long plz🙏🏼


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