Mexico against 'El Marro', the new power struggle

Investigations by the Attorney General's Office attribute the attacks registered in Celaya in the last 48 hours to hitmen linked to the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

Elements of the State Security Forces check the entry and exit of all vehicles searching for El Marro
Elements of the State Security Forces check the entry and exit of all vehicles searching for El Marro

The criminal group led by José Antonio Yépez alias 'El Marro' has lost strength after the measures implemented by state authorities. Now the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel seeks to obtain income at all costs, carrying out extortions and charging Celaya's merchants a 'flat-fee'.

"My sister works in a tortilla factory and tells me that they are still opening where she works and I told her: let them keep opening... you don't go anymore because they are going against you," said a woman terrified by the armed attacks on shops and tortilla factories.

At the beginning of this year began an intense fight against this group of criminals, specifically for the theft of hydrocarbons. In December the federal government announced it would deploy military forces to monitor the pipelines ´ordeñados´ for delinquency, with an emphasis on the state of Guanajuato.

On repeated occasions, the criminal gang formed by 'El Marro' and his brothers have been told to coordinate a criminal network dedicated mainly to huachicoleo (fuel theft).

In the last two years, 'El Marro' and the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel have had a dispute over the control of fuel theft in the so-called 'El Triángulo del huachicol' against the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Authorities announced that El Marro was jailed for robbery and organized crime in 2008, but a judge released him on bail. It is now known that he also directs the drug trade, theft from transporters and is now linked to the attacks on tortilla factories in Celaya.

Marro's accounts frozen

One of the main reasons why El Marro is believed to be linked to the attacks on tortilla factories and shops in Celaya is because it is running out of money.

In March of this year, Alfonso Durazo, Secretary of Security, reported that accomplices of José Antonio Yepez, ´El Marro´, leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, fled that community after the deployment of state and federal forces.

"The leaders of organized crime who had a seat in the community of Santa Rosa de Lima have fled," he said at the time.

Last month, according to the authorities and within the ´Golpe operation of Timón´, 'El Marro' saw its criminal group's operations undermined because its accounts were frozen, disappearing completely any possibility of buying people from different regions of Guanajuato or bribing authorities.

35 million 499 thousand 486.73 pesos were frozen from the 'huachicolero' leader. Since the beginning of the security operation, 14 properties, 129 vehicles, 28 long arms, 18 small arms, and two grenades have been confiscated from the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel.

Of the 35.5 million pesos frozen, 13.2 million pesos are accounts linked to ´El Marro´, his wife and lover. While 22.7 million are related to third parties who have a relationship with the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel.

In addition, 62 people related to ´El Marro´ have been neutralized, most with arrest warrants for homicide and kidnapping.


At the end of January, a group of armed men, along with residents of Santa Rosa de Lima, took the roadblock in response to the federal elements' operation against ´huachicoleo´.

Elements of the Navy, Mexican Army, Federal Police and State Public Security Forces (FSPE) participated in this mobilization.

Almost simultaneously, another blockade occurred on the Celaya-Juventino Rosas highway, over the bridge known as Chihuahuita, where an ignited truck covered both lanes and impeded passage.

Months later, in July, there was another blockade by residents of the community of Santa Rosa de Lima, in Villagrán, Guanajuato, exactly on the Salamanca - Celaya highway.

In that event, there were a total of nine people arrested, being prosecuted for the crimes of assault on authority, terrorism and blocking roads.

Voices of the Victims

After the armed attacks registered in Celaya, where four people were murdered, three of them in a tortilla factory and another one in a building material store, few people offer their testimony and if they do so it is under anonymity.

"Many may have thought that nothing was happening but... I think they are going to close more deals because more warnings keep coming. Now I think they're going with the stores and stationery stores and if they don't do anything they're going to stay closed," commented one woman.

"How we have seen it and how we are living. We are all afraid to go out now. It is said that they had already been warned. Since Saturday they began to close the premises, they say that it was also because of the demonstration that they went to do in the Presidency but I say that it is not true because they had been sent announcements before," said one of the neighbors.

