Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 30: “El Marro” – José Antonio Yépez Ortiz Leader of the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Arrested in Guanajuato

Mon, 08/17/2020 - 10:30pm

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 30: “El Marro” – José Antonio Yépez Ortiz Leader of the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Arrested in Guanajuato

Nathan P. Jones, John P. Sullivan, and Robert J. Bunker

José Antonio Yépez Ortiz (aka “El Marro”) was arrested by elements of the Mexican Army (Sedena) in Guanajuato on Sunday, 2 August 2020.  “El Marro,” which means the sledgehammer or mallet, is the leader of the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL).  The CSRL are widely known for their role as ‘huachicoleros’ or participants in the illicit fuel trade.  The CSRL has been embattled for the past year as government forces sought its leader’s arrest and it fought against its rival the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) for control of Guanajuato’s illicit economy.

El Marro AIC

“El Marro” ha sido capturado. En operativo coordinado de fuerzas federales y estatales (“El Marro” has been captured. In a coordinated operation of federal and state forces). Source: Fiscalía General del Estado de Guanajuato (Guanajuato State Attorney General). 2 August 2020, https://twitter.com/FGEGUANAJUATO/status/1289903921389957121?s=20.

Key Information: Dave Graham, “Mexico nabs ‘El Marro’, fuel theft king blamed for surge in drug violence.” Reuters. 2 August 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-drugs/mexico-nabs-el-marro-fuel-theft-king-blamed-for-surge-in-drug-violence-idUSKBN24Y0EX:

“El Marro” (The Mallet), Yepez was arrested in the early hours of Sunday by soldiers and state officials during a raid on a house in Guanajuato, a central state that has become the main flashpoint of record gang violence, authorities said…

…Guanajuato’s government said security forces captured Yepez and five other suspected gang members in a village called Franco Tavera in the Santa Cruz de Juventino Rosas municipality, a few miles north of where the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel was born.

Key Information: Kate Linthicum, “Mexico arrests ‘El Marro,’ gang leader at the center of a bloody cartel war.” Los Angeles Times. 2 August 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-08-02/mexico-arrests-el-marro-gang-leader-cartel-battles:

Mexican authorities on Sunday arrested the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, a gang known for stealing millions of dollars in fuel from government pipelines and for turning once-peaceful Guanajuato state into one of the most dangerous regions in the country…

Yépez Ortiz, 40, first made headlines for reportedly stealing more than $1 million worth of fuel a day from the many pipelines radiating from a government-owned oil refinery in the city of Salamanca. His cartel became the most powerful of the country’s many fuel-theft gangs, known as huachicoleros, and later branched out into other illegal enterprises, including extortion and local drug sales.

In 2017, his group ran afoul of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, known as “El Mencho.”

Key Information: Azam Ahmed, “Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence.” New York Times. 2 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/02/world/americas/mexico-el-marro-caapture.html:

While the arrest of José Antonio Yépez delivers a major blow to a cartel, analysts say officials lack a cohesive strategy against debilitating crime…

…The Santa Rosa de Lima cartel began its reign in the state of Guanajuato, pilfering oil from pipelines that crisscross that area of central Mexico and siphoning off amounts estimated at one point to be valued at nearly $2 million a day.

As the head of a small start-up cartel, which analysts say was largely run as a family crime group, Mr. Yépez showed uncharacteristic pluck, challenging both the government and much larger and more diversified criminal groups.

In emotional videos, Mr. Yépez has often lashed out at his enemies and even threatened the president himself if federal troops were not withdrawn from his native state, where they had been sent to fight fuel theft.

Key Information: Carlos Álvarez, “Detienen en Guanajuato a ‘El Marro’, capo ‘huachicolero’, líder del Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima.” Zeta. 2 August 2020, https://zetatijuana.com/2020/08/detienen-en-guanajuato-a-el-marro-capo-huachicolero-lider-del-cartel-de-santa-rosa-de-lima/:

José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro”, presunto líder del Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), principal responsable del robo de combustible o “huachicol” en el estado de Guanajuato, fue detenido la madrugada de este domingo 2 de agosto, por elementos del Ejército mexicano, así como de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública y la Fiscalía General del Estado.

