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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Top Narcos in Gulf Cartel's Escorpiones

"HEARST" and "Morogris" for Borderland Beat

The Gulf Cartel - Escorpiones control the drug and migrant smuggling in the most eastern part of the US - Mexico border. 

Last week, La Kena, the leader of the group, was arrested, leaving a power vacuum in his wake. The question on everyone’s mind is: who will take over leading the group? 

Here’s our review of the top cartel figures who are active in the Escorpiones / Matamoros faction.

Name: Armando López Garcés

Aliases: El Pájaro (the bird), El Pajarito, Bravo 1, Escorpión 7

Armando Lopez Garces was mentioned in old DEA slides, which described him as being the third in command of Escorpiones and in charge of Contador’s personal security, at the time the slides were created. Tamaulipas RTC describes him as the operational leader of the Escorpiones.

In August 2021, during a major government crack down on the Escorpiones, El Pajaro was either arrested or almost arrested. He somehow got released or evaded capture, and just a week later “La Droga”, a different Escorpiones member, was arrested

Nidia Salas alleges El Pajaro ordered a hit on a state police officer, which took place on New Years Day 2023. Some allege that Pajaro is a bit of a Contador loyalist.

Name: Luis Gabriel Lopez Saldaña

Aliases: El Cape, Escorpión 25

El Cape is consistently identified as one of the top three leaders within the Matamoros faction however very little is known about him. El Cape’s brother, Édgar Samuel López Saldaña, alias “El Cabo”, is an important Matamoros faction financial operator that we’ll dive into later on. 

In 2022, it was alleged that El Cape was in charge of Escorpiones forces in San Luis Potosí and in parts of southern Tamaulipas. 

Name: Ricardo Zúñiga or Sergio Guevara Vázquez 

Aliases:  El Ciego, El Richy

Born in Madero, Tamaulipas, the actual name of “El Ciego” remains unclear, with cartel news account MennyValdez alleging his name was Sergio Guevara Vazquez in June 2023 but later saying it was Ricardo Zuñiga in September 2023. 

El Ciego is rumored to have entered the cartel scene in June 2013. In June 2023, it was reported that El Ciego was apprehended in Matamoros but it was later clarified that the person detained was not Ciego. 

El Ciego is known for trafficking cocaine via either ships or airplanes, as well as being involved in fuel theft and the extortion of transportation companies. He’s also known to allegedly kidnap innocent business men and other cartel members, holding them for ransom. 

Ciego reportedly summoned a member of rival cartel group Los Metros, Julio Cesar Lazo Rodríguez, for a “meeting” which ended up being a kidnapping for ransom scheme.

Sources: Menny Valdez Post 1, Post 2; Heraldo de Mexico; Borderland Beat

Name: Gerardo Ayala Roel

Aliases: El G1

According to the company registry page of the US Department of Transportation (DOT), Ayala Roel operates a carrier company based in Matamoros with a mailing address in Hidalgo, Texas, situated just across the border from Reynosa. His company is documented as having 16 drivers and 16 power units. The company has been operational since February 2022 and specializes in transporting chemicals, liquids/gases, and general freight. They are designated as an interstate carrier, indicating their capability to transport goods across multiple U.S. states beyond Texas.

He previously served as a managing partner in another company, Gartrev & Company LLC, headquartered in Brownsville. This business is currently overseen by his alleged son, Gerardo Ayalal Jr. Additionally, there is another affiliated company named Ayala & Company, LLC, managed by Luis Rangel, an alleged relative.

Name: Eutimio Chávez Ruelas

Aliases: El Timo, Escorpión 24, Ciclón 24

Eutimio Chavez Ruelas is a high-ranking Gulf Cartel member who was closely associated with El Contador. Timo’s daughter is married to Alan Alexis Cárdenas Rodríguez, one of Contador’s sons. Following El Contador's arrest, Timo began reporting under La Kena. 

El Timo was once a member of Los Ciclones, where he had the code name Ciclon 24. His purported role in the cartel involves managing police protection and making bribery payments to municipal, state, and federal personnel. 

In 2021, El Timo was arrested by State Police officers but Timo reportedly paid authorities $500,000 to be quietly released from prison. 

Sources: Reynosa CR, Reynosa CR, Reynosa CR, La Sabia Calle; Informativo Noreste; Borderland Beat

Name: Alfredo del Río de la Fuente

Aliases: El Ardilla (the squirrel), Escorpión 49

Alfredo del Rio de la Fuente was also featured on the old DEA slides, mentioned by Menny just a few months ago. 

He used to be in charge of Mante, but he was allegedly replaced by Luis Gabriel López Saldaña, “El Cape”. According to one source, he held the position of fourth-in-command within the leadership hierarchy under El Contador in 2023. Specifically, he was identified as the head of operations for the group.

