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

Monday, June 5, 2023

CDG Matamoros Part 14: Infamy

 "Itzli" for Borderland Beat. 

November 2022 to March 2023: The Matamoros faction becomes infamous worldwide due to a kidnapping case but manages to escape major reprisal from authorities.

Continued from Part 13: Expanding Horizons

Arrest of El Cuate

While the Matamoros faction continued to expand its presence outside of the state of Tamaulipas, a notable arrest took place; in November 2022 Carlos Fabian "El Cuate" Martínez Pérez, most known for being a son-in-law of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, was arrested by United States officials at a home in Mission, Texas, where he was rumored to live as far back as December 2021

As discussed in Part 4, “El Cuate” was once an important member of the Matamoros faction, playing a critical role in the rise to power of José Alfredo “El Contador” Cárdenas Martínez. However, things appear to have changed following the third arrest of “El Contador” in March 2019. According to rumors, “El Cuate” sided with Mario Alberto “El Betillo” Cárdenas Medina and Raúl “El Loco” García Martínez, code name “Escorpión 2”, in their war to take over the leadership left to Evaristo “El Vaquero” Cruz Sánchez”, as discussed in Part 6 and Part 7. With “El Vaquero” emerging the victor, “El Cuate” once again faded from the spotlight as another son-in-law of Osiel, René “El Gordo” Villarreal, rose to become an important part of the Matamoros faction. Due to a lack of available information, it is not clear what the status of “El Cuate” was within the cartel thereafter and it is quite possible that “El Contador” no longer trusted him.

On November 9, 2022, the United States Justice Department issued warrants in relation to case 4:22-cr-00560 in the Southern District of Texas, based in Houston, which were acted on a week later. Using the Sherman Act, an infrequently used law written in 1890 to break up monopolies, “El Cuate” is being charged with price fixing the sale of vehicles and merchandise from the United States in Mexico. Once the case was unsealed on December 6, the identities of the other 11 individuals was revealed, which most notably included Rigoberto Brown, a long time associate of “El Cuate” who is said to be a nephew of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén.

Unclear Status of El Betillo

A series of legal events that has the potential to greatly affect the Matamoros faction in the future began a week prior to the arrest of “El Cuate”. As previously mentioned, “El Betillo” had challenged the leadership of “El Vaquero” during the third arrest of “El Contador”, although his direct attempt was short lived, he was arrested in March 2019, as discussed in Part 6

As pointed out during a presidential press conference, on November 11, 2022, a judge unexpectedly ordered that “El Betillo” be released from prison. The basis for acquitting him was the judge's decision that reasonable doubt existed with regards to drugs and a firearm actually being in his possession at the time of his arrest. The case was set to be appealed exactly one week later, yet there does not appear to be any direct reporting on the results of that hearing.

However, it was reported on December 6, 2022 that “El Betillo” had obtained a temporary injunction halting any orders to extradite him to the United States. It was further reported on February 9, 2023 that “El Betillo” had been granted an injunction against any outstanding warrants for his arrest and it was stated that he had been freed from prison the previous year. Based on this, it would appear that “El Betillo” is not currently in prison, although his whereabouts and status within the Matamoros faction is unknown for the time being.

New Year’s Attack

Mere hours into the new year, a police officer was killed in Matamoros, shot by armed men who also injured a 2 year old girl with a stray bullet. It hardly seemed noteworthy in a city known for cartel violence, yet reflects the level of impunity the Matamoros faction operates with.

Shortly thereafter, it would be claimed that the attack was ordered by Armando “El Pajaro” López Garcés, code name “Escorpión 7”, also known as “El Pajarito”. While rarely discussed, “El Pajaro” is an important member of the Matamoros faction. It appears he was once in charge of security of “El Contador” and/or his sons Axel Alfredo and Alan Alexis Cárdenas Rodríguez, the pair known collectively as Los Arabes. More recently, “El Pajaro” is referred to as operations leader of Grupo Escorpiones and is considered the the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to be third in command of the Matamoros faction, only below “El Contador” and José Alberto “La Kena” García Vilano.

Drug Prohibition

It can be argued that the Matamoros faction began a path to infamy in late February 2023, with the emergence of a video in which numerous armed men stood behind six individuals. A member of Grupo Escorpión interrogated the individuals, who each gave their name, age, where they lived, and why they were detained by the cartel. In each case, they were connected to the sale or purchase of crystal meth, which was said to be prohibited from being sold in Matamoros, along with fentanyl.

While it is possible that the retail sale of such drugs is prohibited in Matamoros, there is a certain irony to it considering allegations of a fentanyl trafficking route, which begins in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and reached Matamoros via Monterrey, Nuevo León, as discussed in Part 13. Evidence supporting the final leg of this route appeared merely a week after the video, when 85 packages of fentanyl were found being shipped to Matamoros from Monterrey.

The Haitians

Matamoros, like most Mexican cities along the border, has seen an increasing level of refugees seeking asylum in the United States over the past few years. Among the various countries from which they come are people from Haiti, who often come in large groups, for instance, over  300 arriving enmasse in November 2022. They generally live in makeshift camps along the Rio Bravo river, which are periodically dismantled by authorities, leading to tense situations.