“El Marro” será trasladado al Centro Federal de Readaptación Social (CEFERESO) Número 1, “El Altiplano”, en Almoloya de Juárez, Estado de México, según lo confirmó el titular de la de Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana (SSPC) Federal, Alfonso Durazo Montaño.[1]

Key Information: Héctor De Mauleón, “‘Everything has a beginning and an end. Mine has already arrived,’ El Marro told the agents.” El Universal. 3 August 2020, https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/opinion/hector-de-mauleon/todo-tiene-un-principio-y-un-fin-el-mio-ya-llego-les-dijo-el-marro-los:

Termina así una etapa negra en Guanajuato: la década del Marro.

Lamentablemente, queda un infierno por venir: la disgregación del Cártel de Santa Rosa en pequeñas y feroces células, o bien, la absorción de su estructura por un nuevo grupo dominante: el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, que dirige Nemesio Oseguera, El Mencho, y que lleva años peleando por el control de los ductos.

Expertos en temas de seguridad creen que habrá en el estado un nuevo coletazo de sangre: ya sea por el reacomodo del Cártel de Santa Rosa, o por la “limpia” que el Cártel Jalisco emprenderá en los lugares que El Marro deja acéfalos.

Para evitar que el fuego se avive, debe llegar un nuevo golpe, esta vez del lado del Mencho. Pero sobre todo es preciso que se desnuden las redes de corrupción que desde Pemex y el sindicato hicieron posible a José Antonio Yepez, El Marro.[2]

Key Information: Verónica Espinosa, “‘En todo Guanajuato sigue mandando el Marro’: mensaje colocado sobre dos cadáveres en Celaya.” Proceso. 3 August 2020, http://ow.ly/ayQR50APRV6:

Dos cuerpos humanos envueltos en bolsas de plástico y amarrados con cinta fueron abandonados en dos distintos puntos de Celaya, ambos con mensajes supuestamente firmados por el Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima.

“Que les quede claro, estamos más unidos que nunca, aquí y en todo Guanajuato sigue mandando el señor Marro”, se leía en las cartulinas de colores fosforescentes que fueron colocadas junto a los dos cadáveres.

Los restos humanos fueron abandonados horas después de que se conoció la captura del líder de esa organización criminal, José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, “El Marro”, detenido en Juventino Rosas, en una presunta casa de seguridad donde tenían secuestrada a una mujer…

…Dos cuerpos humanos envueltos en bolsas de plástico y amarrados con cinta fueron abandonados en dos distintos puntos de Celaya, ambos con mensajes supuestamente firmados por el Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima.[3]

El Marro

José Antonio “N” alias “El Marro” Detenido (José Antonio “N” alias “El Marro” Detained). Source: Source: Fiscalía General del Estado de Guanajuato (Guanajuato State Attorney General). 2 August 2020, https://twitter.com/FGEGUANAJUATO/status/1289906825295327232?s=20.

Analysis

The capture of José Antonio Yépez Ortiz (“El Marro”) throws the balance of power in Guanajuato into turmoil.  The situation in Guanajuato has been characterized by an intense paramilitary conflict between the Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) led by “El Marro” and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (known as “El Mencho”).  The situation in Guanajuato can be depicted as a three-way contest for local supremacy involving the CSRL, the CJNG, and elements of the state (including the government of Guanajuato state and its constituent municipalities, as well as the federal government). 

At first glance, Guanajuato seems an implausible location for an organized crime hotspot, but its oil pipelines and refinery at Salamanca have made it a key battleground in a highly diversified organized crime landscape, which now includes huachicoleo (oil theft) as a core component.[4]  The arrest of El Marro may have significant implications for the levels of violence in the Guanajuato and the balance of power in Mexico’s criminal economy.  If the CJNG gains control of Guanajuato, this could alter the nature of the illicit petroleum trade, drug trafficking, and the relationship between the CJNG and other criminal cartels with elements of the state.  If the CSRL is able to survive El Marro’s capture and transition leadership, the contest between the CSRL and CJNG may continue.

