José Antonio Yépez alias “El Marro”, arrested this morning in Guanajuato, was one of the priority objectives of the security cabinet of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. For more than a year and a half there were several operatives and strategies to capture it that had not been successful until now.
His detention for the federal government was key in two ways. First because he was identified as the main fuel theft operator in the central and low area of the country; and secondly because, to his dispute with rival groups, he is credited with firing homicidal violence in Guanajuato.
“EL Marro” was born on July 3, 1980. It is native to the town of San Antonio de Morelos belonging to the municipality of Sata Cruz de Juventino Rosas, in the vicinity of Celaya, Guanajuato.
He began his criminal career, according to the sources consulted, from 2005 – being 25 years old – in activities mainly related to drug trafficking and assault on transport. In 2008 there was a history of his arrest for the crime of theft, but he managed to regain his release a few months later.
Read more: El Marro, leader of the Santa Rosa cartel, linked to violence and huachicol in Guanajuato is arrested
Between 2011 and 2015, the alleged criminal managed to ally himself with local criminal gangs to venture into fuel theft activities. This was taking advantage of the weakening of organized crime groups that came to dominate these activities such as the Gulf Cartel.
The growth of the profile of “El Marro” was noticed since 2012 by local and federal authorities, however, as noted by security specialists in the area, no hard-driving actions were implemented to try to slow its growth.
By 2016 José Antonio Yépez had already managed to assemble a considerable criminal and logistical force, which had taken as the point of operation the town of Santa Rosa de Lima, another town on the outskirts of Celaya.
An analysis by Juan Alcántara Soria, former guanajuato’s former coach and former member of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, indicated that in mid-2017 “the Band of El Marro”, already had a considerable presence not only in Celaya but in municipalities around the so-called “industrial corridor” of the entity.
Find out: “He’s no longer at home with a pool”: Durazo says the Marro and his criminal group are weakened
In October of the same year a video was broadcast on social networks in which “El Marro”, accompanied by several hooded and heavily armed men, announced a direct confrontation with the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), which he accused of expanding territorially under the tolerance of governments of all levels.
In 2018 reports from the federal government already recognized the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL) – under the leadership of “El Marro” – as an organized crime group that had managed to displace rival gangs, which led the hydrocarbon theft operations, and whose battle with the CJNG had doubled – by that time – the homicide rate in the entity-
Violent criminal kingpin
By 2019 the CSRL had already had a presence in about 20 of the 46 municipalities of Guanajuato, predominantly in the central, south and southeast area of the entity. These were key areas for the transfer of drugs to the northern and Bajío area, and for the “huachicoleo” by the presence of fuel supply lines and the Salamanca refinery.
The escalation of violence over the dispute with rival groups continued to increase after “El Marro” ordered – like their counterparts – kidnappings and executions of alleged opponents, and the attack on establishments in which they allegedly operated as vulcanizers, addiction treatment centers, workshops, among others.
The data account for the balance of such a criminal war. Guanajuato rose from 1,96 victims of intentional homicide in 2016 to 3,540 victims in 2019, an increase of 222 percent.
You may be interested: They murder one of the lawyers who defended El Marro’s mom
In January 2019, after the new federal government had made combating fuel theft as the first priority, the “El Marro” criminal group placed a blanket in the vicinity of the Salamanca refinery where it threatened to “murder innocents” if the federal forces of the entity were withdrawn. An explosive device, which did not detonate, was located near that strategic facility.
In the following months and in various operations the armed forces managed to seized various properties attributed to “El Marro”, including a luxury residence of more than a thousand square meters located in the worldVillagrán, and which had gardens, swimming pools, stables, and even its own clandestine fuel intake.
The slow fall
Although there were multiple operatives directly implemented to get Yepez capture, the goal was not achieved during 2019. However, the authorities’ actions did weaken the criminal structure of the CSRL and the circle near “El Marro”.
For example, in March 2019 agents of the Attorney’s Office Genera de la República (FGR) with support from the Navy stopped Agustín “M” alias “El Agus”, considered a key man in the structure of “El Marro”, because in addition to coordinating criminal actions he was the main liaison with corrupted authorities in the entity.
In the same month, a sister-in-law of the criminal leader named Angelica “N”, the organization’s alleged financial operator, was reported to be arrested.
In the months that continued with the capture of more than a dozen suspected CSRL operators. This was despite some difficulties due to the social support enjoyed by “El Marro”, which forced federal forces to retreat, as happened on at least one occasion with the Army in the town of Santa Rosa de Lima.
By October 2019, the Commissioner of Security in Guanajuato, Sophía Huett, claimed that José Antonio Yépez was practically “cornered”, that his margin of action and movement was extremely reduced, and that he even had to live “in conditions of discomfort”, moving from one house to another or even staying outdoors.
However, the year ended without the arrest of the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.
Read more: Authority failures free 31 people linked to the Marro cartel, detonator of violence in Guanajuato
In 2020 the siege on the criminal leader narrowed further after the arrest of his father Rodolfo Juan “N” and his mother Rosalba Ortiz “N”. Although failures in ministerial procedures led to his subsequent release, these captures showed that the criminal leader was already touched in his first circle.
A telltale sign of the situation in “El Marro” was offered by the offender himself as a video was broadcast in which, with his voice cut off, he claimed for the arrest of his mother and requested the support of other criminal forces to try to continue the battle against the CJNG.
On July 15th the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection, Alfonso Durazo, declared that José Antonio Yépez was already extremely weakened and without the support that he enjoyed before. “He’s no longer in his house with a pool, he’s already in a half-built house, battling even to cover the payroll of his people,” he said.
Just two weeks after that statement “El Marro” was captured in a coordinated operation between the Army and agents of the Guanajuato Prosecutor’s Office, in compliance with arrest warrants turned against him for organized crime and hydrocarbon theft.
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