Closing the Book on the Tijuana Cartel

Picture: Diego Fernandez (PD)

The Arellano-Felix phase of the Tijuana cartel may be about to begin it’s last chapter. USA today reports that the last brother of the notorious drug gang has now been extradited to the United States by Mexico.

Mexico has extradited the last brother of the Arellano-Felix cartel to San Diego, ending a 20-year investigation of the notorious drug gang, the Justice Department says.

Eduardo Arellano-Felix, 55, was sent to San Diego to face charges of racketeering, money laundering and narcotics trafficking. He is due in Federal court September 4, the Justice Department’s news release says.

At one time the Arellano Felix brothers were the major power in Tijuana near the San Diego border. The Tijuana cartel is a faction that was formerly a part of Miguel Gallardo’s Guadalajara cartel alongside Chapo Guzman, current leader of the Sinaloa cartel. After Gallardo’s extradition to the United States to serve the rest of his life sentence in the Federal Super Maximum Security Penitentiary in Colorado, The Guadalajara cartel splintered into the Tijuana group who controlled narco traffick along the California border up and into San Diego while the Sinaloa Federation took control of the large opium and marijuana production operations in Sinaloa state, as well as much of the trafficking business in Colombian cocaine produced and sold at wholesale prices by the various Bogota operations that sprang up after the 1993 death of Pablo Escobar and the disintegration of the Medellin cartel into warring factions.

The dismantling of the Tijuana cartel has long been one of the few areas of real success that DEA and Mexican drug warriors could point to as an area of progress in the ongoing Narco debacle in Northern Mexico. To be sure, it appears that at this point Guzman’s Sinaloa Federation may have reabsorbed much of the Tijuana operations. Additionally with the growth of the Zetas out of the Gulf cartel and the high level of largely uncontrolled narco trafficking moving through Ciudad Juarez facilitated by the Juarez cartel and their street gang foot soldiers Barrio Azteca, it may instead be that the Sinaloans have finally succeeded in consolidating power in Baja California thanks to the DEA’s not inconsiderable assistance in shutting down their main rivals in Tijuana.

Violence has been on the decline in Tijuana over the past few years, unlike the situation around Oaxaca, Juarez, and Michoacan, where the Zetas are locked in an ongoing battle for the trafficking lanes with the Sinaloan Federation and their allies. So while the DEA is most likely correct in claiming a victory in Tijuana with the prosecution of the final Arellano-Felix brother, it is highly unlikely that this particular victory will do anything to interrupt the flow of drugs into the United States through Tijuana. Additionally, the power vacuum that now exists in Tijuana may cause an increase in drug gang violence as various lieutenants fight to control remaining pieces of the Tijuana operation.

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  • Miracles

    Goodbye Tijuana, hello Zetas.