Background

Mexican organized crime groups such as Los Zetas diversified their drug portfolios into new activities like extortion and oil theft, as scholars have pointed out for some time now.[5]  Mexico had long derived high percentages of government revenue from the state oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), with that percentage peaking at 40% of government revenues in the 2000s under the Vicente Fox Sexenio (administration).  With the rise of oil theft and declining production (due in part to reduced exploration), that percentage began to drop and Pemex suffered from significant internal theft and clandestine pipeline taps.[6]  Other Mexican organized crime groups moved into the oil theft business and the CSRL emerged.  The CSRL was primarily involved in hydrocarbon theft and then diversified into other criminal enterprises.[7]  Since the 2010s, the number of clandestine taps has drastically increased as has violence related to the petroleum theft market in states such as Guanajuato, Puebla, and Veracruz.[8]

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution, pointed out in a recent interview for this note that the Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) administration has focused on economic nationalism, with Pemex playing a major role in the vision of the future of the country in lieu of a focus on new technologies such as solar and other energy alternatives.  Thus, in 2019, the fight against oil theft appeared to be the sole focus of the new government.  In April 2019, the government claimed oil theft was down by more than 90%.  Unfortunately, as Felbab-Brown points out, the administration was forced to focus on a myriad of other activities—such as migration enforcement— due to pressure from the Trump administration.  Further, the administration’s reliance on anticorruption measures has not generated the resources needed for serious state capacity or socio-economic redistribution reforms.[9]

In roughly 2017—although earlier narcomantas from the CJNG in 2013 claim their arrival and intent to “cleanse” the state—the Cártel De Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) began a coordinated campaign to wrest control of the state of Guanajuato, its pipelines, and major refinery at Salamanca from the CSRL.[10]  According to the Justice in Mexico Project, the CSRL had been a subsidiary of the CJNG and announced its independence under the leadership of El Marro in 2017.[11]  Guanajuato rapidly became one of the most violent states in Mexico as pitched battles between organized crime groups became common.  For example, Table 1 below, is based on Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) open source data collection, and demonstrates the high levels of violence in Guanajuato relative to other states in Mexico over the last year and half.[12]

ACLED

Table 1. Relative Violence in Guanajuato Compared to Other States. Source: Authors’ Elaboration using “Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED);” https://www.acleddata.com.

The leader of the CSRL, El Marro, proved adept at fighting the better resourced CJNG as he had with previous incursions of the Zetas and Caballeros Templarios.  Both organizations proved tactically sophisticated, using Colombian papa bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) primarily in the areas of major oil theft conflict.[13]

While less discussed in Guanajuato, the Sinaloa Cartel has long operated there in low-profile fashion.  Sinaloa operators were present in the state since the Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel era (pre-2010) when the CJNG was still part of the Sinaloa cartel operating as a paramilitary apparatus calling itself the Matazetas.  The Sinaloa operators grew “lazy” and did not expand markets.[14]  Thus, they were unprepared when the battle-hardened CJNG entered the state in the 2010s.  Once the CJNG scored victories across the country in new areas, the Sinaloa Cartel sponsored rivals to keep it weakened.  El Marro sought support of theSinaloa faction led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García after the extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera in 2017 to the United States.  That support did not materialize, as it didn’t meet Mayo Zambada’s strategic imperative, despite Sinaloa and the CSRL being mutual enemies of the CJNG and the CSRL’s violent business model.[15] 

Assessing the Aftermath of El Marro’s Capture 

Interviews with security experts on Mexican organized crime point to multiple possibilities for the aftermath of the El Marro’s arrest in Guanajuato.  Vanda Felbab-Brown suggested that the capture of El Marro is likely to lead to increased violence caused by both internal fighting between factions of the CSRL and attacks from the CJNG.  Succession mechanisms can be built in she says but leaders are often reticent to do so due to the possibility of a “coup de group.”[16] Other analysts agree with that assessment.  Alejandro Hope, currently a columnist at El Universal, expects that, following the arrest of El Marro, there will be “significant fragmentation going forward.  Extortion is likely to become democratized.  Likewise for fuel theft.”[17] Professor David Shirk agrees, stating “I think this is the beginning of the end for the CSRL, which will likely fragment, morph, or be obliterated by CJNG in El Marro’s absence.”[18]

If the CJNG can establish a clear hegemony and “monopoly on violence” in Guanajuato, violence there may go down.[19] For Felbab-Brown, “the best that can be hoped for is a quick CJNG victory” that might reduce violence but could embolden the CJNG vis-à-vis their proclivity to engage in violence against the state.[20]  That would trigger a stronger state reaction against the CJNG that could eventually lead to its fragmentation, though that is a medium to long term possibility.