Pronouncement of the Authorities

A few minutes after the massacre that took the lives of four people, Luis Ernesto Ayala, government secretary in Guanajuato, published a tweet in which he stated that he would increase 150 elements of the Public Security Forces of the State in Celaya.

Municipal and state authorities agreed to create a specialized group of the Guanajuato Attorney General's Office to follow up on multiple extortion allegations and investigate the murder of three women and one man.

Sophia Huett, the security commissioner of Guanajuato, has asked the public to denounce, as it is very complex to deal with a crime that can not be identified to the victim or that does not have much data.

"Guanajuato is not going to resign itself to being the scene of criminal groups," Huett said.

Extortion has been the last resort that the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel uses to obtain money and support itself economically. Meanwhile, the locals are living moments of uncertainty and terror.

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The federal forces and the Navy have deployed a strong operative against El Marro on what was until three years ago one of the safest entities in the country, Guanajuato (central Mexico).

There was a day when El Marro was just an anecdote. A funny name about a narco blanket and a homemade explosive in a van that threatened to assassinate the president of Mexico at the end of January.

"Everything is under control, it's a false alarm," Lopez Obrador assured in his daily press conference, although the experts had not yet analyzed the explosive when the president reassured the country: "I do not fear the people ...", he insisted.

But, in a few weeks, armed groups have burned cars in the name of the new capo and blocked highways. The federal forces and the Navy have deployed a strong operative on what was until three years ago one of the safest entities in the country, Guanajuato (central Mexico). The accounts of El Marro have been frozen and they have arrested two collaborators. They have registered their mansion and have found a classic of the great Mexican capos: tunnels. They have it fenced in, they say. José Antonio Yépez, El Marro, is Mexico's new public enemy.

The images of the military deployment on the community of Santa Rosa de Lima (in the municipality of Villagrán, Guanajuato), which bears the name of the cartel led by El Marro, remind the Army and Navy operatives against the big drug lords. in Mexico. Burned cars, soldiers in the streets, uninhabited mansions. The authorities arrested the financial operator of the criminal group, Angélica N (sister-in-law of El Marro), although she was released this Friday, and Javier N, who was an agent of the Federal Police. The governor of the state and the local prosecutor's office have accused the mayor of Villagrán of being linked to the cartel and not supporting federal forces in the operations. And about El Marro, the Secretary of Public Safety, Alfonso Durazo, announced this Thursday:

"They are following his movements and he is close to total success in the operation."

The house of El Marro, according to the calculations that the local press has advanced, is as big as the Estadio Azteca. It has 7 thousand 300 square meters and is crossed by a wall of six meters. The authorities have sealed their gates this Thursday, but before they have made public the photos of the new criminal's luxury: a giant pool, surrounded by palm trees, statues, stables, ballroom, a mansion of two levels, with rooms "conditioned to withstand high temperatures". And another classic, in addition to the tunnels, two tigers, one of them, a puppy.

Although López Obrador has pointed out on different occasions that Mexico is "no longer at war with the cartels", the persecution of El Marro seems the complete opposite. Although it is true that he is not a big drug lord, his business lives mainly from the sale of stolen fuel and not from international narcotics traffic, the struggle of the new Mexican government seems to be aimed at a specific objective, at the head of a poster so far little known and that symbolizes one of the missions of his government: the huachicol (fuel theft).

The accident in Tlahuelilpan (Hidalgo), in which more than 130 people were killed after trying to fill buckets of gasoline in a pipeline pierced by the huachicoleros and which exploded, was a blow to the liver of a legislature that had just begun. The controversial management of the accident, the military, present, did not separate the crowd from that time bomb, one of the most tragic of the last years in the country, forced the new Government to take drastic measures.

El Marro has become the symbol of this struggle. Although he is not the only business leader, recent operations have made him the most famous. And in the area, he is known as the owner of the refinery that Pemex has in Salamanca (Guanajuato). The death threat to López Obrador stamped with his name put him definitely on the map:

"Remove the security forces of Guanajuato, if not, I'll start killing you along with innocent people to see that this is not a game, the message read."