Name: Gumesindo Pérez Maya

Aliases: El Gume

Gumesindo Perez Maya was featured in the old DEA slides. In early December 2023, he was arrested and bribed his way out. He's been heard in audio requesting trucks for a fight with Los Metros. He is based out of Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas.

An edict from the Attorney General's Office (FGR), published on April 19, 2022, stated that authorities would not pursue any criminal action against Gumersindo Pérez Maya, also known as Juan Reyna Pérez. He had been previously accused of the crime of torture in the investigation folder FED/FEMDH/FEIDT-TAMP/0000011/2019.

Name: Ezequiel Cárdenas Rivera

Aliases: El Cheke, El Chubasco, El Junior

He is one of the sons of Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, alias “Tony Tormenta”. El Cheke is the brother of George Cardenas Rivera and Karla Elizabeth Cardenas Rivera. 

El Cheke is sometimes referred to as “Tony Tormenta Junior”. Little was known about him prior to his arrest in November 2011, a year after his father was killed. He was arrested alongside four others. 

After 2016, El Cheke largely faded from public view, although some sources claimed he partially founded the newest iteration of Los Escorpiones. 

It is unclear how long Cheke was imprisoned, although he was referenced online in November 2016, with posts alleging that he was extorting a number of businesses without the knowledge of “El Contador”, who was now the leader of the Matamoros faction. 

On March 27, 2023, a number of kidnappers were arrested outside of Matamoros by State Police officers. These kidnappers were found to be wearing vests which read “Grupo de Operaciones Cercanas a Ezequiel Cardenas” (or GOCEC).

Some would later try to spin this incident as simply a drunken night where some men shot off guns  - drawing the attention of police; however, a kidnapping victim was rescued from their captivity, so there’s little doubt that Cheke is involved in kidnapping schemes. 

Name: René Villareal García (or Garza)

Aliases: El Titán 5, El Gordo, Scorpion 1

Rene Villareal Garcia (or Garza) is reportedly the primary leader of Escorpiones / Matamoros forces in the state of San Luis Potosi. 

He is believed to be based out of Matehuala, San Luis Potosí.  He is the husband of one of Osiel’s daughters: Yahaira Cárdenas, or “Yaya”.

Sources: Unión Ciudadana Contra la Delincuencia; El Universal

Name: Eduardo Ismael Flores Borrego

Aliases: G3, Gama 3, El Negro, El Negrito, Escorpion 19

He is the brother of Samuel Flores Borrego, “Metro 3”, a founding member of Los Metros. His brother was killed in 2011. In April 2013, G3 was apprehended by the Federal Police but subsequently released. Reports from that year indicated that G3 commanded a group of over 30 gunmen tasked with eliminating rival Zetas members.

G3 was rumored to be the head of the Valle Hermosa plaza since at least 2014 when the Mexican government issued a list of Tamaulipas plaza bosses. G3 was arrested in Reynosa, Tamaulipas in August 2015. State Police said G3 was in charge of leading a group of 32 hitmen at the time of this arrest. 

In July 2023, his men hung banners in Reynosa which challenged the leader of Gulf Cartel - Metros “El Primito”. 

Name: Uriel Valenzuela

Aliases: Escorpion 92, SC 92 

The alleged plaza boss of the Abasolo & Soto La Marina area of Tamaulipas. Rodrigo Herrera, alias “El Balin” reportedly works under him. 

Name: Rodrigo Herrera

Aliases: El Balin, Scorpion 42 

Head of hitmen in the Abasolo & Soto La Marina area of Tamaulipas. He allegedly works under Uriel Valenzuela, alias “Escorpion 92”. He can be seen in two videos shown below. 

Video Source: Tamaulipas En Riesgo

Video Source: Tamaulipas En Riesgo

One of the online-circulated pictures of Herrera shows him seated on the trunk of a Tamaulipas State Police patrol unit, engaged in conversation with two officers. He appeared unarmed and visibly at ease, suggesting a friendly interaction. The photograph was captured on or before July 2023.

He is not to be confused with Humberto Rodrigo Herrera Lara, a Tamaulipas State Police officer implicated in supporting the Gulf Cartel and Zetas Vieja Escuela (ZVE).

Sources: Menny, Tamaulipas En Riesgo Post 1, Post 2

Name: Diego Aurelio Salgado, or Diego Salas

Aliases: El Yeyo, Escorpión 70, SC70 

He reportedly perpetrated an attack on State Police officers in Reynosa, which left 2 officers dead. He was rumored to have been killed in September 2023, but he was later reported to have survived the incident. 