The flow of migrants is often intertwined with cartels and corrupt authorities even before reaching the border. Upon arrival, the tight control cartels have in most borders cities is well reflected in Matamoros, where the Haitian camps have been infiltrated by cartel operatives in an effort to keep tabs on new arrivals, as any migrant attempting to cross the border must pay the Matamoros faction and face direct retribution from the cartel for failure to do so. It has been reported that Dinorah Roxana “La Güera Patera” Pinto Ponce is considered the regional leader for migrant trafficking for the Matamoros faction and according to the DEA, Gumersindo “El Gume” Pérez Maya is in charge of all river operations, which appears to include all migrant traffickers having to receive his authorization.

Furthermore, migrants face the risk of being kidnapped by cartel members who generally demand large ransoms in exchange for their release. Those that are inclined to turn to crime in Matamoros risk the ire of the cartel, as even thieves operating without permission have been paraded through the city nude and tied to posts with messages denouncing their crimes.

First Reports

Just before noon, on March 3, 2023 came a Tweet: #Matamoros #SDR (Dangerous Situation) Activity on lauro villar avenue many trucks with armed people. Thirty-nine minutes later, a different account Tweeted: Citizens Report dangerous situation on Lauro Villar and Primer street #Matamoros #Tamaulipas. A shooting occurred around 12:30 PM and the source of the original warning about trucks with armed people posted what would become a well known picture at 12:49 PM. Three minutes later he posted another picture and said that armed men were taking the injured in the back of a pickup, among them “various migrants”. 

As the Tamaulipas Secretary of Education canceled school for the afternoon and the State Department of the United States issued a travel warning, video of the survivors of the shooting being loaded into the back of a pickup truck began circulating online. As the pictures and videos circulated online, it was said that Hatains were among the wounded on Twitter and cartel blogs, a line of reporting that would be spread by major media, such as Zócalo and Reforma, over the next two days.

The Americans

Reporting took a dramatic turn during the evening of March 5, 2023, following the FBI announcement that they were seeking information on the kidnapping of four American citizens in Matamoros; it quickly became evident that what was thought to be migrants/Haitians were actually the missing Americans.

A day and a half later, two of the Americans were found alive, along with the bodies of the other two dead Americans. Media coverage in the United States continued in the days to come regarding the reported trip to receive cosmetic surgery and the tragic twist that occurred shortly after they entered Matamoros, which would be recreated by forensic experts weeks later. 

The Aftermath

With the story of the Americans making international news, the Matamoros cartel braced itself, expecting the Mexican government to arrest high ranking members. Among the citizens of Matamoros, there were mixed emotions, as there was frustration that their everyday plights were being ignored while hoping that the government would truly act against the Matamoros faction.

In an apparent attempt to placate the situation, five men, allegedly those responsible, were left at the same spot that the kidnappings took place, along with a message from Grupo Escorpiones “apologizing” for the events on March 9, 2023. While the men confessed to the crimes according to reports, there has been much speculation that the Matamoros faction merely handed over low level individuals that may or may not have been involved in the kidnappings, especially considering that the most distinct individual in the video does not appear to be among those handed over based on their body types.

It should also be noted that the series of events surrounding the five men being handed over raises unanswered questions that could potentially undercut the official narrative. The intersection was first reported to be closed on March 8, shortly before midnight. Roughly two hours later, reports began to spread that the men involved were found dead, along with the message from Grupo Escorpión. This line of information would be repeated throughout the early hours of March 9 on social media up until around 9:00 AM, when pictures finally began to appear, showing that the men were left alive. The appearance of a picture in which one of the men is smiling was seen by some as suspicious as well and the general consensus was that “La Kena” had staged the event to deflect attention from him.

Even before this, the focus of the story was shifting, as online discussion increasingly focused on the Americans’ criminal records and speculation that their kidnapping was somehow drug related. The day after the two Americans were rescued, Mexican media began focusing on their prior arrests and convictions. While major media in the United States largely avoided such reporting, some lesser news sources would pick up on this as well. Once the alleged kidnappers were turned over, the story ended in the eyes of many observers; reports that one of the firearms used was illegally exported to Mexico and an interview of one of the survivors was largely ignored.

The Alleged Death of La Kena

The same day the alleged kidnappers were handed over, it was reported that “La Kena” and his closest confidants had fled Matamoros and were hiding in a rural area of the municipality of Soto la Marina, which had taken over by the Matamoros faction several months prior, as discussed in Part 12 and Part 13

On March 11, 2023, a photo of a dead man began spreading online that was claimed to be “La Kena”, though the face was covered by a cartoon head. For the most part, those that shared it expressed skepticism, speculating that “La Kena” was attempting to fake his death a mere three days after handing over the alleged kidnappers of the Americans. 

The following day, two additional photographs appeared online that allegedly depicted the interior of the vehicle in which “La Kena” was said to have been killed. The second picture depicted two hats, but if one looks closely, both have part of the image whited out. It turns out that this image was actually over three years old, which serves as further evidence that the death of “La Kena” was false. 

Part 15 Coming Soon


  1. But ELMO says it's safe.

  2. Elmo says Mexico is safe, no Fentynal comes from Mexico......In the meantime labs making fentanyl are being busted.

  3. Escorpiones growing outside of Tamaulipas GTo y SLP Veracruz

  4. Those Americans got what they deserved. Their story was proven false and just wanted to f with CDG. I thought American criminals were from “the trenches” and “tuff”?


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