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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The History of El Flaquito: Rising to Rule Through Stealing & Backstabbing

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat

From watching his nephew get gunned down after a late-night threesome, to the federal agent bribed into killing the man he was guarding in witness protection, the cartel leader El Flaquito has lived through a series of events fit for a movie.

Over the last decade, Flaquito has managed to successfully negotiate a series of alliances and non-aggression pacts with the CJNG, Sinaloa Cartel’s los Chapitos, and even his longtime rivals: the Arzate brothers, affiliates of Sinaloa Cartel's El Mayo. 

All of this was done as he expanded his drug trafficking operation in the border city of Tijuana, which has one of the busiest ports of entry into the US.

But now, Flaquito’s fate has turned. 

The future of the Tijuana narco seems to be balancing on a razor's edge after he seemingly pissed off every cartel figure in the city through a persistent habit of stealing drug shipments and backstabbing his own men.

This story will be an overview of Flaquito’s criminal history which tracks his rise to power in the border city, as well as the trials and tribulations of his cartel group.

Early Years 

Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño was born in approximately 1992. His slim frame earned him the very common nicknames of “El Flaco” or “El Flaquito” (Spanish phrases for the skinny one). 

Flaquito allegedly began working within the cartel world when he was just a teenager - at least according to the lyrics in the narco ballad “El Flaco” by Luis R Conriquez, saying “I was just a teenager when I got into the game.” There are similar claims in the song “La Firma del Flaquito” by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, with lyrics that say “when he was thirteen years old, he was already a warrior.”

Over time, Flaquito slowly began rising within the ranks of the cartel world. 


In October 2012, 20-year old El Flaquito was arrested by municipal police officers for driving without a license. He reportedly tried to bribe his way out of the charge. Whether he was successful in his bribery attempt is not reported.

Later that same year, he was arrested again, this time for illegal firearm possession. 

At this point, by 2012, local law enforcement intelligence had already taken notice of Flaquito and they believed that he was leading a CAF cell. Officers looked into adding additional charges after his firearm possession arrest but they were unable to connect him to any pending investigation, so Flaquito was released.


Flaquito’s prominence in the Tijuana criminal landscape continued to grow. In 2016, a local Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) cell began naming and threatening Flaquito in the narco message signs they placed throughout the city.

The local news magazine Zeta Tijuana also began naming Flaquito in their annual “Most Wanted Tijuana Narcos” article

In August 2016, a CAF figure named Héctor Manuel Gil García, alias “El Kado”, was arrested. 

Kado gave up information on various CAF subgroups as part of negotiating a plea deal for himself, telling officers the names and roles of various cartel figures. His testimony gives us our first revelation into Flaquito’s early origins in the cartel world. 

By this point in time, now two years after the arrest of Fernando Sánchez Arellano, the CAF had fractured into subgroups, each with their own unique set of alliances and rivalries. (Although locals tend to insist that there is still one “true” CAF group and all the other subgroups are merely defectors.)

Kado described to police a particular CAF subgroup called Los Pilotos, and how it was led by three CAF figures named:

José [or Juan] Mellado, alias “El Mesien”- the brother-in-law of Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, “El Inge”

Crescencio Beltrán Murillo, alias "El Chencho" - a cartel figure from the “old school” CAF

José Luis Escudero Escandón, alias “El Quieto”

Kado alleged that El Flaquito worked within this CAF subgroup and he reported under El Quieto, alongside Carlos Garmiño González, alias “El Karateca”. 

Kado also claimed that Flaquito was married to the sister of El Quieto - meaning that Flaquito was now the brother-in-law of a prominent CAF figure. Flaquito was also allegedly friendly with the CAF figure Roque García, according to police chiefs cited by Zeta Tijuana

During the end of 2016, los Pilotos reached out to the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) groups in Tijuana and negotiated an alliance between their specific CAF subgroup and the CJNG groups in the city. 

Some claim that Flaquito negotiated this alliance but in all likelihood this alliance was likely made through the connections of los Piloto’s El Chencho, who was an “old school” CAF figure who was known to be friends with CJNG leader El Mencho.  

This alliance between CAF - Pilotos and the CJNG lasted for approximately two years, until it fell apart sometime in 2018.


In January 2018, Flaquito and Quieto’s CAF group was reportedly involved in kidnapping and beating up a SEIDO intelligence agent. 

The agent was grabbed by their hitmen while he was investigating a cartel member who was said to be hiding out inside a rehab center in Zona Rio, Tijuana. The agent, luckily, survived the attack. 

In March 2018, officials from the US government contacted the then-governor of Baja California, Francisco Vega, to inform him that his head of state police, Gerardo Manuel Sosa Olachea, was indirectly communicating with El Quieto and El Flaquito.

The local news outlet AFN Tijuana reported more details, alleging that the leader of the state police had a son known as “El H” who had been exchanging “WhatsApp messages with … an individual named José Luis Escudero Escandón … who is a 'director' of the remnants of the Arellano Félix brothers cartel, and also with another individual nicknamed ‘El Flaquito’, named Edwin Huerta Nuño,”

This son, “El H”, was said to be heavily involved with the state police and the revelation about his communication with los Pilotos caused his father Sosa Olachea to resign from his position.

On April 27, eleven men and one woman associated with Flaquito were detained in the Independencia neighborhood for carrying assault weapons and pistols. Many of those detained, we now know, gave false names. The group was eventually released because the crime of possession of an illegal weapon does not merit arrest within Mexico. 

Two of the men who were released were detained again, just two months later, after they showed up visibly armed at Mäb night club in June 2018. They were arrested alongside two other Flaquito associates. 

They were found to be carrying a 223 rifle and three pistols, however, the group of four was released without further charges soon after being taken into custody. 

One month later, another eight of Flaquito’s men were detained for carrying three pistols and a shotgun in the El Chamizal neighborhood. Five of the eight men had been detained in the April incident in Independencia, however, they were released yet again.

This series of detentions and releases was emblematic of the “impunity of Flaquito’s group” and it indicates the level of influence Flaquito had over the municipal police by this point in time. 

A Tijuana police chief told Zeta Tijuana that at some point in 2018, Flaquito made a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) - Mayo figures Alfonso Arzate Garcia, alias “El Aquiles”, and René Arzate, alias “La Rana”. 