It may also be possible that the CJNG victory or at least recognition of its dominance may establish a new more pacific equilibrium via agreements between organized crime groups.  Falko Ernst, Senior Fellow of the International Crisis Group, sees reason to be optimistic in terms of short term violence reduction due to the ability of the CJNG to take advantage of El Marro’s arrest:

“The CJNG’s regional office has successfully gotten Marro’s lieutenants in line giving them the choice between lead or alignment.  My sources say they accepted-for now. But this is no guarantee for long-term stability.  The degree to which outside powers—national actors like the Sinaloans, or regional groups like the Nueva Familia and the Viagras—will attempt to strike deals with the lieutenants so as to throw a monkey wrench into the CJNG’s ambitions for regional hegemony.”[21] 

Thus, via agreements and a new criminal equilibrium, a tenuous short-term peace may be established in the wake of El Marro’s arrest.[22]

None of the security experts interviewed for this Strategic Note thought that the El Marro arrest was due to or would be followed by a well-calibrated law enforcement and military response.  Felbab-Brown sees little evidence of the AMLO Administration improving high value target (HVT) policy, including this particular arrest, by proactively mitigating the violence the HVT approach triggers in Mexico. She observed that no prepositioned troop or Guardia Nacional (GN) forces were moved into place before or immediately after the event.  She argues such actions would give the state the capacity to control the criminal dynamic in the aftermath. The state is insufficiently resourced to address the narco-problem while “the AMLO administration has dropped the ball on police reform and the creation of the National Guard [NG] has damaged functional and well-performing federal police units, by tearing them apart to create NG units, often placing capable personnel into dysfunctional units.”[23]

According to Hope, “Nothing has really changed on the institutional front: same police forces, same leadership, [and] same tactics. Case in point: in the week after the capture of El Marro, almost 70 people were killed in Guanajuato.  Not much of [a] change.”[24]  According to Falko Ernst:

“There is no such thing as a sound strategy to reestablish state-based order in Guanajuato, or for that matter Mexico’s other high-conflict areas.  So, for now it looks like a win for the CJNG – It’s come a step closer to building hegemony over Guanajuato. Lower violence in this context is however, already being sold as a win for the Lopez Obrador administration, which is desperate to sell good news vis-à-vis the 2021 elections, [whatever] they may be caused by and how shaky the ground upon which they’re built.”[25]

All of the area specialists interviewed observed that federal and state cooperation in Guanajuato was particularly weak, with many citing political reasons or key individuals as having conflict with federal institutions. 

For example, Alejandro Hope pointed out that Marro’s arrest was “mostly a federal job and they just threw a bone at the state government.  As far as I know there is still a lot of mutual bad blood. In particular, the Army does not trust Attorney General Zamarripa at all.”[26] Similarly, Shirk “doubt[s] that state forces in Guanajuato, the only state that voted against AMLO, are working particularly well with federal forces.”[27].  Falko Ernst said that “whether or not a tentative, less violent order emerges depends to a far greater extent on whether the CJNG will be able to keep Marro’s lieutenants in line, and whether it will be able to effectively absorb ties to state actors built by Marro.”[28] Ernst raises an important point here.  The stability of CJNG takeover of the state of Guanajuato hinges not just on absorbing organized crime cells but on the ability to insert the CJNG into the same corruption networks to interface with the state.

Concluding Observations

In the short term, we assess that the CJNG will gain significantly from the arrest of El Marro which will likely lead to fragmentation of CSRL.  The fragmentation could increase violence and encourage more rival encroachment.  Over the long- term, the Sinaloa Cartel or regional players like Nueva Familia and Los Viagras are likely to play spoiler by contacting local lieutenants and attempting to weaken CJNG power in the state.  We also see the possibility of Sinaloa coordinating rivals to counter the CJNG with an umbrella group of rivals to keep the CJNG occupied in its territories rather than potentially encroaching into Sinaloa territories.  This type of “balancing” behavior was predicted by Small Wars Journal-El Centro Fellow Irina Chindea and has been borne out numerous times in the Mexican organized crime context with umbrella groups like the Carteles Unidos working to counter the CJNG.[29]

