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

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Death of Alleged "Motonetos" Gang Leader Highlights Rising Criminality in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

By “El Huaso” and “Enojon” for Borderland Beat

The recent killing of a business leader and alleged gang officer sparked conflict this week between criminal groups in the southern Mexican city of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, a reminder of the growing criminality in the region.

This article explains each of the events and their context.

The assassination of Gerónimo Ruiz

The first event occurred on April 17, when Gerónimo Ruiz (sometimes spelled Jerónimo) was gunned down by two men on the back of a motorcycle while driving his red Volkswagen Golf in the Nueva Esperanza neighborhood in the north east of the city, reported local journalist Isaín Mandujano.

Images: Isaín Mandujano Twitter

Gerónimo Ruiz, is alleged to be a leader of a “Motonetos” gang as well as being a representative for a group of sellers at the Mercado de Artesanías de Santo Domingo, the main arts and crafts market in the center of San Cristobal.

The confrontations in the north of San Cristobal

Directly after the assassination, locals reported seeing armed individuals searching for the attackers in armed patrols while placing blockades on the streets, and targeting homes and vehicles resulting in three homes set ablaze. The home of human rights activist Pascuala López was burned.

According to the San Cristobal de las Casas Mayor Mariano DÍaz Ochoa, the armed individuals involved were “members and followers” of Gerónimo. 

Shootouts between two criminal groups and the presence of armed and masked men were reported in the north of the city, according to Gabriela Coutiño, a local journalist who runs the Periodismo en Libertad Facebook news page. Videos show locals running away from the shooting in fear.

Videos above: Gabriela Coutiño

The video below shows frightened pedestrians run down the main avenue of the city away from the north of the city, past business owners who frantically shutter windows and close business doors.

Video from: @Adela_Micha

According to Aristegui N0ticias, the shooting lasted eight hours.

The security response 

In the wake of the violence, several schools and businesses closed for the day, reported La Silla Rota. The mayor of San Cristobal, Mariano Díaz Ochoa, told locals in an interview with the press they should stay in their homes until the National Guard could arrive and restore peace.

In response to the violence a deployment of Mexican Military (Sedena), National Guard (GN) State and Municipal Police were sent to stabilize the region, arriving reportedly four to five hours after the San Cristobal mayor, Mariano Díaz, had solicited support. The late arrival was done as a security measure to reportedly prevent security forces from combating the criminal members that could have had “disastrous consequences”.   

Gabriela Coutiño Twitter

Upon arriving the security forces, whose force was made out of around 100 personnel, began operations to regain control of the area with checkpoints established in between the Ojo de Agua and Agua y Peje communities, along with arial and territorial patrols. 

According to Heraldo de Chiapas, the military entered the region on the 18th in order to restore order. Since then, they have established vehicle checkpoints and are patrolling the north of the city.

On April 18, the United States Department of State issued a security alert warning citizens about the violence in the region. The State Departments Chiapas Travel Advisory rating remains at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution When Traveling, due to crime.

Who is Gerónimo Ruiz?

Gerónimo Ruiz López was a representative for the Association of Traditional Market Tenants of Chiapas (Almetrach), a union which represents hundreds of small scale sellers in the region. Almetrach has been accused in the past of using violent methods to coerce action, such as firing gunshots in the air. 

Further, Ruiz was accused of being a leader of a gang of Los Motonetos, a word collectively used for several criminal groups in the region that are closely tied to the several large markets in the San Cristobal area. According to La Silla Rota, Ruiz is the leader of Los Geronimos. Proceso claimed that Los Geronimos ranks are filled with young men who provide security to affiliated sellers, businesses, and markets.

In June 2022,  Chiapas journalist Carlos Herrera claimed that Ruiz threatened his life when they encountered each other on the streets of San Cristobal. According to Herrera, Ruiz said that if Herrera did not shut up, what happened to Fredy would happen to him, referencing the 2021 murder of journalist Fredy López Arévalo in San Cristobal.

