Jesus Noriel Portillo Gil, 'El Chueco', a Gangster in the Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua

Jesus Noriel Portillo Gil, 'El Chueco' is considered to be the head of the Sierra Tarahumara plaza for the Sinaloa Cartel and its cell Los Salazar.

Jesus Noriel Portillo Gil, 'El Chueco', a Gangster in the Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua
Reward offered for "Chueco", who allegedly murdered priests in Chihuahua. Photo: Government of Mexico

The criminal career of Jesús Noriel Portillo Gil, 'El Chueco', began more than five years ago, when he was identified as part of the 'Los Salazar' cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Juan Carlos "N" known as El Larry. His name is known nationally for allegedly murdering Jesuit priests Javier Campos Morales and Joaquín César Mora Salazar along with tourist guide Pedro Palma Gutiérrez in the temple of the community of Cerocahui, municipality of Urique, in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua.

This group is also linked to the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach, in which the most wanted hitman by the authorities allegedly participated. He managed to climb the ranks of the criminal gang because of his bloodthirsty actions and allowed his bosses to control drug trafficking and other high-impact crimes such as extortion in the tourist area of Creel, the Sierra Tarahumara, and Sinaloa.

The vicar of the Tarahumara Diocese himself, Héctor Fernando Marínez Espinoza, pointed out that organized crime is so involved in daily activities that they even control the sale of beer and ask for payments from the drivers and truckers who transport merchandise. And he accused 'El Chueco' of being directly responsible for provoking the forced migration in the Tarahumara zone. "Organized crime has co-opted everyone, it worries us".

How does Jesús Noriel Portillo Gil, 'El Chueco' control beer sales?

The instruction to control the sale of beer comes from 'Los Chapitos', leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. It was documented that since the beginning of the confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán Loera's sons forced the beer outlets in Culiacán and other municipalities to close at 11:00 p.m. or else the owners would be subjected to the torture known as 'tablazo'.

The early suspension of alcohol sales is so that only alcohol can be purchased from organized crime-owned outlets. This action was replicated by 'El Chueco' in the Sierra Tarahumara, who left the companies aside and his criminal cell is the only one authorized to sell beer to the outlets. The sale of beer is not done by the companies but by organized crime directly to the outlets.

Chihuahua Prosecutor's Office asks the US for help in catching El Chueco

The straw that broke the camel's back and made visible the lawlessness that persisted throughout the Chihuahua region was the murder of the Jesuit priests. The vicar assured Carmen Aristegui that the triple homicide has no motive, he explained that 'El Chueco' was so intoxicated that he acted. "There is no motive, simply this guy, El Chueco, was drugged, without emotional control, and simply carried out these very painful actions."

No matter how many complaints from the villagers, religious and local authorities to the State Government, nothing was ever done to solve the insecurity in the Sierra Tarahumara. The Chihuahua Prosecutor's Office announced an unprecedented operation to find the alleged perpetrator of the triple murder in the Cerocahui community church. In addition, the Mexican Government deployed 250 members of the Army, who joined the search for the person responsible for the crime.

Sources from the federal security cabinet informed that they were deployed in different municipalities surrounding the town of Cerocahui, municipality of Urique, where the events occurred last Monday afternoon. The objective of the military presence, according to the sources consulted, is also to provide security to the population of that area of the state.

On Thursday, June 23, it was confirmed that the federal administration asked the United States to cooperate in locating and arresting José Noriel Portillo Gil "El Chueco". This will be done through the Border Patrol, who in case of detecting the criminal should be detained and handed over to Mexico. Portillo Gil is linked to the murders of activist Cruz Soto Caraveo in 2019, American teacher Patrick Braxton-Andrew in 2018, and Miroslava Breach in 2017; as well as illegal logging, kidnapping, and extortion.