Flaquito reportedly agreed to give the Arzates information on a number of his men who they wanted dead. In return, the Arzates would allow Flaquito to establish a business relationship with CDS - Chapitos figures, such as El Nini. 

Although it's not stated explicitly, it seems that a part of this deal was the Arzates allowing Flaquito to begin trafficking Chapitos-produced drugs into the city and across the border. It's likely a non-aggression pact between the two group was also agreed to as a part of this deal. 

After the deal was finalized, the blood bath began. 

On November 15, 2018, three men affiliated with Flaquito were shot to death at a restaurant in Rosarito. Those killed were: Flaquito’s bodyguard Jesús Edgar Ruiz Domínguez, and two associates of Flaquito named David Leonardo Cárdenas and Alexy Javier Peinado Leyva.

Flaquito’s men had entered the restaurant armed because they knew they were in “enemy territory”, but their guns weren’t able to save them. Zeta was later told that "the hitmen of René Arzate” had carried out the hit.

Shortly after, on November 21, the CAF figure Salvador Ortega Ruiz, alias “El Retén”, was gunned down at Mäb night club. 

On December 5, Gustavo Tapia, alias “El Gus”, was shot while he was driving on Avenida Las Américas.

The police chief who spoke to Zeta said “those close to Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño 'El Flaquito' are being killed and surprised in places where they evidently believe they are safe, which suggests that they are being betrayed.”

The Arzates had, evidently, made quick work of the men Flaquito handed over. 


During early January 2019, a cartel group called los Cabos, who began under CDS, then worked under CJNG, began to fracture and split apart due to the worsening drug problem of one of their members named Héctor Manuel Morales Guzmán, alias “El Gallero”.

Flaquito was able to persuade a number of disillusioned Cabos members to leave the CJNG and begin working under him as part of his new CAF-Chapitos hybrid group. Flaquito’s earlier attempts to recruit los Cabos members may have been a part of why the Pilotos and CJNG alliance ended the year before. 

Flaquito managed to recruit:

David López Jiménez, aliases “El Lobo” and “Cabo 20” [More details here]

And Lobo brought with him subordinates like: 

Jael José Morales León, alias “El 30” [More details here]

Gustavo Germán Ayala, alias “El Tavo”

Felipe Avitia Sarellana, alias “Boca de Bagre”

Édgar Pérez Villa, alias “Cabo 89” [More details here]

Lobo would go on to work closely with Flaquito and eventually become Flaquito’s right hand man and point man for day-to-day operations.

On September 19, 2019, 27-year old Flaquito and a 20-year old relative of his named Ronaldo Alexis Huerta Nuño met up at a bar called El Jardín, in Tijuana. 

It's unclear how exactly Flaquito and Ronaldo were related to each other. Zeta claims that Ronaldo Alexis was Flaquito's brother but acknowledges that investigators believe he was Flaquito's nephew. Ronaldo's last names suggest he's Flaquito's brother but often times the last names of narcos are misreported.

Ronaldo was known to be involved in organized crime and he had previously been arrested for illegal gun possession, much like Flaquito. 

The group drank and danced at the bar until about 5 am. Then, the group drove to the Grand Hotel Tijuana in Ronaldo’s gray Toyota Tacoma, where they dropped off the vehicle at valet parking.

Flaquito and Ronaldo invited an old acquaintance of theirs named Priscilla to the bar they were drinking at. Shortly after she arrived, she called and invited two of her female friends to come join them. Once the two girls arrived, they became a party of five. 

A video of Flaquito and Ronaldo waiting in the Grand Hotel parking garage, possibly during the morning they checked in. They appear to be waiting for something, possibly a valet. 

The men booked two hotel rooms. One of the girls joined Ronaldo in one hotel room, two of the girls joined Flaquito in the other. (El Flaquito, a married man, likes to brag that he is a family man in songs like “A la Orden del Flaco”, saying his family is the most important thing to him.)

Later that same day, at about 5 pm, Ronaldo and Flaquito met up just outside of Flaquito’s room. The men and two of the women took the lobby elevator down to the parking garage. 

When they exited the elevator, they ran into a man who was working as a bodyguard, protecting the owners of Grand Hotel Tijuana - the Bustamante family. 

The Bustamante family are the descendants of Alfonso Bustamante Labastida - a Rockefeller-like-figure in Tijuana history. 

The Bustamantes have their own lurid history of political scandals, corruption, and alleged embezzlement, mainly tied to Alfonso’s son - Carlos Bustamante Anchondo, a business magnate who served as Tijuana’s mayor for three years (2010 - 2013). 

Carlos’s children and nephews all play prominent roles within Tijuana society, such as: 

Carlos Bustamante Aubanel, the Vice President of Matrix Air Cargo

Arturo Bustamante Aubanel, a director at Síntesis TV

Carolina Bustamante Aubanel, the former head of the Tijuana City council

Adrián Gustavo Bustamante González, the Operating Director of the Grand Hotel

The 35-year old bodyguard was in the middle of running an errand for the Bustamante family when he encountered the group. 

According to testimony given to police, the bodyguard immediately noticed that Ronaldo was armed and Ronaldo noticed that the bodyguard was armed. 

The bodyguard assumed that the presence of an armed man in the hotel meant his own life and the lives of the Bustamante were under threat. 

The women claim the following was said:

Bodyguard - What's going on? 

Ronaldo - Nothing, what's going on with you? 

Bodyguard - What's going on with what, bitch.

Then, Ronaldo pulled his gun and pointed it at the bodyguard's face.

The bodyguard had considerably more combat training than Ronaldo because the bodyguard had previously worked as a soldier in the military and a cop in the Tijuana police. The bodyguard was able to disarm Ronaldo with his right hand, while he used his left hand to pull out his own gun and shoot Ronaldo.

As soon as gunfire began, the women ran for cover, running down the stairs and hiding amongst cars parked on E2. 

Flaquito, who was unarmed at the time, also ran and fled the parking garage. Surveillance video captured Flaquito as he made a phone call and shortly after he was picked up by a gold-colored Volkswagen Jetta, which sped away from the area. 

Meanwhile, the bodyguard alerted the other Bustamante family bodyguards and the police were called. Municipal police officers arrived and found Ronaldo lying dead in the glass valet booth, near the elevators.

Ronaldo’s legs were bent backwards. He had suffered two gunshots, one on the ear and another in his upper chest. His cause of death was later listed as a “piercing wound to the chest from a firearm projectile.”

