Things That Matter

Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

The cartel wars in Mexico have produced their fair share of larger-than-life characters and stories of success and terrible failure that have to be read to be believed. Such is the case of La Catrina, a hitwoman for the vicious Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which after the demise of Los Zetas and considered the somewhat diminished capacities of the Sinaloa Cartel has surged as the most powerful and violent drug trafficking organization in the world. As Post Media News reminds us, the CJNG is perhaps one of the most complex global players in trafficking, and “responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico. The cartel is said to operate in 75 per cent of Mexican states, and to have operations in Europe, Asia and Australia as well as across the Americas”. Its leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes “El Mencho” is one of the most wanted criminals in the world. 

Among its ranks, the CJNG has had some female dealers and killers. Among them, the most legendary and powerful was a young woman of vicious looks, a killing fashionista by the moniker of La Catrina. She was only 21-years-old, but was known for her savage methods.  Her real name:  María Guadalupe López Esquivel. As CE Noticias Financieras reminds us, she was born and raised in one of the most violent regions of the country: “Although she was born in Buenavista, María Guadalupe was taken to live in Tepalcatepec, where she attended primary school, counted by settlers from that municipality of Tierra Caliente”. 

La Catrina was a sicaria and led a group of assassins who were accused of ambushing a police convoy.

La Catrina committed the ultimate crime in the world of the Mexican cartel wars: she and her sicarios ambushed a police convoy and ended the lives of 13 officers in the much disputed state of Michoacan. She then became a prime target for the army and the newly formed Guardia Nacional. La Catrina was infamous for her bloody methods and cruelness. 

She got into the cartel when she fell in love with one of its most powerful members.

As often happens, she was led into a life of crime out of love, as she started dating one of the cartel strongmen. As news.com.au reports: “It is believed that La Catrina joined the CJNG in 2017, having fallen in love with another leader, Miguel “El M2” Fernandez. She rose rapidly through the ranks under El M2, living a glamorous lifestyle within the cartel. When she died she was in charge of paying fellow criminals and lead assassinations, extortion and kidnappings”. She often flaunted her lavish lifestyle on social media, posing in designer clothes and holding weapons made out of pure gold. 

An online bodycam video shows the moment when security forces found her gasping for air as a river of blood emanated from her neck.

The video is a gruesome reminder of the consequences that individuals who decide to dedicate their lives to crime might ultimately face. As the camera approaches we can see a young woman dressed in sweatpants and what seems to be a hoodie sitting on the floor. She is gasping for air and the sound is chilling, a premonition of certain death. The soldier tells her “hang on, mija, we are waiting for a helicopter to take you.”

But as luck would have it, it was way to late and the sad legend of La Catrina was born. It was a moment that will perhaps be turned into a movie scene someday, as Post Media News reports: “An amateur tourniquet draped around her neck, she can be seen sitting slumped in the dust beside a wall, blood dripping from her hand and neck as she gasps for breath. Glancing up at the officer approaching her, she seems resigned to her fate.”

She died while arrested, as a helicopter was trying to take her to hospital.

The mission in which La Catrina was killed and six other cartel members were captured involved state trooperes, state police and the National Guard. It all happened in a village called La Bocanada in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, a territory known for the cruel disputes among cartels. They were found in a safe house after a tip led the authorities to capture one of the CJNG’s biggest fish.

La Catrina’s death is a big step, at least in terms of media reach, for the AMLO government, which has failed to reign in the cartels and has so far been unsuccessful in curbing violence and killings in the country. 2019 was the bloodiest year to date in modern Mexican history and the government seems to be at the mercy of the cartels. 

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

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This Group Of Female Vigilantes Is Taking The Lead In Protecting Their Communities From Cartel Violence

Omar Torres / AFP / Getty Images

In Mexico’s state of Michoacán, cartel violence has spiraled out of control for decades. But in recent years, the problem has become even more pronounced as towns across the state are basically being ran and operated by the ultra-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Everyday citizens are now being forced to fend for themselves amid out of control violence thanks to a lack of protection from police and the armed forces. In one town, a group of women have banded together to help defend their community and families from the increasing threat of violence and they’re making headlines for their bravery.

An all female vigilante group is working to protect their small town from cartel violence.

The Michoacan area of Mexico has gotten so lawless, a band of female vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to protect their friends and family.

The state, which is the world’s largest supplier of avocados and limes, has recently been overrun by the violent Jalisco drug cartel that hail from the neighboring state and so the women are fighting back, according to The Associated Press.

The women carry assault rifles and post roadblocks, often while pregnant or carrying small children with them, to combat the growing homicide levels, which have skyrocketed since 2013. The group doesn’t only use assault weapons and roadblocks to defend their town. They also have a homemade tank – a large pickup truck reinforced with steel plate armor.

For many of the women, the mission is personal.

Many of the women vigilantes in the town of El Terrero have lost sons, brothers or fathers in the fighting. Eufresina Blanco Nava told the AP her son Freddy Barrios, a 29-year old lime picker, was kidnapped by presumed Jalisco cartel gunmen in pickup trucks; she has never heard from him since.

Another woman claimed her 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since, saying “We are going to defend those we have left, the children we have left, with our lives. We women are tired of seeing our children, our families disappear. They take our sons, they take our daughters, our relatives, our husbands.”

And this fight is largely left to the town’s women, as most of its men are being hauled off to work for the cartels (willingly or not).

A battle is raging in Michoacán between rival cartels leading to the surge in violence.

Michoacán has long been dominated by the Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel and the Los Viagras gang, but the CJNG control nearby areas and is determined to increase its area of influence. Naranjo de Chila, a town just across the Grande River from El Terrero, is the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord.

The women vigilantes have been accused by some people of being foot soldiers of the Nueva Familia or Los Viagras but they deny the allegations, although the AP said “they clearly see the Jalisco cartel as their foe.”

The vigilantes also made it clear that they would be very happy if the police and army came to El Terrero and took over the job they are currently doing. But few of them see that as a viable option since they’ve been left to fend for themselves for so long.

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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

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