Mexico against 'El Marro', the new power struggle

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).

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

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 original text of this article was published by AM at the following address: https://www.am.com.mx/Mexico-contra-El-marro-la-nueva-lucha-de-poderes-l201903110003.html 

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"El Marro" was able to leave Guanajuato, but it is deeply weakened

Sophia Huett, commissioner of the Analysis and Strategy Unit for Citizen Security of Guanajuato, does not rule out that "El Marro" has left the state, but noted that the zone of operations of the huachicolero leader is very limited and has been weakened so that surely remains in the state.

"What we can affirm is that it is someone with a strong roots in the state of Guanajuato, that his area of operation is very limited, limited and weakened, and that this could be one of the factors for him to continue in the state, which is where he found his strength, with the criminal network he had."

For eight days, federal and state forces launched the operation 'Golpe de Timón', in search of José Antonio Yépez Ortiz alias "El Marro", leader of a criminal group that seeks to control the theft of gasoline in Santa Rosa de Lima, a community of the Guanajuato municipality of Villagrán. But they have not been able to find him, largely because the population has put on seat belts.

In an interview for Strictly Personal with Raymundo Riva Palacio, Commissioner Sophia Huett said that last Sunday they began cleaning up in Santa Rosa de Lima to recover peace, classes were resumed and the authorities promote a healthy coexistence with the residents. She also noted that the operation continues and there are several lines of investigation that would allow other members of the cartel to be detained.

On the capacity of the organization headed by "El Marro", Sophia Huett admitted that it can generate violence. Although its ability to lift blockades has decreased, they still have influence in some areas. Questioned if the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel is stronger than the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), the official said:

"We could not determine the supremacy of one criminal organization over the other, because the characteristics are different, and obviously these are organizations that in some way or another seek to reinforce themselves so as not to loose control of the state, or of this region, because it is focused on a region. "

The Prosecutor's Office of Guanajuato confirmed that the attack in a bar in Salamanca, last Saturday, was carried out by members of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel. The 15 victims were its rivals, members of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJGN), with which they dispute the control of the theft of gasoline in the area. Fourteen victims of the attack in Salamanca were already identified, some had criminal records for theft and carrying firearms exclusively for the Army.

On the challenge to the authority that implied this massive execution, the commissioner of the Analysis and Strategy Unit for Citizen Security of Guanajuato said that "it is a challenge that nothing else happens in this case". She pointed out that it has happened on previous occasions, such as the vulcanizer of Valle de Santiago.

"It is necessary to advance at a firm pace because if not, also, these actions have to do with the attempt to inhibit the action of authority. (...) We must act every day more forcefully, with greater intelligence and with greater capabilities of research to dismantle it."

Sophia Huett confirmed that 2,500 people were arrested in Guanajuato in 2018 for various crimes, some linked to the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel and the CJNG: hawks, drug dealers and huachicoleo (gasoline theft).

Calls for reinforcements of federal forces in Salamanca

The governor of Guanajuato on Tuesday asked the Secretary of Public Security to send at least a thousand police and military to the municipality

In light of the increase in violence in Guanajuato due to the fight against fuel theft, Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez on Tuesday asked the Secretary of Public Safety, Alfonso Durazo, to send at least a thousand policemen and soldiers to the municipality of Salamanca.

On February 6, Durazo announced the permanent deployment of 10,200 elements of federal forces to combat insecurity in 17 violent regions of the country. For the Guanajuato cities of Irapuato, Salamanca, Uriangato and Celaya 2,400 agents were announced (600 per locality).

"Of the more than 2 thousand elements that Secretary Durazo announced, hopefully, send a thousand to Salamanca," one of the most violent municipalities in the country, said Rodriguez, who explained that this city is currently the location of the main oil refinery in the center of the country  is monitored by 300 agents of the Public Security Forces of the State (FSPE) since the municipality does not have municipal police.

Violence in this region intensified early on Saturday when a seven-man encapsulated commando burst into a bar in Salamanca to steal and shoot 15 people.

The dead of Salamanca were from the CJNG

Today, the governor reported that the State Attorney General's Office (FGE) identified 14 victims, all belonging to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and had been attacked by members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and not the other way around, as they had originally announced.

Last Sunday, the mayor of Salamanca, Beatriz Hernández, called on the state government "to work tirelessly to restore security."

In response, Rodriguez urged the mayor today to sign the agreement of the Single Command for state police to watch the city or otherwise could lose 14 million pesos for the safety of the municipality.

Impunity on the part of the Federal Government?

Rodriguez also criticized that the federal government has not filed charges against the financial operator of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, arrested in a joint operation with the Navy on March 5, which allowed the woman to be released because she was only accused by the crime of carrying a weapon and the recently passed law that would keep her in preventive custody for this charge has not yet come into force.

"I spoke with Secretary Durazo and let him know about the discomfort of the state of this liberation because here we are working hard to restore peace and tranquility by stopping objectives, and to be liberated that way, it does not seem fair," he lamented. the governor.

The woman was arrested while trying to escape from the town of Santa Rosa de Lima, Villagrán municipality, in the company of her partner, a working federal policeman, after the town was taken by a thousand elements of the federal forces that were persecuting José Antonio Yépez "El Marro", alleged leader of the most important huachicoleros cartel (fuel thieves) in the region.

After the arrest, revealed the governor, the Prosecutor General of the Republic was asked to issue a precautionary measure to assign him responsibilities for federal crimes, since it was the financial operator of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel.

"It is unfortunate that they have freed her and I told Secretary Durazo that," the governor reiterated.

 17 bank accounts linked to the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel frozen

Alfonso Durazo reported that the federal government is against the financial structure of the criminal group

At least 17 bank accounts linked to alleged operators of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel have been frozen by the authorities, said the head of the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection (SSPC), Alfonso Durazo Montaño.

The command warned that the federal government is against the financial structure of the criminal group headed by José Antonio Yépez, "El Marro", which allows him to act in several municipalities of Guanajuato, in complicity with federal, state and municipal authorities.

"For us more than the operation against the head of a criminal group, is the action against the finances of that criminal group there is no criminal group that can act with impunity and with complicity of the security forces or federal authorities and state or municipal, but has resources to pay for that operation and that complicity."

In a press conference, Durazo Montaño affirmed that there are four individuals of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel arrested and who were already linked to the process.

"Together with the detainees and the permanence of the action against this criminal organization, obviously they will continue to reduce the spaces of action of this criminal group by virtue of a very important presence of state and federal forces in the main territorial space where they acted".

However, he emphasized that the fundamental thing is to act against the financial capacity of criminal organizations.

Navy and security forces take control of Santa Rosa de Lima

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.

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