Mexico: El Chapo’s son not arrested; hidden war in Tamaulipas goes on

Mexico’s government admitted June 23 that it had mistakenly identified a detained man as the son of the country’s most-wanted drug lord, JoaquĂ­n Guzmán AKA “El Chapo”—leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Just a day earlier, a man arrested in the Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan was paraded before the media as JesĂşs Alfredo Guzmán AKA “El Gordo”—his capture hailed as the most important blow against the cartel in years. But a lawyer purporting to speak for the Guzmán family released a statement denying that the suspect in custody was the fugitive kingpin’s son. The arrested man’s mother spoke to journalists, denying any link to JoaquĂ­n Guzmán or the Sinaloa Cartel. The Prosecutor General was forced to acknowledge that the arrested man was in fact FĂ©lix Beltrán LeĂłn, a car salesman. Nonetheless, Beltrán LeĂłn and his brother Kevin were ordered jailed for 40 days while they are investigated for organized crime links. (BBC News, El Universal, June 23; BBC News, LAT, June 22)

While the embarrassing goof made international headlines, the ongoing carnage related to the struggle for dominance over the narco trade merits less attention—if any. The northeast state of Tamaulipas—where the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels challenge Los Zetas—can now be said to be in actual state of war. Fourteen mutilated corpses and a threatening message aimed at the Gulf Cartel were found inside a truck in a supermarket parking lot in Mante, a town in the south of the state, June 23. In a nearly identical incident on June 7, an identical number dismembered bodies were also discovered in a truck in Mante. (Reuters, June 23) Eerily, there were two such incidents—both involving 14 mutilated bodies left in vehicles—registered in the Tamaulipas border town of Nuevo Laredo in April and May.

The US consulate in Matamoros, also on Tamaulipas’ border with Texas, has issued a warning following a string of grenade attacks in recent weeks—including two against schools. The Reforma news agency reported that a high school and a college were both attacked on the morning on June 4, damaging both buildings. With local journalists intimidated by the violence, city residents have been using the #Matamoros hashtag on Twitter to report the ongoing attacks. (KGBT, Brownsville, June 4)

It remains clear that the weapons and ammunition for this war are being supplied from the US. A federal judge in Brownsville, Tex., on June 19 sentenced two men to prison for illegally exporting about 3,000 rounds of ammunition across the border into Tamaulipas. Guillermo Enrique Villarreal of Brownsville and Leoncio Sanchez, a US citizen who was living in Matamoros, both pleaded guilty in January to exporting defense articles without a license. Sanchez was sentenced to almost five years in prison; Villarreal received a term of nearly three years. (AP, June 19)

See our last posts on Mexico’s narco wars and the arms traffic.

  1. Car bomb in Nuevo Laredo
    A car bomb exploded in Nuevo Laredo June 30 just outside the municipal building and near an army checkpoint, leaving at least seven civilian wounded, including two women, and 11 vehicles completely destroyed. (El Universal, June 30)