HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Monday, September 04, 2006

Toppling the Tijuana Cartel 'dynasty'

While the arrest of Javier Arellano-Felix may signal the demise of the Tijuana Cartel, it could also indicate the creation of a mega-organization that has consolidated control over all smuggling routes into the US.

Commentary by Sam Logan for ISN Security Watch (04/09/06)

The US Coast Guard apprehended Javier Arellano-Felix on 14 August in international waters off the Pacific coast of Mexico. He is one more brother in a long line of Arellano-Felix siblings to lose the freedom to smuggle, kill and live the high life. It remains unclear, however, if Javier’s arrest will be the cascading event that unravels his family’s organization, the Tijuana Cartel. Some analysts argue that Javier was a playboy and not an important leader. Others, including the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), claim that Javier’s arrest has toppled a dynasty.

His older brother and former leader of the cartel, Benjamin Arellano-Felix, was arrested on 3 March 2002 in Puebla, Mexico and sent to a maximum security prison in La Palma. Benjamin’s arrest shook the foundation of the cartel, but it managed to survive despite the best efforts of rival criminal organizations and law enforcement to undo the Arellano-Felix family’s hold on the drug trafficking routes that pass through Tijuana into San Diego.

In 2004, two years after entering prison, Benjamin Arellano-Felix formed a strategic alliance with the leader of the so-called Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen. For a number of months, the Tijuana Cartel used the help of the Gulf Cartel to defend its turf from rivals, notably Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Mexican prison authorities place the end of the Tijuana-Gulf Cartel alliance in January 2005. Cardenas ordered a severe beating of Benjamin after the two had a personal disagreement. Without the alliance, the Tijuana Cartel was again on its own. By February 2005, the Arellano-Felix family, once considered Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, was under attack from two separate criminal organizations. Such was the earning power generated by smuggling cocaine across the Tijuana-San Diego border.

Cardenas’ henchmen, known collectively as Los Zetas, were dispatched to Baja California to remove both the remnants of the Tijuana Cartel, as well as Zambada’s organization, now know as the Sinaloa Cartel. This battle rages on today in Nuevo Laredo and Acapulco as the Gulf Cartel struggles against the Sinaloa Cartel, currently run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, for domination of the Mexican drug trade.

From 2004 until 14 August this year, the Tijuana Cartel had maintained a low profile, suggesting that the organization’s current leaders prize quiet efficiency over headline-grabbing violence. One of the Arellano-Felix siblings, Enedina, is a trained accountant, and her brother, Eduardo, a surgeon. Both are considered to have taken over the organization after their older brother, Benjamin, was imprisoned in 2002. Javier, known as the “Little Tiger,” may have simply served as enforcer, someone who oversaw the killing required in the criminal underworld to maintain his family’s business.

Many analysts argue that Enedina and Eduardo streamlined the family business, which included a reorganization of front companies along the border, and the implication of advanced smuggling tactics and sophisticated money laundering systems.

A 2,400-foot-long tunnel, extending from a warehouse near the Tijuana airport to a large warehouse in the industrial zone of southern San Diego, was discovered in late January 2006. The tunnel revealed a level of sophistication and planning only a well-organized criminal outfit would possess. While no arrests have been made, authorities continue to believe the Arellano-Felix organization dug and operated the tunnel. The existence of this tunnel suggests that the current leaders of the Arellano-Felix organization are astute planners, not simple thugs.


Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org