Officers reportedly broke protocol and searched Ronaldo’s dead body to find his cell phone, which they seized. They then spoke to the girls on E2, who reported what happened, and officers seized their cellphones as well. 

Personnel at the state Attorney General’s Office later noted just how unusual the seizure of the cellphones was, suggesting that municipal police officers on Flaquito’s payroll had been instructed to grab the phones and possibly wipe data from them. 

Word quickly spread about the murder and one day later, Flaquito has his hitmen place two narco banners near the hotel which read 

“Mr. Carlos Bustamante,

Stop protecting your bodyguards.

We all know that they were the ones who killed the boy in the Grand Hotel.”


One banner was placed on a pedestrian bridge nearby and the other was placed at the entrance to tower #2 of the hotel. 

Although the wording may seem respectful in nature, Zeta reports that “the message was received as a threat by the business family.” 

This moment is notable because it speaks to just how powerful Flaquito believed himself to be at this point. Flaquito was name-dropping one of the wealthiest men in the city, the former mayor - Carlos Bustamante - in a narco message. 

Even more notable is Carlos Bustamante’s alleged reaction. Authorities reported that “Bustamante is scared.”

The bodyguard ended up giving his official statement on the incident to the state Attorney General's Office. Flaquito continued to demand that the bodyguard be handed over to him so he could be punished for the shooting. Zeta reports that the Bustamante family paid for the bodyguard to hide out in the US, in San Diego, protecting him from Flaquito's men.

Meanwhile, later in September 2019, the non-aggression pact with the Arzates ended and CAF-Chapitos began a battle against CDS - Mayo affiliates for more control over the port of Ensenada, a location just south of Tijuana.

The port functioned as a key part of drug trafficking routes to Asia. The port facilitated the movement of drugs produced in South America (like cocaine) to various selling locations in Asia.

According to La Silla Rota, the struggle primarily centered around the Ensenada port employees. 

Employees were reportedly being pressured to stop accepting the CDS - Mayo bribes they were already taking and to, instead, start accepting CAF-Chapitos bribes, enabling the group to expand their drug trafficking routes to Asia while officials “looked the other way”.

In Ensenada, Flaquito subordinates like Ricardo Bozada Alvarado, alias “El Bozadas”, led the CAF-Chapitos group and Jael José Morales León, alias “El 30”, reported under Bozadas.

Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Araiza, alias “El Marino”, represented CDS - Mayo groups like the Arzates.

Another cartel figure known to be operating in Ensenada at the time was a man named Víctor Manuel Padilla Murillo, alias “El Chatarras”. Many assumed he worked under Marino and CDS - Mayo at the time, but it later emerged that he was leading an independent group which would go on to have disagreements with Marino.

On August 22, 2019, Flaquito’s group left five narco banners threatening El Chatarras and made clear they were going to fight for control of the port.

Soon after, El Marino allegedly began demanding that El Chatarras pay him for the right to operate in Ensenada - a demand that Chatarras refused. 

In response, Marino’s hitmen attempted to kill Chatarras twice, but each time Chatarras managed to survive. 

On August 31, 2019, Chatarras fled Baja California but he was soon after arrested at the Guadalajara airport. Facing major jail time, Chatarras opted instead to become a federally protected government witness and he likely gave federal agents valuable information on the inner workings of the drug trafficking at the Ensenada port.

The Mexican government anticipated that Aquiles and Flaquito would hear that Chatarras was talking and send hitmen after him, so they moved Chatarras to a secure apartment in Mexico City and provided him with full time bodyguards as part of their witness protection program. 

With Chatarras out of the way, the struggle for the port became more deadly in September, when three hitmen shot two port authority employees named Omar Alejandro Martínez Juárez and Carlos Meza Hirales to death as they drove through the center of Ensenada. 

Then, in December 2019, José Ignacio Ponce, another port employee, was shot to death. 

With all of these hits, it's a bit unclear if Aquiles or Flaquito was behind them. A port employee could be targeted by Aquiles hitmen for choosing to work for Flaquito - or they could be targeted by Flaquito’s men for refusing to work for him. The murders, more importantly, were meant to scare other port employees into choosing their respective side.


The killings continued in the new year. In January 2020, Said Cortez Bojórquez, Julio César Soto Murill, and Jesús Ramón Flores Sánchez - all port employees - were shot to death.

But all the violence in Ensenada led to more law enforcement attention.

On January 6, 2020, two CAF-Chapitos members named Daniel Aurelio González García and Edgar Castillo Cabrera were arrested. Later that same day, two CAF-Chapitos drug dealers named Alexis Maldonado López and Pablo Ramos López, were arrested. 

All four of these men reported under José Cristian Gómez Rosales, alias “El Pitey”, who in turn reported under El Lobo.

On January 9, 2020, police raided a safe house owned by El Lobo, located in Viñas del Mar neighborhood of Tijuana, and officers seized 184 kilos of marijuana and 176 kilos of "crystal", along with cash and important documents. 

Zeta Tijuana describes a phone call made between El Lobo and a government official shortly after the raid. The man “on the other side, a man identified himself as David López ‘El 20’ and asked for his ‘things’ to be returned to him. He then offered him money, and finally, he threatened [the agent].” It seems the agent refused to return the seized items. 

As retribution for both the raid and the arrests of Pitey’s men, an attack on GESI agents was planned. Some claim (like this article) that Flaquito ordered this attack, while others allege that it was El Pitey. The degree to which Lobo and Flaquito knew or ordered the attack is still unclear to this day.

On January 22, 2020, six GESI police agents were shot by 4 CAF-Chapitos hitmen while the officers were at a hotdog stand in La Mesa, Tijuana.

One of the six, officer Marco Antonio Reyes Nahón (sometimes spelled Nahom), died from the attack and five other officers were injured. A worker at the hotdog stand named Jesús Héctor Cabrera Mendoza was also killed.

Then, things began to escalate and law enforcement seemed to crack down on El Flaquito. On January 27, 2020, Flaquito’s alleged brother-in-law José Luis Escudero Escandón alias “El Quieto”, was arrested in Cancun, Quintana Roo.

On March 7, 2020, El 30 was shot to death in Papas&Beer nightclub in Ensenada. It's likely this attack was perpetuated by Rana/Aquiles men as part of the battle for Ensenada’s port. 