In September 2023, the plaza boss of Rio Bravo, a man named Jaime Humberto Escalante Soto, aliases “Escorpion 45” and “El Casco”, was moved to lead incursions into San Fernando, and El Yeyo took over being plaza boss of Rio Bravo. 

Sources: Borderland Beat Post 1, Post 2, NarcoGuerraMX, Tamaulipas En Riesgo

Name: Gerardo Cárdenas Medina 

Aliases: El Fantasma 

He is the son of Mario Alberto Cardenas Guillen, “Metro 1”. Fantasma is the brother of Manuel Cárdenas Medina, who was executed in 2016, and Mario Alberto Cardenas, alias “El Betito”. 

He operates a CDG - Matamoros / Escorpions group in Coahuila. His group is mainly found in Piedras Negras, Acuña, the Cinco Manantiales and border regions. Fantasma’s group reportedly smuggles drugs supplied by Sinaloa Cartel - Mayo affiliates, the Cabrera Sarabia brothers

The brothers are Alejandro Cabrera Sarabia, alias "El 02", and José Luis Cabrera Sarabia, alias "El 03". They utilize two routes, either taking the highways from Torreon to Saltillo to Monclova, ending up at Piedras Negras, or going from Torreon to San Pedro to Monclova, then ending up at Piedras Negras. 

Fantasma’s group also engages in the smuggling of firearms from the US into Mexico and the smuggling of migrants across the US-Mexico border (and it's all too likely that his group also engages in kidnapping-for-ransom schemes on said migrants). His group works closely with a street gang in Texas called “PRM” which operates in the Del Rio and Eagle Pass border crossing regions. 

Fantasma has an armed wing working under him that calls itself "Fuerzas Especiales Cárdenas Guillén” or FEGC.

Sources: Unión Ciudadana Contra la Delincuencia, Vivo En Marte, Código Rojo Laguna

Name: Édgar Samuel López Saldaña

Aliases: El Cabo

Edgar Samuel Lopez Saldana is the brother of Luis Gabriel Lopez Saldaña, alias “El Cape”, who is identified as a high-ranking member of the Matamoros faction. 

El Cabo reportedly works closely with a customs brokerage company named Transmigrantes Águila, which focuses on the export and import of vehicles into Mexico. 

Transmigrantes Aguila has an office in Los Indios, Texas, which links up with Matamoros through the Free Trade International Bridge. The company is run by Miguel Hipólito Caballero Aupart and Mara Andrómeda Caballero Paredes, and involves other Caballero family members. 

Miguel Hipolito Caballero Aupart, who works closely with El Cabo, was charged in 2022 by US authorities for “conspiracy to monopolize the transmigrante forwarding industry” citing the company’s use of violence, threats, and their effort to fix prices, allocate market, and eliminate competition. 

Name: Juan Enrique Ávalos Landaverde
Aliases: La Pingüa, Escorpión 18

Juan Enrique Avalos Landaverde is a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel - Matamoros faction. Pingüa’s mother, Nereyda Landaverde Vilano, alias “La Nere”, is La Kena’s half sister, making Pingüa Kena’s nephew. 

It is alleged that his mother plays a pivotal role as the financial operator of Matamoros faction, overseeing motels and food businesses for money laundering activities. 

Pingua’s Dario and “El More” Rodriguez Vilano also work with him as part of the Matamoros faction. His nickname “La Pingua” refers to a small drug tablet. 

Sources: Proceso, Milenio; Info7

Name: Balkys [or Balquis] Marlene Garcia Leal

Alias: El Balquis

She is the wife of El Contador, the former leader of the Matamoros faction, who is currently in prison. She has allegedly been acting as an intermediary for Contador and relaying his orders to leadership in Escorpiones - orders which she receives during her prison visits. 

In 2013, Balkys gave birth to Contador’s daughter: Fernanda Cardenas Garcia. 

Borderland Beat usually does not post the photos of children of narcos if they are not involved in cartel activity. However, in 2020, Contador and Balkys made the truly bizarre decision to secure a front page story for their daughter Fernanda, when she was just 7 years old.

Her parents had her pose for the cover of Select Society magazine on their December 2020 issue. The magazine is generally circulated in the Mexican city of Matamoros and the US city of Brownsville. 

It's unclear why Contador and Balkys are choosing to make their daughter a public figure, but it certainly speaks to the level of impunity and power they believe they possess in Tamaulipas. 

It's worth mentioning that, based on the last names, Contador’s sons Axel and Alan are not her children, but the children that Contador had with a different woman. 

Sources: Borderland Beat, Nidia Salas, Mariana P


  1. Why is G3 escorpiones of Metro 3 was with metros ?

    1. G3 is with Matamoros/Escorpiones.

      He even co-signed a banner with Kena in July 2023 and the banner was threatening Primito.