The threat was related to Herrera’s coverage of complaints against the local transportation sector, which Ruiz represented.

Heraldo de Chiapas reported that Ruiz is the cousin and “right hand man” of Narciso Ruiz Sántiz, the leader of Almetrach, a controversial figure as well. In March 2022, hundreds of independent sellers marched and demonstrated in the center of San Cristobal, calling for the arrest of Ruiz Sántiz, who they claim is the main leader of Los Motonetos. Ruiz Sántiz rejected this, and in return said that the independent sellers are members of Los Motonetos.

A fake CJNG narco video?

Two days after the killing of Ruiz, a narco video appearing to show the CJNG claiming responsibility circulated online. However, the video was from another event with new audio overlayed, casting doubt on its veracity, as reported by Borderland Beat. 

The video appeared online on the night of April 19. In the video, several armed and masked men stand behind a banner and claim that they were behind the killing of Jeronimo Ruiz, who was gunned down by two men on the back of a motorcycle on April 17th.

The gangsters also threatened four major San Cristobal figures; the Mayor, Mariano Alberto Díaz Ochoa, the Municipal Police Director Romeo Alfredo Rodríguez López, Councilwoman Karen Ballinas Hernández of the Security Commission, and Narciso Ruiz, a cousin of Geronimo, also alleged to be related to a local criminal group.

The audio is translated as follows:

San Cristobal and the surrounding area, as you have noticed, we have entered the area and the cleansing (of rivals) has begun. We are the Jalisco Cartel, and what happened to Gerónimo Ruiz will happen to Narciso Ruiz, to Calafas, to Birrias, to Aguila, to Max, and the rest of the Motonetos groups who support these scourges. We are also coming for those in government, including Karen Ballinas, Mariano Díaz, the Municipal Police Director Romeo.

Pure Cartel Jalisco

The audio message mentioned Calafas, Birrias, Aguila, and Max who do not exist in San Cristobal. Their names are printed on the banner, as they are criminal actors from Guanajuato. They were included in the audio purely to create the idea that the the audio matched the video.

However, the video is an edited version of a communication originally circulated back in April, 2021 that contained a separate message. The original communication begins showing one individual kneeling and facing down on a table, four presumed CJNG members, one armed and another holding a narcomanta with the written message translated to:

“The cleaning continues, understand here the CJNG empire is in charge, Grupo Operativo we're coming after you Birrias and for your fucking brother Calafas that you have, and same for the fucking pig Zarco”  

One member says the message is directed to Birrias, Zarco and the brother Calafas, then saying this is what happens to “chapulines” a term used for members who betray their organization and join another. The narcomanta is then dropped and two other members enter with an electric saw and a machete and promptly execute the individual. 

The remains were later wrapped in a blanket and black plastic bags in the Santa María del Granjeno community of León, Guanajuato. The narcomanta seen in the communication was placed along with the body. 


The state of Chiapas

Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico has long been one of Mexico’s safest, forgotten by the drug trafficking related violence that has marred other states. The San Cristobal region in particular is one of Mexico's cherished “magic towns” , a label given to regions with significant culture, historical, and touristic merit. As a result, the city benefits from tourism and a large community of foreigners. 

However, criminal groups have been gaining influence and expanding operations in the state for several years. Locals have expressed serious concern at the rising criminality in the state, as tourism is the second largest economy for Chiapas. 

In early April 2023, two local Bishops Rodrigo Aguilar Martínez and Luis Manuel López Alfaro spoke out about rising violence and warned that the violence caused by conflict between criminal groups is “tearing the social fabric”. They also denounced the lack of government control and rising impunity in the region.

Recently, gangs known as “Motonetos” have emerged as a problem in the region. These gangs, called “scooter gangs” because of the method of transportation favored by their members, are mostly composed of young indigenous men. They have been explained as the new generation of organized crime in Mexico, a paragon of the democratization and diversification of criminality. 