On March 10 and 11, two shipments of cocaine, which totaled up to 250 kilos, were seized by law enforcement officials in the port of Ensenada. These shipments had allegedly been arranged by El Bozadas

On March 11, El Bozadas boarded a flight in Amsterdam bound for Mexico City International Airport. When he arrived, he was detained by agents from the SEIDO, DEA and Interpol.

As this happened, police began frequently patrolling the Sanchez Taboada neighborhood and arresting drug dealers in the area who worked for Boca de Bagre, a subordinate of El Lobo. 

Then, on March 28, 2020, GESI agents, alongside Army soldiers, raided Lobo’s home in the Querétaro region of Tijuana. Lobo was found sleeping alongside his girlfriend (or wife) and two children (possibly his children). Agents arrested him and alleged Lobo was in possession of a pistol and half a kilo of meth. 

Lobo’s arrest, coupled with declining profits in Sanchez Taboada, led Boca de Bagre to leave the CAF-Chapitos group, blaming Lobo for bringing down unnecessary law enforcement heat, and he began working under a CJNG cell. 

Lobo was later able to get the drug and firearm possession charges dropped and he was released.

By the end of March 2020, the law enforcement crackdown had significantly damaged the CAF-Chapitos group. 

In August 2020, a cartel group (either linked to Flaquito or Rana/Aquiles) allegedly managed to bribe a federal agent named Jorge Antonio Aguilar Solís who was working as a bodyguard in Chatarras’s witness protection detail.

Agent Aguilar Solís allegedly shot Chatarras to death inside an elevator in his apartment, which was located next to the Federal Attorney General (FGR) Social Communication building.

The agent later tried to claim that Chatarras was killed by two unknown men and that he had attempted to protect Chatarras, but his gun jammed.

The FGR also denied that Chatarras was ever a protected witness.

The publication El Siglo however, pushed back on this. They wrote in their story covering the FGR’s official statement of denial that “local sources in Mexico City assured [us] that the man was executed early Friday morning … was a protected witness for the federal agency.


Lobo and Flaquito managed to convince Leonardo Fabián Llamas, alias “Cabo 45”, to leave the CJNG and join their group. Cabo 45 brought with him a small group of his subordinates. 

On April 12 and 14, Flaquito’s group left narco banners in Ensenada threatening those that were working under “El Mercenario”, another alias of CDS - Mayo’s La Rana.

In August 2021, Aquiles’ men left a narco banner claiming Flaquito and Lobo had ordered the recent murder of a family. Whether Flaquito’s group was actually involved or if Aquiles simply wanted to bring down law enforcement pressure (called heat) on them, is unclear. 

In September 2021, one of Aquiles’s lieutenants named Jesús Rafael Yocupicio, alias “Cabo 27”, left a styrofoam ice chest of remains and a threatening narco message for a Flaquito subordinate named Rubén Duarte Roque, alias “El R”, as part of their ongoing territory battle over Sánchez Taboada neighborhood of Tijuana. 

In December 2021, Cabo 27 killed an alleged subordinate of Lobo and left his dead body on the sidewalk alongside a threatening message for Lobo and one of his reports named José Luis Alvízar Anguiano, alias “El Tamal”.


By the beginning of 2022, Flaquito and Lobo had amassed a sizable amount of cartel figures reporting under them.

The list included:

  • José Luis Alvízar Anguiano, alias “El Tamal”
  • José Cristian Gómez Rosales, alias “El Pitey”
  • Leonardo Fabián Llamas, alias “Cabo 45”
  • Rodolfo Sánchez Sánchez López, alias “Foer 53”
  • José Manuel Delgado Esquerra, alias “El Tieso”
  • Emilia Belén Gil Rivera, alias “Naine”
  • Daniel Lara Lozano, alias “El Dany”
  • Rubén Duarte Roque, alias “El R”

Each of those named above had a group of followers working under them. Their followers often included hitmen, lookouts (halcons), and street drug dealers.  

On January 17, 2022, the photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel was shot to death outside his home in Tijuana. Martínez Esquivel often photographed the aftermath of cartel attacks for publications like Zeta Tijuana.

Many suspected that a cartel group had been unhappy with the level of exposure his work brought their group, so a hit had been put out on him. All the major groups were initially suspected.  [More details here.] 

The firearm used to kill Margarito Martínez was later traced back to several other shootings perpetrated by the CJNG.  

However, the shooter was eventually identified as CAF-Chapitos operator Manuel Ramos Adrián Nicolás Ramos, alias “El Uber”, who worked under a subordinate of Lobo named Christian Adán Velázquez “Cabo 16”.

Also involved was another Cabo 16 reports named José Heriberto Ochoa Díaz, alias “El Huesos”.

El Huesos and El Uber were arrested. After, law enforcement focused on finding Lobo but he moved out of Baja California and hid out of state.

Lobo allegedly continued leading his cartel subordinates by sending messages through the app Threema. Investigators shifted and focused on some of Lobo's subordinates.

On June 2, Emilia Belén Gil Rivera, alias “Naine”, was arrested in Tijuana. Later that same day, Rubén Duarte Roque, alias “El R”, was arrested in Nayarit. 

On July 20, one of Lobo and Flaquito’s subordinates, a US-born man named James Brayan [sometimes spelled Bryan, Bryant, or Brian] Corona, alias “El Apache”, was shot at by rivals at an intersection in Tijuana. He is known to have survived the incident. 

On August 5, José Luis Alvízar Anguiano, alias “El Tamal”, was arrested in Baja California Sur. 

Eventually, FGE investigators traced money transfers that were made by Lobo’s associates and they found that money was being sent to the city of Monterrey, in Nuevo León.

On August 21, a group of FGE agents and Army special forces soldiers traveled to Monterrey and they conducted surveillance until, on August 23, they visually confirmed the identity of Lobo.

On that day, investigators watched as Lobo dropped off his wife and daughter at the airport, kissing his wife goodbye before driving back to their home where he invited over a group of friends, two men and six women, some of whom were mistresses.

The traveled to downtown Monterrey and partied. The group eventually returned back to Lobo’s house in the early morning hours of the next day. As they returned, investigators and soldiers arrested Lobo.

