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.
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.