Another long-term ramification of El Marro’s arrest is the potential for the AMLO administration to target the CJNG for its violent confrontations with the state and its more aggressive predatory business model.[30]  The perception that it is gaining hegemony in more areas of Mexico such as Guanajuato could speed up that process. With more rapid targeting, a critical tipping point could be achieved allowing the state to fragment the CJNG into smaller pieces so it cannot threaten the state.  However, that in and of itself could increase violence, which politically would be detrimental to AMLO. Thus, the long-term story of Marro’s arrest could be part of the broader story of the rise and perceived strength of the CJNG.  This also points to a potential future cycle of an ever-increasing prevalence of criminal violence.[31] The only way to end that vicious cycle will be to increase Mexican state capacity. The AMLO administration will need to raise revenues, reform police and the judiciary, and establish a better national security and law enforcement strategy to address organized crime violence in Mexico. The need for better coordination between the Guardia Nacional (GN)and military forces, as well as local and state forces in Guanajuato to control the criminal dynamic is also amplified in the aftermath of the El Marro’s high value arrest.

The present reality on the streets in Mexico signifies that AMLO’s internal security policies are increasingly kneecapped.  The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic along with a deepening recession amplify the ongoing criminal insurgencies.  Guanajuato is at the epicenter of these conflicts.  As a consequence, Mexico is further losing political capacity.  Additional economic and personnel resources simply do not exist with the trade, oil, remittance, and tourism sectors now devastated.[32] The government is losing the competitive extractive revenue battle with the cartels and street gangs. Cartel and gang taxes take precedence over public taxation for many of its citizens.  The incremental ‘hollowing out’ of the Mexican state and its evident fragility suggest that federal authorities will likely remain reactive bystanders in the raging conflict between the CRSL, the CJNG, and the other criminal organizations that have been—or are now being—drawn into it.        

Sources

Azam Ahmed, “Mexico Seizes Crime Boss El Marro, Under Pressure to Cut Violence.” New York Times. 2 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/02/world/americas/mexico-el-marro-capture.html.

Carlos Álvarez, “Detienen en Guanajuato a ‘El Marro’, capo ‘huachicolero’, líder del Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima.” Zeta. 2 August 2020, https://zetatijuana.com/2020/08/detienen-en-guanajuato-a-el-marro-capo-huachicolero-lider-del-cartel-de-santa-rosa-de-lima/.

Verónica Espinosa, “En todo Guanajuato sigue mandando el Marro”: mensaje colocado sobre dos cadáveres en Celaya.” Proceso. 3 August 2020, http://ow.ly/ayQR50APRV6.

Dave Graham, “Mexico nabs ‘El Marro’, fuel theft king blamed for surge in drug violence.” Reuters. 2 August 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-drugs/mexico-nabs-el-marro-fuel-theft-king-blamed-for-surge-in-drug-violence-idUSKBN24Y0EX.

Kate Linthicum, “Mexico arrests ‘El Marro,’ gang leader at the center of a bloody cartel war.” Los Angeles Times. 2 August 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-08-02/mexico-arrests-el-marro-gang-leader-cartel-battles.

Héctor De Mauleón, “‘Everything has a beginning and an end. Mine has already arrived,’ El Marro told the agents.” El Universal. 3 August 2020, https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/opinion/hector-de-mauleon/todo-tiene-un-principio-y-un-fin-el-mio-ya-llego-les-dijo-el-marro-los.

Endnotes

[1] In English, the title reads: “‘El Marro,’ ‘huachicolero’ capo, leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel arrested in Guarajuato.” The text reads: “José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias ‘El Marro,’ alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL), the main person responsible for the theft of fuel or “huachicol” in the state of Guanajuato, was arrested early on Sunday, 2 August, by elements of the Mexican Army, as well as the Ministry of Public Security and the State Attorney General.” … “‘El Marro’ will be transferred to the Federal Center for Social Readaptation (CEFERESO) Number 1, ‘El Altiplano,’ in Almoloya de Juárez, State of Mexico, as confirmed by the head of the Federal Ministry of Security and Protection (SSPC), Alfonso Durazo Montaño.”

