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CDG Matamoros Part 11: Political Winds

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“Itzli” for Borderland Beat. 

June 2022: As a new governor was being elected in the state of Tamaulipas rumors spread and the lines between politics and cartel affairs seemed increasingly intertwined.

Continued from Part 10: Dawn of a New Era

Rumors of War

It appeared that war was emerging in Reynosa in June 2022. Along with the threat of the Cartel del Noreste (CDN, Northeast Cartel) becoming bolder in their attacks against Los Metros and rumors of internal conflicts in Reynosa, came several online reports indicating that the Matamoros faction was preparing to attack Reynosa. However, due to a failure to properly analyze the available information, mistakes were made in the timeline, resulting in a focus on the internal conflicts in Los Metros being the possible motive for a rumored impending attack instead of taking other scenarios in consideration.

The most blatant error was that, although the rumors of the Matamoros faction was preparing to attack Los Metros began surfacing on Twitter on June 11, the initial Tweet actually refers to events that allegedly took place days prior. In the screenshot shared by Tamaulipas R-T-C, a timestamp of “MAR. A LAS 6:13 P.M.” appears, MAR. being an abbreviation for Martes/Tuesday, which would correspond to June 7. Even with that, the alleged events took place “hace días”, meaning days ago, shifting the timeline even further back.

Reevaluating the rumors at the time, it was alleged that on June 5 at the latest, if not in the days prior, Juan Miguel “El Miguelito” Lizardi Castro, the former member of Los Metros discussed in Part 3, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 9, was said to have given the green light for the Matamoros faction to enter Reynosa with his support. The same source also stated that José Alberto “La Kena” García Vilano had been present in Nuevo Progreso to meet with “el joker or commander casco”, likely a reference to “Casco 1”, who was mentioned in Part 9, along with other commanders to prepare for the coming attack on Reynosa. It is unclear if this took place after El Miguelito” gave the green light or is merely giving additional details.

Regardless, on June 12, the day after that information was posted, a convoy of armed men was said to have been spotted traveling from Valle Hermoso to Río Bravo. That evening, rumors indicated that “La Kena” had ordered “El Miguelito” to support Héctor “La Mimi” Sánchez Rivera, code name “M-1” and Ernesto “La Mierda” Sánchez Rivera, code name “M-22”, members of Los Metros that allegedly had been ran out of Reynosa the day before. On June 12, a message circulated online indicating that “El Miguelito”, with support of “El Caballero”, who was mentioned in Part 6, “Casco”, and Pablo Misael “El Mezqui” Ramos Lara, code name “Pantera 24”, of the Centro faction, discussed in Part 10, would take the plaza of Reynosa that very day, having been ordered to do so by “La Kena”. 

The War that Wasn’t

Despite these rumors, an attack on Reynosa did not occur, leaving the easiest explanation being that all pieces of information pointing to a pending conflict were completely inaccurate. While this may be the case, the fact that information flowed through multiple Twitter accounts, as well as a convoy being spotted, makes this somewhat unlikely but leaves us needing to address two key issues: what would have been the motivation for the Matamoros faction to break the truce and what stopped them from following through?

At the time, it seemed that internal issues within Los Metros concerning “La Mimi” and “La Mierda” was a potential motivating factor, however, as discussed previously, this was based on an incorrect timeline and becomes illogical when corrected. It should also be noted that the exact status of “La Mimi” and “La Mierda” was not entirely clear as there were immediate rumors that “La Mierda” was still in Reynosa and the reports that “El Miguelito” had been ordered to support him and his brother “La Mimi” were made “to heat up the plaza”.

Nevertheless, there are scenarios to consider in which the Matamoros faction was preparing to attack Reynosa, the easiest being that they perceived that Los Metros had broken the truce in some way. This does not seem likely though, as there is a lack of rumors and circumstantial evidence to indicate that this would be the driving factor. A more probable motivation to consider is the election for governor of Tamaulipas that took place on June 5. 

As touched upon in Part 10, in February 2022 La Columna Armada switched their support in the election from César Augusto “El Truco” Verástegui Ostos, who was endorsed by Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, the governor at the time of the election, to Américo Villarreal Anaya. As the campaign continued, it was heavily rumored that Los Metros were supporting “El Truko” while the Matamoros faction supported Villarreal.

In a political sense, the Matamoros faction “won” against Los Metros the evening of June 5, when it became evident that Villarreal would be declared the winner. Could it be that, with the candidate they had backed well on the path to take office on October 1, and Cabeza de Vaca, who allegedly brokered the  truce, was now a lame duck governor whose political party would no longer control the office, that the Matamoros faction decided to end the ceasefire? Granted, this is fully speculative, but at the very least it matches the timeline in which the attack was allegedly greenlighted.

Another factor to consider is that the truce came as a result of an attack on Reynosa, the anniversary of which would take place on June 19. It is possible that the Matamoros faction intended to end the truce on that specific date and/or they expected Los Metros to break the truce on the one year anniversary.

This brings us to the second issue: what stopped the Matamoros faction from following through? Again, we must consider the possibility that the rumors were false, having been an internet hoax of sorts, and there was no buildup by the Matamoros faction at all. A related scenario would be that the rumors originated within the Matamoros faction as a warning to Los Metros in hopes to gain concessions or, alternatively, Los Metros attempting to heat up plazas under the control of the Matamoros faction. In a similar vein, the buildup could have been true, but cooler heads prevailed, removing the threat of war. There is another possibility to consider, the Matamoros faction was on the verge of attacking Reynosa but suddenly felt unable to proceed due to political pressure. 