The origins of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel date back to a split in 2017 of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, El Mencho, the most wanted drug trafficker by the DEA, designated as the most powerful criminal group in the country , which managed to dethrone the largest, mired in permanent wars between them and with the Mexican government. The group of El Marro, located in the so-called Red Triangle of fuel theft, planted with Pemex pipelines, decided to focus its business mainly on gasoline. And so it became so strong that it threatened the powerful CJNG two years ago.

Through a homemade video, in the countryside, dozens of men wearing balaclavas and AK-47 warned the feared Jalisco Cartel that if they did not leave their land they would "leave their mother." It was the first official appearance of Santa Rosa, although it is estimated that El Marro has been in business for more than 10 years.

Since then, the bloody war between the two groups triggered violence in a traditionally peaceful state. In January of this year, 225 people were murdered, and Guanajuato became one of the most lethal entities in Mexico. Only four years earlier, in the same period of 2015, homicide figures did not exceed 65 per month. In 2018, the death toll doubled and everything points to the fact that statistics do not stop growing.

According to the El País news portal, the authorities have not given more information about the new public enemy. There is still no data available on how much money has been obtained from the illegal gasoline business or the direct responsibility of the capo in the increase in violence in the region. But the arrest of El Marro, a fuel thief, from a rural area in the center of the country, unknown until a month ago, would mean, if it is achieved as soon as they have announced, it would be the blow that the Government needed to score a bit. in the fight against the huachicol.


The fortress of El Marro has collapsed. Although the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, José Antonio Yépez, has not been captured, the community where he was hiding to lead the theft of hydrocarbons in the huachicol triangle region is slowly recovering the tranquility.

The Navy and the public security forces of Guanajuato took control of Santa Rosa, located about 10 minutes from Celaya and people are slowly returning to the streets.

Schools from pre-school to high school in the community reopened yesterday, which is an unequivocal sign that calm returns to the site, which started last week in the midst of blockades and without classes. In total 14 burning vehicles served as checkpoints to stop the passage of the uniformed that would start the operation "Golpe de Timón".

It was the inhabitants of Santa Rosa, many in exchange for 300 pesos, who helped in the blockades. Today, nobody wants to talk about the issue, indeed, no one knows where the huachicolero leader lived, despite the fact that the property stands out for its luxury and security, in an environment where houses of gray facades and dirt roads abound.

And it would not be difficult to live in Santa Rosa and not know the house of El Marro, but people choose to keep quiet and murmur when they see police or people from an outside pass by.

"I do not know where the happy house is," a snow salesman grumbled as he walked through Santa Rosa's schools when asked if he knew where the El Marro fortress is.

Yesterday was removed the remains of the vehicles that were burned, the same as those that were in the accesses to the community, which was in the main square in front of the church of Santa Rosa.

However, the seals are maintained. Elements of the State Security Forces, check the entry and exit of private vehicles, public transport, and distribution. No one who enters or leaves there can evade the review.

Personnel from the Criminal Investigation Agency of the State Prosecutor's Office maintain the investigations in the field and supervise both real estate and abandoned vehicles on public roads.

Late in the afternoon, the surveillance relaxed and as the heat had already abated, people took to the streets and the street vendors were able to return to activity.

Although silence is complicit in what happened there in recent years. The bastion of the Lima cartel was taken by the security forces, but its violence is still felt in the region, despite the fact that its leader is no longer in what was its center of operations for the theft of fuel and under the protection of power.

The governor of Guanajuato, Diego Sinhue Vallejo, said that with the support of the Navy, peace was restored in Santa Rosa de Lima and he said that there is already a line of investigation regarding the weekend attack on a table dance in Salamanca.

Although he did not disclose it, he said that the State Attorney's Office will give details of the same, but stated that "there is already a line of research on who they were and we hope to give (with them) soon.

"We had a joint operation with the Navy to recover the territory of Santa Rosa de Lima and Villagrán, we were working with the armed forces to restore peace and tranquility in this region," said Vallejo.

By Agencies