[2] In English, the title reads: “‘Everything has a beginning and an end. Mine has already arrived,’ El Marro told the agents.” The text reads: “Thus ends a black stage in Guanajuato: the Marro decade.” … “Unfortunately, there is a hell to come: the disintegration of the Santa Rosa Cartel into small and fierce cells, or the absorption of its structure by a new dominant group: the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, led by Nemesio Oseguera, El Mencho, who has spent years fighting for control of the pipelines. Experts on security issues believe that there will be a new blood flick [film] in the state: either by the rearrangement of the Santa Rosa Cartel, or by the ‘cleansing’ that the Jalisco Cartel will undertake in the places that El Marro leaves leaderless.” … To prevent the fanning the flames, a new blow must come, this time from Mencho’s side. But above all, it is necessary that the corruption networks that from Pemex and the union made possible to José Antonio Yepez, El Marro, be exposed.

[3] In English, the title reads: “El Marro continues to command throughout Guanajuato:” [reads] message posted on two corpses in Celaya.” The text reads: “Two human bodies wrapped in plastic bags and tied with tape were abandoned at two different points in Celaya, both with messages allegedly signed by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.” … “Let it be clear to you, we are more united than ever, here and throughout Guanajuato Mr. Marro continues to command,” read the phosphorescent colored cards that were placed next to the two corpses.” … “The human remains were abandoned hours after the capture of the leader of that criminal organization, José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, “El Marro,” detained in Juventino Rosas, from an alleged security house where a woman was kidnapped.” … “Two human bodies wrapped in plastic bags and tied with tape were abandoned at two different points in Celaya, both with messages allegedly signed by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.”

[4] Nathan P. Jones and John P. Sullivan, “Huachicoleros: Criminal Cartels, Fuel Theft, and Violence in Mexico,” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 12, No. 4, 2019: pp. 1-24, https://doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.12.4.1742.

[5] See Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Los Zetas Inc.: Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017); and John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, “Open Veins of Mexico: Strategic Logic of Cartel Resource Extraction and Petro-Targeting.” Small Wars Journal. 3 November 2011, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/open-veins-mexico.

[6] Nathan P. Jones and John P Sullivan, “Huachicoleros: Criminal Cartels, Fuel Theft, and Violence in Mexico.” 

[7] Gabriel Stargardter, “Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Now Hooked on Fuel, Cripple Nation’s Refineries.” Reuters, 24 January 2018, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mexico-violence-oil/.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Phone interviewVanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, 8 August 2020.

[10] Miriam Wells, “Jalisco Cartel Announces ‘Cleansing’ of Mexican State,” InSight Crime. 27 March 2017, https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/cjng-announces-cleansing-of-mexican-state/.

[11] Laura Calderon et al., “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report.” San Diego, CA: Justice in Mexico Project. July 2020, https://justiceinmexico.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/OCVM-2020.pdf.

[12] “Raleigh, Clionadh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre and Joakim Karlsen. (2010). “Introducing ACLED-Armed Conflict Location and Event Data.” Journal of Peace Research. Vol. 47, No, 5: pp. 651-660.

[13] Nathan P. Jones, “The Strategic Implications of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 11, No. 1, 2018: pp. 19-42, https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol11/iss1/3/.

[14] David Saucedo, “Fuerzas de ‘El Mayo’ y ‘El Marro’ Se Unen En Guanajuato En Contra de Un Enemigo Común: El CJNG,” Sin Embargo (Reproduced with Permission from Pop Lab). 18 November 2019, https://www.sinembargo.mx/18-11-2019/3681077.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Phone interview, Vanda Felbab-Brown, 8 August 2020.  Here, Felbab-Brown delves into an idea about succession that the economics literature calls the principal-agent problem or simply agency problems. Shapiro describes this in the context of terror leaders (principals) deciding how to manage their organizations and how best to control their subordinates (agents) who could turn on them at any time. See Jacob N. Shapiro, The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.

[17] Email correspondence, Alejandro Hope, Security Analyst, El Universal,10 August 2020. 

[18] Email correspondence, Professor David Shirk, University of San Diego, 10 August 2020. 

[19] Angelica Duran-Martinez, The Politics of Drug Violence: Criminals, Cops and Politicians in Colombia and Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018: p. 143.

[20] Phone interview, Vanda Felbab-Brown, 8 August 2020.