    2. El negro left metros after some of los metros specifically X20 were in on his brother M3 getting killed. los metros wanted to ally with CDS but M3 didn’t want to so X20 and other metros had him killed. Los metros also accused El negro of snitching when he was arrested and released after just doing a little bit of time and a leader of metros was arrested just before El negro was release.


  2. If crime is your business the last thing you want is to take photos of yourself, these guys won't last.

    1. Are you kidding?!? Wouldn't it be bad ass if they make a corrido out of you going out in a blaze of glory so that you can bump it everyday!?!?!?! Think Vato!!

    2. Les gana la vanidad.

  3. Nice work Hearst. How.did you interested in narcos?

    1. I don't want to sound cagey but a girl's got to keep a few secrets for herself.

  4. Great combo of Hearst and Morogris. hope to see both of you do more reports in the future... Love you both!

  5. AP story of Miami attorneys and DEA supervisors alleged corruption.

  6. Was El contador really that rich and powerful? I always struggle to conceptualize their strength

  7. 👏👏👏 Once again my hat off to you


  8. Its crazy how contador and his wife put out their daughter out when he has enemies that are willing to shoot her up. What a fool he is for that

  9. Excellent piece Hearst and morogris. Alv contadors wife is a smoke show not better than my dear Emitta though

    1. lol border mexicans arent that hot
      Hottest is usually sinaloa/guadalajar/Mty

    2. Cecilia marlene cardenas salina
      vive aqui

      1011 Travis St
      Mission Tx 78582

    3. 1:46. Al contrario, ahí están luego luego para lo suyo.

  10. Fantastic reporting as usual. LOVE these posts about CDG.

    1. Glad you enjoyed! If you have other CDG suggestions or ideas for a story, feel free to email me.

  11. So I'm guessing it was true that MZ faction had a truce with CDG Matamoros through los Cabrera from Durango

  12. Who is the overall leader, many plaza bosses but who is the actually head? I dint believe that kena was the top.

  13. Metro will eventually get rid of these clowns

    1. You mean the same Lambe-huevos that bent over for the Jaliskilla trash 🤡🤣🤣. al rato se le voltean al Primito y se quedan con todo el estado, por algo les llaman los torcidos al CJNG

    2. 10:49 it's business, so far they been tight for years. I don't see them flipping on each other. They both benefit from them clicking up.
      Escorpiones on the other hand are just a gang of thieves and car jakers and extortionist

    3. 4:56 El problema es que esos Jaliscuinos siempre andan publicando videos llorando que el gobierno apoya a los contras. Sin embargo, en estados como Guanajuato y SLP, y ahorita en Tamaulipas el mismo gobierno les a limpiado el terreno, y aun asi ni en sus estados de origen (Michoacan y Jalisco) pueden controlar los mugrosos 🤦‍♂️

    4. 4:56 if Metros being were so "united" as you claim, how come Primito took out Pezon, Choco 90, and Kalamardo? After all these were comandantes loyal a la bandera de Toro M42. This is probably why Gamma 3 sided with Escorpiones because Primito is a sellout. In essence the Metros and Jaliscos have become what they hated, los Zs

  14. Very, very impressive and informative article. Thank you BB from a dedicated and appreciative reader.

  15. Dam I wonder if they know all this Intel is out about them? They probably don't even care huh

  16. Excelente reportaje.

    Por cierto Ezequiel Cárdenas que necesitado de atención poniendo su nombre en las actividades que realiza.

  17. Yo soy de Rio Bravo y digan lo que digan desde que los sinaloenses metieron su cuchara aquí en Tamaulipas, todo valió pura ñonga .. aunque al final perdieron, esos puñetas vinieron y cambiaron el panorama y el estilo y ritmo de vida de los tamaulipecos .. si hubieran respetado los viejos acuerdos todo estaría bien todavía

    1. Esto fue la culpa de el XX o el Coss
      Invito a el azul por que los 3 se hicieron XXX cartel...

      Pinche Coss no duro nada des pues de todo el desmadre

  18. I thought this Escorpiones were an arm wing of los cyclones? Also damn they dont say nothing about cyclones.

    1. I spent years trying to parse the current usage of "Ciclones" and "Espartanos", and trying to always make the distinction of Escorpiones being a highly specific group of hitmen working under the Matamoros faction.

      But things have changed a lot in the last year. On social media, cartel members refer to all people from the Matamoros faction as Grupo Escorpiones. The way these terms are applied and what they mean evolves.

  19. LMAO that video is a trip
    a bunch of lazy people i guess people dont like working nowadays regardless the type of work they do.


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