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Border Battle: Arellano Felix Cartel

Arellano Felix Cartel family photo

Tijuana's Arellano Felix Cartel refuses to die.

The brothers who founded the organization and ran it for years are all either in jail in the U.S. or Mexico, or dead.

Federal law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border have read the cartel its last rites at numerous press conferences since 2002. But, as authorities knock off one head, the organization sprouts another.

Today, that's Fernando Sanchez Arellano. He's the son of one of the Arellano Felix sisters.

The group refuses to relinquish its death grip on Tijuana and the border region, and to do so, has joined hands with trafficking groups that were once its bitter enemies.

Tijuanapress.com and KPBS have learned through a confidential report by Baja California authorities that the Arellano Felix cartel has teamed up with the Zetas, a group of former military men that became enforcers for Tamaulipas; Gulf Cartel; the Carillo Fuentes, heirs of the Ciudad Juárez drug 'El Chapo'; Guzman earlier this year because they felt betrayed.

The Arellano Felix's new alliance is an attempt to fend off a turncoat lieutenant, 'El Teo' who recently teamed up with Sinaloa's Joaquin'El Chapo' Guzman to take over Tijuana.

The Arellano Felix cartel was born in the mid 1980s. That's when the then-godfather of drug trafficking in Mexico, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, was arrested. He divided up his drug smuggling territory: the major border crossing between Mexico and the U.S., and the state of Sinaloa along Mexico's Pacific coast. An Arellano Felix uncle, Jesus Labra Aviles got Tijuana.

Labra Aviles became the group's financial brain and left operational control to his nephews: Benjamin, Ramon, Eduardo, Francisco Rafael and Francisco Javier Arellano Felix.

The brothers ingratiated themselves with Tijuana's upper crust. For many, they were the cool kids in town. The brothers were also cold killers and murdered anyone who stood in their way.

By the mid-'90s, they were smuggling tons of cocaine across the border to the U.S. Billions of dollars from sales flowed back south.

These days, the cartel is reeling from blows by its enemies and law enforcement. But, as we have seen since the end of September, it continues to fight for its life, regardless the death toll.

The billion-dollar U.S. drug market is too lucrative to lose.




A pesar de que los hermanos Arellano Félix estan en la cárcel o muertos, la organización criminal que lleva su nombre se niega a morir.

En varias ocasiones autoridades tanto de México como de Estados Unidos, han proclamado el fín de la banda de narcotraficantes que sentó sus reales en Tijuana a principios de los 80's.

Pero las detenciones de sus lideres o el asesinato de muchos de sus operadores, no han sido suficientes para abandonar el territorio por donde han contrabandeado toneladas de droga y ganado millones de dólares con el mercado norteamericano.

Hoy un nuevo lider defiende la familia, y la plaza por la que muchos de ellos consideran han pagado a sangre y fuego. No es un hermano, sino un sobrino. Fernando Sanchez Arellano es hijo de una de las hermanas Arellano Félix, lo apodan 'El Ingeniero.' Es reconocido por las autoridades y sus rivales como el nuevo jefe del cartel.

Cuenta una de las muchas historias sobre el origen de Cartel de la droga asentado en Tijuana, que Jesús Labra Avilés, el llamado cerebro financiero de la organización, compartió el poder con sus sobrinos, Benjamín, Ramon, Rafael, Francisco y Eduardo.

Labra lo había recibido de Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo quien le otorgó; esta plaza desde prisión, allá por 1989.

Poco a poco la familia, originaria de Sinaloa, creo en esta ciudad fronteriza una base no solo económica sino social, mezclandose con algunas de las familias acomodadas de Tijuana, para poder movilizar toneladas de droga a la Union Americana.

Los jovenes de las familias pudientes no necesitaban dinero, pero los Arellano les dieron poder.

El Nuevo sobrino parece estar decidido a pelear por Tijuana y el corredor de las drogas que significa San Diego y mantener viva la leyenda de los Arellano a costa de muchas muertes.