Irma Valentina Ramos Espinoza, alias "Comandante Rojo"

The Mexican government has arrested the third known female leader of a Zetas cell, whose Nuevo Leon-based group included several active duty police and a former member of the Navy.

On November 19, the government of Nuevo Leon state announced that it had arrested Irma Valentina Ramos Espinoza, alias "Comandante Rojo," who they claim served as the head of a Zetas affiliate in the center of the state. Authorities say that Ramos' group included five municipal police officers, as well as a man who had previously served in the country's navy.

A total of 19 individuals were arrested in the operation, and the group has been linked to a number of crimes in the state, including several extortion rackets, 16 kidnappings and 12 murders.

InSight Crime Analysis

Ramos is the third woman that Mexican officials have identified as a local Zetas boss since September 2011, when officials announced the first such arrest. While there have been rare cases of women filling leadership roles in a number of Mexican drug trafficking organizations, the trend suggests that female commanders may be more prevalent in the Zetas' structure than in other criminal groups.

The fact that Espinoza commanded a group of active-duty municipal police officers is also significant, as it illustrates the level of corruption common among many local police forces in the country. This has caused the government to rely more on federal officials in its fight against organized crime, but federal police have proven to be susceptible to criminal influence as well.

Mexico is currently attempting an ambitious reform at all levels to counter the problem, performing background checks and other vetting procedures, but progress is slow. According to official figures, 80 percent of all police who have failed these tests are still employed, and most states have yet to fully assess their entire police forces.

A total of 19 individuals were arrest

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
Prev Next

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...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

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...

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...