Ultimately, the decision to kill Margarito Martínez for his work covering cartel news cost Flaquito’s group dearly (although it too often results in zero consequences, see La Fresa and his presumed murder of reporter Alan García Aguilar). 

It seems certain that Cabo 16, Lobo’s subordinate, is the one who put out the hit on Margarito Martínez. 

Whether Lobo himself ordered the hit on the journalist (rather than it being an action taken by Cabo 16’s own initiative) is unclear, but Lobo has not yet been charged for Margarito Martínez’s murder.

Lobo was sent to prison while he awaited trial on charges of a different murder. 

Lobo hired a high-powered attorney named Víctor Hugo López Ramírez, who built a reputation on representing high-profile cartel leaders. Víctor López Ramírez had famously been a part of the legal team which helped Z40 avoid US extradition.


On February 15, 2023, El Lobo’s attorney was gunned down in Tijuana by hitmen who allegedly worked for El Aquiles, who seemed determined to keep Lobo in prison. 

Then, Flaquito attempted a bold heist. In April 2023, a National Guard vehicle with National Guard soldiers traveled in a convoy with two other vehicles.

These two other vehicles had mysterious men inside - men who “identified themselves as agents of Ministerio Público agents (federal agents)” but may not have had their credentials.

The convoy traveled to a house in the Mexicali Valley, near El Chinero and San Felipe. The soldiers and mysterious men raided the house and found a shipment of drugs which had just recently been unloaded from a small airplane. 

Small airplanes and makeshift runways in the remote parts of the Mexicali Valley are a common method for transporting drugs into Baja California, so they can be further smuggled up north. 

The shipment they found in the aid likely belonged to a CDS - Mayo affiliate, either the Arzates or los Rusos, but the mysterious men who accompanied the National Guard soldiers were not CDS - Mayo hitmen. The mystery men were alleged subordinates of El Flaquito. 

The soldiers and mystery men loaded the goods into their vehicles and surveillance cameras captured them driving not to the offices of a federal agency, but to Ensenada, where many cartel groups have drug storage warehouses. The seized drug shipment was never taken in as evidence. 

In a May 2023 article, Zeta Tijuana says they spoke to witnesses who claim to have seen Flaquito himself accompany the soldiers during the "raid" on the safehouse in Mexicali.

This theft would go on to enrage CDS - Mayo affiliates in Baja, permanently scarring his name, and earning him the ire of a number of new, high-ranking foes.

According to the state’s Security Roundtable, at some point in 2023, the Arzate brothers and the leaders of another CDS - Mayo group known as los Rusos, based out of Mexicali, formed an alliance which aimed to take over the state of Baja California under a unified CDS - Mayo force. 

This would differ from the current situation, in which disparate street gangs in Tijuana, Ensenada, and Rosarito chose to work under and then leave larger cartel organizations (like CDS Chapitos, CDS Mayo, or CJNG). More details on this alliance here

Zeta Tijuana reported that one of the first major moves the Rusos-Arzate alliance made together was an attempt to kill a number of CAF-Chapitos figures who were gathering at an upcoming ATV race, an annual event called “Cachanillazo”, scheduled for May 20, 2023.

When the day came, Flaquito himself and a number of his CAF-Chapitos subordinates like Alonso Arámbula Piña, alias “El Trébol”, showed up to the event.

El Trébol was known to love ATVs and he had multiple passengers in his vehicle. His passengers included girlfriend and his buddy, the municipal delegate (a position similar to a state congress person) named José Eduardo Orozco Gil, a local political upstart.  

At about 2:00 pm, a SUV with Arzate-Ruso hitmen opened fire at one of the racers while the group was in the town of San Vicente, just south of Ensenada. 

The state’s Attorney General Ricardo Iván Carpio Sánchez later told reporters that El Trébol was the intended target of the hit and made no mention of Flaquito’s alleged presence

(It's worth noting that Attorney General Carpio would later suddenly resign from his position during a period of time when the Baja government kicked out a number of cartel-colluding officials, based on US intelligence. More details in this story. )

However, Punto Norte reported Flaquito was there and Zeta spoke to a witness who implied they saw Flaquito fleeing the race as soon as the shooting started, saying “They saw a Razer fleeing at full speed, guarded by several trucks.”

El Trébol and the politician José Eduardo Orozco Gil were both shot to death inside the ATV. Orozco Gil’s presence in a known cartel member's ATV would later cause a mini scandal as it seemed emblematic of the government’s collusion with cartel groups. 

Eight others were also killed, leaving a total of ten dead. An additional ten people were injured from the gunfire. The attack made headlines around the world.

El Universal notes that either El Trebol himself or his friends posted images of their vehicles on their TikTok accounts hours prior to the attack, suggesting that these social media posts helped the attackers identify Trebol’s vehicle amongst the 250 other ATVs in the race. 

Zeta notes that the SUV used by the attackers, a black Infiniti Qx60,  was later found to be a vehicle originally stolen in San Luis, Arizona, back in 2022. 

After the massacre at the race, Flaquito’s men hung narco banners which made clear they believed Aquiles was the one behind the San Vicente attack.

On November 17, 2023, a number of FGE agents, police officers, and National Guard soldiers stole a drug shipment that belonged to El Aquiles from the El Lago neighborhood of Tijuana. 

Zeta alleges that Aquiles hired hitmen from outside of Tijuana to travel to the city and attack the government personnel who were involved. During the weeks after the theft, a series of shootings targeted the thieves, leaving some of them dead or injured.  

The theft was allegedly orchestrated by “El Federal”, an unknown figure, who allegedly works under Flaquito, as well as CAF- Chapitos associates like Héctor Manuel Gil García, alias “El Kado” and James Brayan Corona, alias “El Apache”.

It's worth noting that, in all likelihood, the two drug shipment thefts we’ve covered so far are not the only times Flaquito has pulled this kind of heist - they the times we actually heard about it.

On November 22, 2023, Flaquito’s friend and connection to the Chapito brothers, a man named Nestor Isidro Perez Salas, alias “El Nini”, was arrested by the Mexican government.

It is widely believed that the Chapitos brothers handed over information on Nini and his location to the government, as a way of mitigating the law enforcement pressure bearing down on themselves for their prolific fentanyl trafficking. 

Whether Nini’s arrest caused tension between Flaquito and the Chapito brothers is uncertain. 

