Mario Ramirez Treviño, alias X20, was the head of the Gulf Cartel, an organization that has trafficked contraband and illegal drugs across the northeast of Mexico for close to 40 years. He consolidated his hold on the organization in January 2013, after several bloody battles with rivals within his organization and with the Gulf Cartel’s chief rivals, the Zetas, but was captured in August 2013.
Ramirez, according to the little open source data available, is a former investigative police officer who became a drug addict and a collaborator of the Gulf Cartel, not necessarily in that order. Following a time in rehab, he emerged as one of the top leaders of the Rojos, one of the several armed factions the Gulf Cartel developed beginning in the late 1990s.
The other armed wings of the cartel, namely the Zetas and the Metros, carved their own spaces within what was essentially a large federation of groups that eventually stretched south to Guerrero and Quintana Roo, and west to Coahuila.
SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profiles
The Rojos were originally assigned to Reynosa; the Metros to Matamoros; the Zetas to Nuevo Laredo. With the 2003 arrest and later extradition of the cartel’s boss, Osiel Cardenas, these groups split into factions and began a prolonged fight for control of this lucrative corridor, which still sees hundreds of tons of cocaine, marijuana and synthetic drugs pass through its border crossings.
The Zetas officially broke away in 2010. The Metros, who were loyal to Cardenas and his brother, Antonio Ezequiel “Tony Tormenta” Cardenas — who himself was killed in a shootout with authorities in December 2010 — and the Rojos, who were loyal to now jailed former Gulf Cartel boss Eduardo Costilla, alias “El Coss,” also split in September 2011, according to court testimony collected by the Brownsville Herald.
Organization: Gulf Cartel
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, drug sales, extortion, kidnapping
Areas of Operation: Reynosa, Tamaulipas (Mexico)
The realignments went further and speak to the chaotic nature of the Mexican underworld. Some members of the Rojos allegedly joined the Zetas, as the various groups struggled to contain their internecine battles. The Rojos, and their leader X20, also aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel and displaced the Zetas from several key plazas, including Monterrey, the all-important industrial and money hub of northern Mexico.
SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel News and Profiles
The fighting between these various factions came to a head in 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo saw some of the worst violence in their history, to cite just two Tamaulipas cities that came under siege.
However, after the death of Hector Salgado, alias “Metro 4,” the head of the Metros in January 2013, and the capture of Miguel Angel Treviño, alias Z40, the leader of the Zetas, in July 2013, X20 became positioned to consolidate his hold on northeast Mexico.
But his time at the helm was short-lived. He was captured by the Mexican army in Tamaulipas in August 2013.
Now the question is whether his former armed wing, known as the Deltas, can take control. They may have some formidable competition in the Sinaloa Cartel, which had already been distancing itself as the Gulf Cartel infighting has grown worse and may seek to make its own play on the region.
X20 has been accused of trafficking large quantities of cocaine and marijuana. In 2010, he and others from the so-called “Company” were also named to the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) “Kingpin’s List,” which identifies him a high-level lieutenant of the Gulf Cartel who launders illicit funds.
Ramirez operated mainly from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, his base of operations for at least the past decade.
Allies and Enemies
For the past several years, X20’s Gulf Cartel worked closely with the Sinaloa Cartel, although there are some reports that say the two groups are now at odds.
Ramirez’s chief enemy was Alejandro “Omar” Treviño, alias “Z42,” the presumed successor to Miguel Treviño, alias “Z40,” the captured head of the Zetas.
Ramirez is jailed in Mexico but is wanted in the United States for organized crime and drug trafficking. He is named in a lengthy indictment issued in the District of Columbia in which the historic names of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas are identified as co-conspirators (see indictment below) and may face extradition to the United States.