El Chaparro Arrested

On the morning of June 19, 2022, the one year anniversary of the Matamoros faction’s attack on Reynosa that prompted the truce, shootouts and blockades erupted in the city of Matamoros.

While some initial rumors pointed to a possible arrest of “El Kena”, focus quickly converged on Víctor Hugo “El Chaparro” Téllez Candon, who was said to be the chief of security for the sons of José Alfredo “El Contador” Cárdenas Martínez, and his arrest was confirmed that evening.

Overnight, information spread framing the events as an operation to arrest one specific son, Axel Alfredo Cárdenas Rodríguez, who was revealed to be known as “El Hijo Mayor” and had the code name “Titán 7”. It was also said that he was the co-leader of the Matamoros faction along with “La Kena”, which matches reports discussed in Part 10. Assuming this information is correct, it would mean that authorities were likely close to arresting Axel Cárdenas, as some of his security personnel, including “El Chaparro”, were captured. Could it be that the government attempted to arrest Axel Cárdenas as a warning to the Matamoros faction that breaking the truce would not be tolerated? 

It should be noted that in the aforementioned thread of information came reference to a rumor that “La Kena” might possibly have betrayed Axel Cárdenas. However, the language used was very cautious and the lack of additional rumors from other accounts, in particular ones that are known to make allegations of infighting within the Matamoros faction, decreases the likelihood that this was actually the case.

The Threat of Cabeza de Vaca

June 6, 2022, the day after the elections for governor of Tamaulipas, in the same time frame that Matamoros allegedly was preparing to attack Los Metros, and two weeks before the arrest of “El Chaparro”, an important rumor quietly spread online. It was said that in Tampico, the CDG Sur faction was on alert, as they expected that governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca would strike against their leader, Héctor Crescencio “R3” de León Fonseca. It was further said that Carlos Roel “Chuy 7” Collazo Rodríguez, discussed in Part 6 and Part 7, and “Pantera 24”, discussed above and in Part 10, were also likely to be targeted by the governor as well.

This should not be too surprising considering that the death of Odilón “Tango 1” Hernández Valdivia and the arrest of “El Contador” were alleged to be betrayals of Cabeza de Vaca, as discussed in Part 10, as well as rumors that the governor had ordered that Juan Manuel “El Toro” Loisa Salinas, leader of Los Metros, be killed in 2017, as discussed in Part. 

Three weeks later, it was further alleged that Cabeza de Vaca wanted “R3” eliminated before the new governor took office the first day of October. This would appear easy to do as it was said that the state police knew where he lived in Tampico and it was an open secret that he resided in the same neighborhood as a daughter of Joaquín Archivaldo “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, as “R3” was allegedly responsible for ensuring her safety. That same day, it was said that “R3” went into hiding to escape Cabeza de Vaca, leaving the Tampico metropolitan area for “the mountains”.

Rumors about El Truco

César Augusto “El Truco” Verástegui Ostos was born and raised in the southern part of Tamaulipas, and would go on to be elected municipal president of Xicoténcatl twice before joining the administration of Cabeza de Vaca on October 1, 2016 as Secretary General of Government. 

The town of Xicoténcatl and much of the area nearby had been controlled by Los Zetas following their split from the Cártel del Golfo in January 2010, as discussed in Part 1. As Los Zetas became the Cártel del Noreste and Zetas Vieja Escuela (ZVE, Old school Zetas) formed in 2016, as discussed in Part 4, regional leader Francisco “Pancho” Carreón Olvera sided with ZVE, bringing his territory, which included Ciudad Mante, Xicoténcatl, Llera, Antiguo Morelos and Ocampo, with him.

The same day that “El Toro”, leader of Los Metros was killed in April 2017, “Pancho Carreón” was killed in Xicoténcatl during a clash with the military and his brother, Ricardo “El Calo” Carreón Olvera took his place, only to be killed in an operation to arrest him in Xicoténcatl five months later, September 2017 (Note: Borderland Beat reporting at the time mistakenly said this took place in Reynosa). Thereafter, videos of cartel members who had worked under “Pancho Carreón” and “El Calo” spread online. In these videos, numerous allegations regarding strong ties between the cartel leaders and “El Truco” were made, as well as claims that he had “Pancho Carreón” and “El Calo” killed in order to keep them silent about their ties.

By November 2021, a rumor emerged claiming that “El Truco” was “flirting” with the idea of shifting support to the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). A month and a half later, “El Truco” resigned from his position in order to campaign for governor and was endorsed by Cabeza de Vaca. 

Following reports of suspicious cartel activity in the ejido of Lázaro Cárdenas in late April 2022 that appeared to be connected to movement from nearby Guadalcázar, San Luis Potosí, rumors that “El Truco” was “flirting” with the CJNG were repeated, with additional details stating that the city of Tula and the mountains of Ocampo could be opened up, giving the CJNG a new trafficking route to the border.

On June 20, 2022, the day after “El Chapparro” was arrested and two weeks after “El Truco” lost the election for governor, the claims that Cabeza de Vaca had given authorities the location of “El Contador” were repeated and it was said that the Tamaulipas border region with San Luis Potosí, including Ciudad Mante, had become confusing as it was unclear who was who as far as cartel associations went and once again it was stated that “el Truco also opened a route for the CJNG through the mountain highways around Tula and Ocampo Tamaulipas. Tamaulipas is a pressure cooker and Cabeza (de Vaca) is turning up the heat”.

(To be Continued…)


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