On December 19, 2023, three of Flaqito’s envoys, who he had sent to Sinaloa, were found dead. One of the envoys had his eyes gouged out, suggesting they had been heavily tortured before being killed. 

It wasn’t clear exactly who the envoys had been sent to meet in Sinaloa and who had sent them to their fate. Online theories accuse both the Chapito-side and Mayo-side of the homicides.

On December 20, 2023, Flaquito was shot by cartel hitmen while he was in or near Farmacia LH Lomas in Tijuana. Zeta alleges that Flaquito was receiving a shot (like COVID or the seasonal flu) at the time of the attack, while others online claim he was picking up a prescription. 

Regardless of the reason for the visit, it seemed clear that Flaquito’s association with this particular pharmacy was insider information. It's possible that this information was extracted from the envoys during their torture in Sinaloa, but thats ultimately uncertain.

El Flaquito and one of his bodyguards both were struck by the hit. They were quickly loaded into a vehicle and other bodyguards drove them to the nearest hospital. 

Medical staff worked to treat Flaquito and the injured bodyguard. The cartel news account Eco_1_LVM claims that Flaquito’s gunshot wounds were so serious that he was considered “critically injured”. It appears that staff were able to stabilize them and Flaquito is believed to have survived the attack.

Word spread around Tijuana that Flaquito had been shot and taken to Hospital del Prado. 

On December 21, police officers entered the hospital and searched for him, presumably intending to put him under arrest but later that same day, authorities announced they could not find Flaquito inside and he was still at large.

Flaquito had somehow managed to escape.

The Current State of Play

So where does this leave us? It's unclear if Flaquito’s group still maintains an alliance with the Chapitos brothers, but it seems highly unlikely. Even if Flaquito’s envoys were tortured and killed by CDS - Mayo associates, the envoys would have presumably been under the Chapito brothers’ protection during their time in Sinaloa. 

So this leaves Flaquito with merely his CAF connections but the organization, as noted before, is highly fractured and there are CAF subgroups which consider Flaquito a bitter rival. 

Flaquito’s might try forging an alliance with the CJNG again and using El Chencho’s friendship with Mencho to reach out, although years of Flaquito fighting territory battles with CJNG groups may prevent an alliance. 

Flaquito may hide out of state for the time being, however all his strongest allies (like Chencho) tend to operate in Tijuana, so he may still consider Tijuana the safest place for now. Zeta claims that Flaquito is known to have a house in the New City residential subdivision. 

Meanwhile, the Arzate brothers allegedly live out of state, in Sinaloa, oftentimes staying within the city of Mazatlán.


Zeta Tijuana alleges that the man who is currently acting as Aquiles’s point man is Franklin Ernesto Huezo Hernández, alias “El Ranchero”. Ranchero is supposedly also out of state and currently lives in Nayarit. [More details on Ranchero and his criminal history here.]

They claim the top two lieutenants working under Ranchero are Edwin Antonio Rubio López, alias “El Max”, and Jesús Rafael Yocupicio, alias “Cabo 27”. But they also name

  • José Ángel Flores Ayala, alias “El Mostro”
  • Fabricio Hernández, alias “El Lic”
  • Marcial Medina Lopez
  • Fabián Espinoza, alias “El Güero Puchas”
  • “El 300”
  • “El 03”
  • “El 013”

Another Aquiles figure worth keeping an eye on is Felipe Reyes Salas, alias “El Pantera”, who operates in the Otay district of Tijuana. 

Zeta says that El Apache is currently acting as Flaquito’s point man and that Apache has, in essence, taken over Lobo’s role, even alleging that Lobo told his subordinates to start reporting under Apache while he was stuck in prison. Apache primarily operates in the Otay Mesa district of Tijuana. 

Some of his reports are believed to be: 

  • Felipe Solís López
  • Carlos Corona García
  • Juan Arriaga Macías
  • Carlos Ornelas Mejía
  • Daniel Posada
  • Efraín Alfaro
  • Alán Hernández, alias “El Güero Laguna”

As of right now, Flaquito and Aquiles fight against each other through their subordinates, continuing the rivalry that’s defined both of their criminal careers and soaked the streets of Tijuana in blood.


*More citations are hyperlinked within the text

2016 Sources: PSN, Tijuana Press , Zeta Tijuana

2018 Sources: El Sol de Tijuana, AFN Tijuana, Punto Norte, Zeta Tijuana - October 10, 2018, Zeta Tijuana - December 10, 2018

2019 Sources: La Voz Del Frontera, El Imparcial, Punto Norte, Zeta Tijuana, El Sol de Tijuana, Baja Bound, Rosarito En La Noticia, Campestre, Proceso, Zeta Tijuana, UniRadioInforma, AFN Tijuana, MVS Noticias, Zeta Tijuana - September 30, 2019

2020 Sources: Alfredo Alvarez, Ensenada Sin Censura, Zeta Tijuana - January 27, 2020, Zeta Tijuana - February 7, 2020, Zeta Tijuana - August 8, 2020

2021 Sources: Zeta Tijuana - January 2021

2022 Sources: Zeta Tijuana - August 5, 2022

2023 Sources: Zeta Tijuana - July 2023, El Pais, El Universal

More to Read

The History of Ivan Guzman, Leader of CDS - Chapitos

The History of Alfredo Beltran Guzman, The Supposed Inheritor of the BLO


  1. So basically, now everyone wants Flaquito dead. Idk man, that doesn’t sound good for him…

    1. You missed Jose Ramon Galvan Martinez a family member of el flaco, a cop shot at but not killed a couple years back. He was boss of the Drug Dealing Unit and responsible for various drug thefts. He is extremely close to Edwin

    2. Jose Ramon Galvan Martinez
      Agente estatal de investigación

    3. He sports the down syndrome look.

  2. Fantastic work, seems like this Flaco guy is one slithery fella that has corrupted alot of people to watch over him and his interts and has also made a lot of enemies because of his treacherous ways

  3. Great article HEARST.

  4. Incredible read. Hearst, this is 1st class journalism and you're attention to detail and flow are on a different level. Keep up the great work and looking forward to your next master piece!