These groups are involved in local criminal markets - theft, low level drug sales, extortion of markets and businesses, as well as the production of illegal pornography of indigenous women. They are inextricably intertwined with the local black-market, and often make displays of force to exert pressure on local markets.

They have become notorious for their strategy of emerging without warning on the city by the dozen, firing gunshots into the air and causing panic, before dispersing before authorities can arrive. They have also employed this strategy to protest captures of members.

Following these attacks, the government will deploy the military and other security forces to provide security. There are rarely arrests. San Cristobal received a similar deployment on March, 30th after the capture of Cecilio “N” who had been identified as the “right-hand” of Los Motonetos former leader, Pablo Pérez Santiz “Pablo El Pinar”, and who was involved in the placement of narco-blockades on the San Cristobal - Chiapa de Corzo road in response to Pablo’s arrest on October 30th, 2022. 

After Cecilio’s arrest, Motoneto members began to congregate at certain points of San Cristobal with personnel of the National Guard and SEDENA launching arial and land patrols in response. While conducting security operations twelve GN members had been taken hostage by Los Motonetos, who attempted an exchange of Cecilio for the captured personnel, although were later freed for unknown reasons.  

Last June, a large group of Motonetos poured into the north of San Cristobal near a large market, as reported by Borderland Beat. They fired off shots, smashed and burned cars for about five hours, and then left before security forces intervened. Footage of this event showed terrified locals hiding indoors while a large group of young men shot in the air and vandalized the area without any fear of reprisal from authorities. This attack was related to control of extortion of the market, a market seller told Chiapas Paralelo.

Several groups who claim to be self defense groups have emerged in response to the Motonetos gangs. Two weeks ago, a group of armed men released a communication video threatening local gangs including the Motonetos, as reported by Borderland Beat. Around 75 heavily armed masked men appeared in the video, with the text “We are not a cartel, we are a self defense group of San Cristobal and the surrounding area” displayed above.

Last August, Borderland Beat covered another group who claimed to be a self defense group against the Motonetos, who called themselves “El Machete”. In a communication video, they blamed the Motonetos for the murder of two indigenous men in San Cristobal, and appealed to the government for help in the matter.

Sources: Animal Politico, El Sol de Soconusco, La Silla Rota, Heraldo de Chiapas, La Silla Rota, Heraldo de Chiapas 2022, Chiapas Paralelo June 2022, Borderland Beat Archives June 2022, Proceso, Borderland Beat Archives August 2022, US Embassy Security Alert, EduOaxaca, Borderland Beat Archives April 2023, Aristegui Noticias, Proceso

Media sources: Isaín Mandujano Twitter, Gabriela Coutiño: Periodismo en Libertad, Adela_Micha Twitter,

Gabriela Coutiño Twitter

To read more from Borderland Beat's newest contributor Enojon, follow @Enojon and @LatamObscuro on Twitter


  1. Was great to work with Enojon, our newest contributor for this piece. Welcome!

    1. This piece was well written. Glad to see another A-1 contributor coming on board at Borderland Beat.

  2. Most likely Sinaloa Operatives Conducting Operations in Chiapas

  3. who controls THE MOTONETOS are they indie

  4. I went to San cristobal a few months earlier, very nice place, many hippees and foreighnors to buy drugs. I see why the motonetos gangs have so many people to sell drugs to

  5. Good work fam. 👏

  6. CJNG in Chiapas....this will not end well.

    1. CJNG been in Chiapas since 2021

  7. There’s not one state in MX, that does not have some form of cartel activity, right?

    1. You are right - all states have some activity. May be small but all are contaminated

    2. 9:01 yep you are right, just like there is no state in the USA that doesnt have some kind of drug abusers

  8. Wasnt there a story about motonetos on insightcrime? I thought i have read something about them.

    1. This one is quite good

  9. Welcome Enojon!!!!!

  10. In Tamaulipas they fight with armored trucks, in Chiapas they fight from scooters from the local Electra


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;