Mexico’s Tijuana Cartel is reportedly marshaling its forces in an attempt to gain back some of its lost glory, according to one security official, providing a look at the current state of a once powerful criminal empire that has since fallen into decline.
Some leaders of the Tijuana Cartel have left prison and are once again engaging in criminal activities in the border city, Tijuana’s Public Security Minister Alejandro Lares Valladares told investigative magazine Zeta Tijuana. Juan Lorenzo Vargas Gallardo, alias “El Chan,” is in charge of restructuring the organization, the magazine reported. However, several other former heads of the cartel have also taken on leadership roles, including Manuel Lopez Nunez, alias “El Balas,” and Pedro Quintero Velazquez, alias “El 5-8.”
Lares Valladares also said that violent confrontations between the Tijuana and Sinaloa Cartel are ongoing in the region. In recent years, the Sinaloa Cartel has largely taken over drug trafficking operations in the Tijuana-San Diego border region.
The boroughs where the Tijuana Cartel previously dominated — Playas, Soler, El Cacho — are the same ones where the drug trafficking group is once again reorganizing itself, and where the majority of the violence with the Sinaloa Cartel is taking place, according to Lares Valladares.
InSight Crime Analysis
The reports of violence between factions of the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels are emblematic of the type of small-scale skirmishes that have become the norm as a result of the atomization of Mexican organized crime in recent years. The arrest or killing of top leaders has created a power vacuum within many of Mexico’s traditional heavyweight criminal groups, including the Sinaloa Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel, and the Juarez Cartel. This has led to the proliferation of splinter groups that lack the hierarchal structure and wherewithal to move massive quantities of drugs like their predecessors, resulting in turf battles over drug routes that were once undisputed.
SEE ALSO: Tijuana Cartel News and Profile
The Tijuana Cartel is a shell of its former self — during the 1990s and early 2000s, the cartel dominated Tijuana’s lucrative drug trade. However, the arrest or killing of several leaders — including Eduardo Arellano Felix in 2008 — substantially weakened the group. A faction led by Arellano’s nephew, Fernando Sanchez Arellano, “El Ingeniero,” then allied themselves with their longtime rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel. The arrest of El Ingeniero in June 2014 brought the cartel under the power of his mother, Enedina Arellano Felix, known as the “narco-mom“.