  5. Great article. Flaco is screwed apparently, but then I've said that before and it didn't come true...

  6. With law enforcement on Flaquito payroll, he should survive, the last stolen shipment netted him over 10 mil.

    1. Tambien le bajo 500 al mencho hace unos años por el pacifico

  7. I’m the Tijuana native that has posted in the past all I have to say this is a very accurate report and responsible, like I said in the past CAF is not done not even close there just more business like and charge a toll,know saying that there’s only one thing I have to clear is CAF was never owned by cds or mayo it was run by El Tres Animales after his arrest his lieutenant was put in charge ,when the organization became more business like they allowed cds to operate but they started missing payments and that’s when flaquito was put in charged of removing cause you just can’t give him an eviction notice but it’s a great report showing CAF structure in a respectful way and how much presence they have but CAF owns Tijuana,rosarito,tecate,Ensenada and have a strong presence in Mexicali

    1. Lol you can't be serious. Rosarito Ensenada and Mexicali are mostly cds. Tecate is cjng vs cds the only thing the rats have left is half of TJ. Caf ain't shit

    2. 8:16 it's not the 90s kid lol

    3. So you guy’s really believe CAF lost control of Ensenada or Rosarito, Tecate just remember these 2facts even in the past CAF always rented these plazas only part’s of it you guy’s remember fermin castro what happened to his family the port of Ensenada can’t be controlled if you don’t control Tijuana you control Tijuana you control Tecate, Ensenada,Rosarito like I said I live here born and raised one thing not to do is believe what you read of irresponsible reporter’s cause of them my Tijuana has become a bloodbath who do think is doing all the killings at a high rate CAF is more business like but still can be violent they rent some part of plaza like Ensenada and charge a toll that’s why there has been a few CAF killed cause there’s a presence there you don’t hear of CAF members being killed in Mexicali

    4. Cause there aren't any 😂

    5. Exactly there’s none in Mexicali cause CAF lost that plaza in 2000 but not Tijuana Baja Norte

    6. 5:37 I don't know. manky all the credible evidence out there points to CDS owning more territory than you give them credit.

    7. Cds does own probably 80 % of Mexico can even prove that but who owns the Tijuana border who charges a toll who is committing massive murders and kidnapping and who’s stealing all the drugs that don’t pay a toll

  8. From what it seems if this Flaquito guy didn't have a solid crew and was easy to kill be wouldn't be stealing drug shit from anyone else.
    He must be backed up by someone unknown of lie say cops and such?

    1. You guys will all call me crazy, but I think he has the backing of La Doña.

  9. 2 too next CAF guys to go are Flaco and Apache in my opinion . Also if Ranchero lives in Nayarit does that point at any truth of MZ having active cells in the state ? Since all the online experts swear it's 100 percent CJNG.

  10. One more thing I needed to post was El Inge, El cabo,El Melvin should be getting out very soon less than a year to be exacted as a native of Tijuana you hear everything but this not a good thing that means more violence in Tijuana

    1. Inge getting out to play video games jajaja

    2. Who does Melvin work for the song bajo perfil is about right?

    3. Cual melvin ? Camacho?

    4. Melvin worked under Inge and took over some of EP1 crew, Gustavo Rivera

      Why can't these guys get out? Do they not have the money anymore? I would think Inge and Fernando Sanchez Arellano could have been released. US didn't ask for them.

  11. Who does Buho fall under?

  12. Good fucking article 🙌. Seems like el flaco has his days numbered ..

    1. with quieto gone and inge getting out soon he's doomed try to stay alive after jacking all the cartels

  13. Good read, Ms. HEARST..
    Some years back, the t.j. semanario Zeta splashed El Flaco's photo on the cover of their weekly edition, along with a half dozen other mugs, El Gross, maybe Piolin, forget who else..
    Slim took exception to the publicity and made some kind of threat against the magazine that was taken seriously enough that they had cops (maybe estatatal, don't recall) parked in front of the Zeta building for awhile..
    FGR popped him in October of 2020, and there's a video out there of the feds in a mass physical altercation with I think municipales, who tried to rescue their boy but to no avail..
    He bought his way out of the slammer pretty quick that time..
    A slippery fellow, but everybody's mad at him now, if he was smart, he'd jack one last tomatero load and buy a modest villa on the Spanish coast and get to live to one day play with the grandkids..

    1. Naaaa creooooooooo

    2. 10:08 a few years back I think some narco was suing BB so BB took a little hiatus. One of the last posts that BB did before the hiatus was one that described the situation 9:28 is saying about the cops

    3. 10:48 crybaby maradona was the suer

    4. 11:31 wait I thought it was Chapo the one that had snitched and sued BB.. thought Michoacanos didn't snitch .

    5. 10:48
      It's done and over with get over it, stop dwelling, on issues that got resolved years ago, dismissed , BB is all vollenter work, non-profit

  14. Appreciate u Hearst good piece of journalism! Kept me engaged wanting to read more .

  15. It’s calle cobrando piso

  16. You can be a family man and have other women,
    I myself love my wife and out 3 kids.
    But she aging and I’m easy on the eyes so I gotta clinch my thirst from time to time

    1. Ah the old “thirst clincher”.

    2. Ella piensa lo mismo, al rato te la regreso. Hahaha

  17. This is one of the best pieces ever written for the site, we all really appreciate the work

    it's always interesting how time, and a slightly wider perspective form a narrative and reveals a lot, like all the issues on the port, all the alliances, the factions, the various killings and ambushes that make more sense in the wider frame.

    That October 2020 arrest was real, but not much was ever officially reported, that he was detained by FGR and the States got him out of it, I remember that too, parts of that story are still available on BB, the video was gone. He was in that same area, as the latest shooting.

    Also, the complicity of high ranking state officials, Carpio being one of them, and US intelligence revealing it.

    One question, is there any confirmation that the three found in Culiacan were Flacos guys? Besides the jerseys and the comments. The timing lines up, but the precision and timing of the attack in TJ, suggests more like a last second ambush -but true it could just be the place as under surveillance waiting for him to show.

    1. Hi J!

      I remember having that same question about the three dead guys in El Tule. Authorities confirmed that all three men were originally from Tijuana.

      El Sol newspaper named the victims as José Adalberto Urias, Edwin Adalberto "N." and Alberto "N."

      Not sure if that will help confirm if they worked for Flaquito, but maybe someone will recognize a name?

      Also, the way you describe how time and a wider perspective help us to see the larger narrative is just so perfectly put.

      I look back at my old articles which covered smaller parts of this mess and they all seem embarrassingly incomplete.

