Eduardo Arrellano Felix was sentenced to 15 years in prison

The United States has declared the end of Mexico's once mighty Tijuana Cartel following the sentencing of kingpin Eduardo Arellano Felix to 15 years in prison -- a claim that ignores the changing nature of the country's criminal dynamic.

Eduardo Arellano Felix, alias "El Doctor," was convicted by a California judge of money laundering after he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and forfeited $50 million in order to avoid a maximum 140 year sentence for racketeering and drug trafficking, reported Reuters.

He was the last of four brothers who controlled the Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), to be jailed or killed. 

"The sentence that Eduardo Arellano Felix received today marks the end of an era in cartel history," said US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent William Sherman. "The AFO is finished, others have moved in and are attempting to take their place."

InSight Crime Analysis

In its heyday of the 1990s and early 2000s, the Tijuana Cartel was one of Mexico's most powerful criminal organizations, controlling the border city from which it took its name and the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of drugs into the United States. Along with the Juarez Cartel it was one of two major organizations to emerge from the split of one of the first Mexican drug trafficking organizations, the Guadalajara Cartel.

SEE ALSO: Tijuana Cartel Profile

Rounds of arrests and extraditions during the early 2000s weakened the group, and following the arrest of Eduardo Arellano Felix in 2008 they split into two rival factions.The side headed by Eduardo's nephew Fernando Sanchez Arellano, "El Ingeniero," gradually appears to have gained dominance and ultimately entered into an alliance with the Tijuana Cartel's once mortal enemies, the Sinaloa Cartel. Sanchez Arellano is now believed to head what remains of the cartel alongside Enedina Arellano Felix, Eduardo's sister and Fernando's mother.

De-centralized networks, fragmentation, the formation of alliances with rival groups -- this is the modern face of Mexican crime, even among its most powerful organizations, including the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel. Within this new dynamic, the monolithic Tijuana Cartel of the past is certainly long gone, but its evolved criminal structures remain very much a part of the Mexican underworld.

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...