[21] Email correspondence, Falko Ernst, Senior Fellow International Crisis Group 9 August 2020. 

[22] See Oscar Ramos, “Cartel del narco promete ‘paz’ en Guanajuato, México.” Prensa Arizona. 8 August 2020, http://prensaarizona.com/PrensaAZ/2020/08/08/cartel-del-narco-promete-paz-en-guanajuato-mexico/.

[23] Phone interview, Vanda Felbab-Brown, 8 August 2020.

[24] Email correspondence, Alejandro Hope,10 August 2020. 

[25] Email correspondence, Falko Ernst, 9 August 2020.

[26] Email correspondence, Alejandro Hope, 10 August 2020. 

[27] Email correspondence, Professor David Shirk,10 August 2020. 

[28] Email correspondence, Falko Ernst, 9 August 2020. 

[29] Irina Chindea, “Fear and Loathing in Mexico:  Narco-Alliances and Proxy Wars.” Fletcher Security Review. Vol I, No. II. Spring 2014, http://media.wix.com/ugd/c28a64_4f406b0a66314668aae6a81a4066465a.pdf. In addition, see: “‘No habrá tregua’: la terrible amenaza del CJNG a Cárteles Unidos en Michoacán.” Infobae, 30 October 2019, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2019/10/30/no-habra-tregua-la-terrible-amenaza-del-cjng-a-carteles-unidos-en-michoacan/.

[30] For a discussion of high value targeting and business model, see: Vanda Felbab-Brown, Calderón’s Caldron: Lessons from Mexico’s Battle Against Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking in Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and Michoacán Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2011, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2011/9/calderon-felbab-brown/09_calderon_felbab_brown.pdf; Nathan P. Jones, Mexico’s Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2016; and Peter Reuter, “Systemic Violence in Drug Markets.” Crime, Law and Social Change. Vol. 52, No. 3, 2009: pp. 275–84.

[31] John Bailey, The Politics of Crime in Mexico:  Democratic Governance in a Security Trap.  Boulder, CO: First Forum Press, 2014; Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez, “At the Root of the Violence,” trans. Charlie Roberts, Washington Office for Latin American Affairs. June 2011, http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Drug%20Policy/2011/September/E_Guerrero_-_Root_of_Violence_-_WOLA_9-9-11.pdf; and Nathan P. Jones, “The Strategic Implications of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 11, No. 1, 2018: pp. 19-42, https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol11/iss1/3/.

[32] Kevin Sieff, “Coronavirus hits Mexico’s economy where it hurts most: Oil, tourism, remittances and trade.” Washington Post. 23 April 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/coronavirus-mexico-economy-oil-tourism-remittance-trade-amlo/2020/04/22/ed4b7532-7f68-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_story.html.

Additional Reading

Nathan P. Jones and John P. Sullivan, “Huachicoleros: Criminal Cartels, Fuel Theft, and Violence in Mexico.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 12, No. 4, 2019: pp. 1-24.

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #41: Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Logo and Symbols Identification.” Small Wars Journal. 3 April 2019.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 27: Confronting the State—Explosive Artifacts, Threats, Huachicoleros, and Cartel Competition in Guanajuato, MX.” Small Wars Journal. 14 March 2019.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #40: Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Tunnels in Guanajuato Highlights Tactical Considerations in Underground Operations.” Small Wars Journal. 22 March 2019.

Nathan P. Jones,The Strategic Implications of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 11, No. 1, 2018: pp. 19-42.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Nathan P. Jones is an Associate Professor of Security Studies at Sam Houston State University and a Non-resident Scholar for Rice University’s Baker Institute Mexico Center; he previously was an Alfred C. Glassell III Postdoctoral Fellow in Drug Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He holds a PhD from the University of California, Irvine and won an Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation Fellowship to conduct fieldwork in Mexico on organized crime. He participated in the National Defense Intelligence College-University of San Diego Mexico Project. He presented his work “The Four Phases of the Arellano Felix Organization” at the University of Guadalajara, the University of San Diego and the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C. He also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of San Diego, Trans-Border Institute. Jones published Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction (Georgetown University Press, 2016). He is a Small Wars Journal–El Centro Fellow.

 

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an adjunct research professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. He has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com .