      But I also don't know how, going forward, I could do anything different and somehow see the larger ebbs and flows that all the small incidents are a part of. Feels like the only way to know how things fit together is to wait and watch.

      I'll look into the October 2020 arrest. Always love seeing your comments, J.

    2. Its like a puzzle, at the start you have many small pieces but when you pay attention to these small pieces and time goes by you see the broader picture. Amazing work hearst. Just keep on, i think you found the best way to tell the broader picture how all these small dots are connected together.
      Great job!!!

  18. Wow 👏👏👏 very very good article.


  19. Is Enedina Arellano Félix still in play?, or was that all just a myth?

    1. She's not in the business. She has never been indicted or named in the US. She's not wanted. She's somewhere in the US or Mexico, living some form of a regular life.

      Alicia Arellano is Inge's Mom, but she's not in the business either. Inge was the last one.

    2. Myth Fernanditos mom is Alicia Arellano not Enedina

    3. Negativo J. Luis Fernando fue el ultimo cual estaba en la vista pública. Su medio bro nada que ver. El único Barrón de la N falleció junto con el Z3 en el helicóptero de la baja mil. Lo demás es historia.

  20. I bet flaquito not even in tj

  21. Big shot out to the Bustamante family!!

    1. I know all the information about the Bustamantes seems like a tangent. 😅

      I wanted readers to have some context about just how powerful this family is, so when Flaquito later name drops them in his narco message, they'd understand that this was not, like, some Holiday Inn manager, you know?

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

  23. Wow. Great read Hearst. I just imagine your living room walls plastered with pictures and articles, pins and twine connecting this figure to that figure, one incident to another incident, in this organized chaos that only you can understand and tie together for us. Keep it up. 🙂✌🏽👍🏼

  24. Good article! I thought Apache was taken out a week after the whole flako thing tho?

    1. Nah an audio of his was going around saying he was Aquiles and Rana worst nightmare lol

    2. A video too 🤣

  25. Wow this is such a great article Hearst, thank you so much for putting this together. It really gives me a chance to wrap my around everything going on in Tijuana the last five years. It's so awesome the way you've tied everything together. Bravo!

  26. Amazing article, talk about journalism skills at their finest and impeccable research!

    I don’t understand though, wasn’t it said to be his brother that got shot in front of him?

    1. Zeta wrote "salió huyendo a pie de la escena donde quedó muerto su hermano (aunque investigadores lo ubican como su sobrino) Ronaldo Alexis Huerta Nuño."

      Ronaldo's surnames were allegedly "Huerta Nuño", which tends to support the idea of Ronaldo being Flaquito's brother.

      But for whatever reason investigators claim Ronaldo was his nephew. I just tried to acknowledge both possibilities.

    2. Great article none the less, Hearst..

      I do remember mantas taunting the loss of his brother after this event, so I’m leaning towards that narrative being the truth.. I believe they were both operating together for a while*

  27. What a great read. So much has changed over the years with CAF. Inge will never be indicted in the US, Melvin is old and a "has been." Roque is hiding, his old crew from back in the day in Logan are all heroin junkies and informants. Unfortunately all of the old school guys that are being released from prison don't have the juice or muscle to "get the band back together."

    Again, thanks for the great read Hearst.

  28. La fiscal has been been hitting Los Chapitos y Mayos lately in TJ wonder what they have planned mean while Mr Flakito has been on hush mode over there where ever he is

  29. Say what you will, this guy has certainly survived some terrible odds until now.. helping lead an organization that is seemingly the target of many cartels… and law enforcement!

  30. This connects a lot of dots as we always see the stuff happening in Tijuana but with so many groups operating there it’s hard to tell the players involved. I had previously asked for a deep dive on flakito as he seemed to be a mysterious character that came outta nowhere in TJ so this explains a lot.

    1. Then it must have been you who made the comment which made me write this. Someone asked for deep dive on Flaquito. I tried my best.

  31. Flaco is probably in San Diego protected by the DEA. Just like Carlos Carillo and Isaac Ripa aka abogado and Ripa…

    1. Ya supéralos Roxana Verber como chingas con lo mismo.

  32. Great article. Reads like a movie.

  33. Ripa hasn't been anyone for a long time.

    1. Of course he has corridos with Miguel Comando he lives in Mexico City and Cancun

  34. damn man. good article

  35. Is genta nueva breaking away from the Chapitos?

    1. I read on another website that Los Salazar is no longer working for them and they killed El Yankee.

    2. I saw that in a social media post! No idea if it's true.

      Wouldn't there be more violence if Salazars left?

    3. Yeah I think there would be a lot more violence. Salazars are a big deal to the Chapitos I would think. They're in Sinaloa, Sonora, Tijuana and so on for them. Maybe once the old man that ran it for Chapo was extradited a few months ago they decided to quit working for them.

    4. Its just the gente nueva that was under el cazador.

    5. Now that makes sense since they broke away because of the fentanyl. Their small and Chapitos will take it back.

  36. Read this article twice!!!!! Excellent work, Hearst!!!!!

  37. Great read and appreciate your time in connecting the dots and presenting a clear narrative on El Flaquito. Another example why BB and especially yourself in detailing the cartels.

    Truly impressive! ☝️

  38. Los villareales still in the mix. I know they’re in jail but there people still active in CAF. Those are the CAF members I believe are running the show while flaquitos CAF is a clown circus.

    1. Ivan Candelario Magana Heredia aka Soldado is on an indictment in 2010 linked to Fernando Sanchez Arellano

      hasn't been heard from since. There was another Richie Villareal Hereida arrested in 2018, not the Flaco Richie.

      but it was said that a lot of those guys, including El Jimmy Manuel Ivanovich Flores work with CJNG now

    2. Los Beltranes son los buenos y los Villarreal están ahí o estuvieron ahí por ellos, no confundan hacer ruido con bajo perfil

  39. Ronaldo stood up to the bodyguard, got killed while Flaquito ran like a chicken. Then Flaquito demands the bodyguard be turned over. This guy deserves to be put down.

    1. There are so many great reasons to dislike Flaquito (much like every narco there's ever been), but, running for cover when you are unarmed and taking fire is not one of them.

      If you find yourself without a firearm in the middle of a gunfight, running is the smart move.

  40. Soldado was killed in Guadalajara in 2010. Per the killers they made pozole of his body.


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