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Tijuana Cartel

The Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization, is based in one of the most strategically important border towns in Mexico, and continues to export drugs even after being weakened by a brutal internal war in 2009 after the arrest or assassination of various members of the Arellano Felix clan, the cartel is now headed by Fernando Sanchez Arellano, a nephew of the Arellano Felix brothers who once bloodied Mexico and southern California with their brutish and authoritarian style. With the powerful Sinaloa Cartel moving into Tijuana in force, Sanchez Arellano is struggling to keep a grip on this lucrative drug and human trafficking corridor.

Like most of the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, the Tijuana Cartel traces its origins to Sinaloa state. Its founding members were 
Sinaloans who worked closely with the legendary Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. 

Despite its name, the Guadalajara Cartel is from Sinaloa. Its members left their homeland during a military offensive in the region in the late 1970s that included mass arrests and a crop fumigation campaign. Amidst the offensive, police shot and killed Aviles, but a younger generation, including an upstart Sinaloan named Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” quickly took his place. After working for years with Felix Gallardo, Guzman would form the Sinaloa Cartel.


An indictment in the San Diego District Court unsealed in July 2010 painted a picture of a sophisticated organization very much in business, with contacts in the Mexican police and government, including control over the liaison between the Baja California Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. government. According to reports, Sanchez Arellano’s mother, Enedina, runs the money side of the business. It also says the group’s extortion and kidnapping rackets are flourishing under the watch of the new boss. The “Enterprise,” as U.S. authorities called it in the indictment, has a multi-layered organization that insulates its leadership from legal prosecution. 

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Categories: The Cartels
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