Filed Under:  Cartels, Gulf Cartel

Officials: Gulf Cartel rift points to renewed violence

August 13th 2012   ·   3 Comments

A tense calm is felt during the daytime in the streets of Matamoros as residents go about their daily tasks but remain alert for signs of conflict.

“Everything had been quiet and now you see trucks with malosos all over the place,” said Manuel Ortega, who lives in Brownsville but works at a manufacturing plant in Matamoros. “All I want to do is go to work and get home without getting caught in a risk situation (new jargon for firefight).”

Last week the city saw at least two large firefights where convoys of gunmen clashed with assault rifles and grenades. On Saturday, a firefight in the nearby towns of Lucio Blanco and Control caused the temporary closing of Los Indios International Bridge. According to a source outside law enforcement but with direct knowledge of the situation, the gun battles are just the first wave of renewed clashes expected in the area.

Mexican authorities have yet to release the number of dead in those firefights. However, a Mexican law enforcement official, who asked not to be named citing security reasons, confirmed that seven civilians were mildly injured by grenade fragments or stray bullets in Matamoros. No civilians were killed.

The firefights are not a new incursion by the Zetas but in fact are a rekindling of an internal struggle between two factions of the Gulf Cartel, he said. They are part of a hostile takeover attempt by forces loyal to Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla looking to settle the score after a year-long internal rift, the source said, adding that the forces looking to move into Matamoros have the backing of the Sinaloa Cartel.


The rift began last September when a faction commonly known as the “Rojos” executed Gulf Cartel lieutenant Samuel “Metro 3″ Flores Borrego, who was in charge of Reynosa and surrounding regions and answered only to Costilla.

Soon after Borrego’s body was found in a pickup truck on the outskirts of Reynosa, his forces retaliated against the Rojos, who were led by Juan “R-1″ Reyes Mejia and were supported by the family of jailed drug kingpin Osiel Cardenas Guillén, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.

The forces clashed in various locations throughout the state of Tamaulipas. Ultimately, the source said, the Rojos were decimated and the forces loyal to the Cardenas family barricaded themselves in Matamoros. Reyes Mejia fell off the radar and hasn’t been heard from since.

As a result of the struggle, Cardenas’ nephew Rafael “El Junior” Cardenas Vela, who was the plaza boss in Matamoros, spent most of his time in Brownsville and Rio Hondo in order to avoid a possible capture and death sentence by Metros’ forces. Cardenas Vela was arrested by federal authorities in late October and is awaiting sentencing on drug charges.

Cardenas Vela’s rival Jose Luis “Comandante Wicho” Zuniga was also arrested in October after narrowly escaping an ambush near Control and fleeing to the Texas town of San Pedro. He is awaiting trial. Another Gulf Cartel leader, Eudoxio “Comandante Bocho” Ramos, was also arrested in October near Rio Grande City after fleeing from his rivals and is facing trial.


After several months of an apparent impasse, on the morning of Aug. 6, several banners commemorating the birthday of Flores Borrego were flown in Matamoros, Reynosa and other cities. The banners were signed by the leading lieutenants of the Metros and mentioned “swift justice.” The following day, the firefights started in Matamoros.

A source outside law enforcement but with direct knowledge stated that the push by the Gulf Cartel is aimed at removing the people in Matamoros who turned against the organization in the past.

The alliance between the Gulf Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel apparently is only a marriage of convenience, said George W. Grayson, a government professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.,and author of The Executioner’s Men, a book detailing the history of the Zetas and their roots within the Gulf Cartel.

“The ultimate goal of El Chapo — Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel — is to take over Tamaulipas,” Grayson said. “El Chapo and El Coss are working together, but they are by no means blood brothers. For El Chapo to have access to Tamaulipas he needs El Coss and his men and El Coss in turn needs the support of El Chapo to fight the Zetas and to settle any scores he may have with the Rojos.”

What happens after the scores are all settled remains to be seen, Grayson said.


A version of this column originally appeared in

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Readers Comments (3)

  1. Time for holder and obama to give em more weapons!!!

  2. Start using weapons that the military uses. 50 calibers, drones. Start blowing them apart!

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