Betrayals and New Alliances: Los Chapitos in Baja California

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 “MX” for Borderland Beat

Note to readers: This report uses several articles from the Baja California newspaper Zeta Tijuana that were published in January and February 2021.

Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, Ovidio Guzmán López, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán (Los Chapitos) compete for control of Baja California

Baja California closed the year 2020 with 2,938 homicides. In the first month of this year, it recorded 246 homicides: 148 in Tijuana, 34 in Ensenada, 33 in Tecate, 13 in Mexicali and 10 in Rosarito.

A large percentage of these murders are linked to the violent turf war headed by Los Chapitos, the sons of infamous drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. They are competing with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Tijuana Cartel (CAF) for control of street-level drug spots and international drug trafficking corridors in Baja California.

State officials say that the siblings Ivan Archivaldo, Alfredo, and Ovidio Guzman are making incursions in Baja California through Mexicali from the neighboring state of Sonora. In Mexicali, the Sinaloa Cartel faction is headed by Nestor Ernesto Perez Salas (‘El Nini’), who receives support from the Sonora-based faction Los Salazar.

To cement their control of Baja California, Los Chapitos have been recruiting members from the CJNG and the CAF:

In Tijuana, they hired Pablo Edwin Huerta Niño (‘El Flaquito‘), one of the highest-ranking CAF members. In Ensenada, they hired CJNG boss David Lopez Jimenez (‘El Lobo’ and/or ‘Cabo 20’) and Edgar Perez Villa (‘El Nier’ and/or ‘El 89’). In Tecate, they hired CJNG boss Danny Isaac Ortiz Covarrubias (‘El Moreno’).

Los Salazar and El Nini in Mexicali 

Los Salazar, at the service of Los Chapitos, decided to change things in 2019 by entering the Mexicali Valley “without permission” to kill drug traffickers fleeing from Sonora. By 2020, they made their way to Mexicali and San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, where they moved drugs by sea and land while assassinating their rivals with the support of Crispin Salazar Zamorano.

Later, El Nini sent some of his men to the urban areas. On Monday, November 2, the state authorities captured 12 young people, most of them drug addicts, who were recruited by Los Chapitos from the Mazatlán Youth Rehabilitation Center.

Los Chapitos paid them MXN$2,000 a month to work as sicarios; they are linked to the murders of José Luis Marmolejo, Abraham Guadalupe Martínez Lucero, and Ramón Omar Peralta. These three men worked for Felipe Eduardo Barajas Lozano (‘El Omega’), a close collaborator of Jesús Alexander Sánchez Félix (‘El Ruso’).

Pablo Edwin Huerta Niño (‘El Flaquito’)

Alliance changes, El Flaquito

According to Baja California officials, Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño (‘El Flaquito‘) left the CAF and joined Los Chapitos. El Flaquito was one of the highest-ranking CAF members in the state. Rumors of his desertion to the Sinaloa Cartel surfaced in 2020, when a narcocorrido mentioned El Flaquito was working with Los Chapitos. Investigators say El Flaquito may possibly work under El Nini.

Although El Flaquito started in the CAF, membership has not been his forte. El Flaquito started having issues with the CAF in January 2018, after his men kidnapped several addicts in Tijuana and beat up a ministerial police officer working with the Criminal Investigatory Agency (AIC). This incident brought unwarranted attention to the CAF, and El Flaquito lost a lot of support within the cartel. There were rumors that the CAF also placed a bounty on El Flaquito’s head.

“He could appear dead any moment”, investigators said.

But El Flaquito was neither arrested nor killed. Between 2018 and 2019, he made non-aggression pact with René Arzate García (‘La Rana’) of the Sinaloa Cartel. He also joined the CJNG for some time. In 2020, he began to have problems with his allies because he openly recruited El Lobo from the CJNG.

Ensenada, El Lobo versus El Mercenario

After flipping from the CJNG to Los Chapitos, David Lopez Jimenez, nicknamed ‘Cabo 20’, changed his alias to El Lobo. He then concentrated a large part of his operation to assist El Flaquito’s group in Ensenada.

El Lobo currently helps Los Chapitos gain control of Ensenada against a group headed by Carlos Adrian Casas Reyes (‘El Mercenario’ and/or ‘El Tragedias’). Although El Mercenario is allied to the Sinaloa Cartel, El Lobo is looking to replace him and his faction.

The faction headed by El Lobo have hung a series of banners threatening the operators of El Mercenario. They have accused him and his group of beheadings, arsons and of being chapulines (literally “grasshoppers”) — someone who switches cartel alliances.

Edgar Perez Villa (‘El Nier’ and/or ‘El 89’)

“All those who support El Mercenario [in Ensenada] are fucked: Jorge, Gordo Basura, Gaby Montero, Chuy, Guero, Moy, China, Hielero, Kilo, Blanca, Angela, Simpson, Zuli, Kilo, Sindy, Horacio Chuy. Sincerely: The Ensenada Cartel”, one of the texts read.

El Lobo is the top enforcer of Los Chapitos in Ensenada, followed by Gustavo German Ayala (‘El Tavo’ and/or ‘El Patachin’) and Edgar Pérez Villa (‘El Nier’ and/or ‘El 89’). Their local factions are known as the Ensenada Cartel and La Barredora.

El Mercenario’s faction has severed several blows in recent weeks. In January and February 2021, José Eduardo Osuna Torres (‘El Osuna’) and Daniel Alexis Valenzuela Villalva (‘El Simpson’), two of his closest associates, were arrested. Authorities have so far identified two men nicknamed ‘El Nec’ and ‘Mosco’ as possible successors to them under El Mercenario.

In Tecate, El Moreno

El Moreno, the former head of sicarios for the CJNG in Tecate, is classified as a priority target by state authorities. For the months of August and September 2020, rumors of his desertion from the CJNG started to pop up,

“He got too much attention, for being violent and risking the CJNG brand”, rumors said. 

El Moreno was denied admission to the Sinaloa Cartel because the CJNG wanted him dead and because he was a very high-profile target. El Flaquito did not want to associate himself with him for that reason. Investigators say that they are unsure if the Sinaloa Cartel has granted him full admission in their criminal group.

Baja California violence

U.S. authorities say that much of the drugs that are distributed in Los Angeles and Chicago by gangs linked to Los Chapitos are smuggled through Mexicali and Tijuana, two major ports of entry Los Chapitos want full control of.

For years the Sinaloa Cartel moved drugs through Baja California without much problem, but Los Chapitos began to rebel in 2016, after the last recapture of their father. In 2019, they fought against cells of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, causing greater friction within the cartel. Such confrontations escalated in 2020 and in the last quarter they reached Baja California.

They began by killing traffickers in Mexicali, classified as the least problematic Baja California municipality, because for decades it has been under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel. But violence has now spread to several municipalities across the state.

Sources: Zeta Tijuana (1), (2), (3); (4); (5)


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