Osiel Cárdenas Guillén

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Osiel Cárdenas Guillén
Born (1967-05-18) 18 May 1967 (age 52)
Known forGulf Cartel leader
Criminal chargeMoney laundering, drug trafficking, murder
Criminal penalty25-year prison sentence
Criminal statusIncarcerated

Osiel Cárdenas Guillén (born 18 May 1967) is a Mexican drug lord and the former leader of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. Originally a mechanic in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, he entered the cartel by killing Juan García Abrego's friend and competitor Salvador Gómez, after the former's arrest in 1996. As confrontations with rival groups heated up, Osiel Cárdenas sought and recruited over 30 deserters from the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales to form the cartel's armed wing.[1] Los Zetas served as the hired private mercenary army of the Gulf Cartel.

After a shootout with the Mexican military in 2003, Cárdenas was arrested and imprisoned. In 2007 he was extradited to the U.S. and in 2010 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for money laundering, drug trafficking, homicide, and for having threatened two U.S. federal agents in 1999.[2] His brother, Mario Cárdenas Guillén, worked for the Gulf Cartel, as did another brother, Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, who was killed by Mexican Marines on 5 November 2010. He is currently imprisoned at USP Florence High with a release date of 2025. His inmate number is 62604-079.

Arrest of Ábrego[edit]

Following Juan García Ábrego's 1996 arrest by Mexican authorities and subsequent deportation to the United States, his brother Humberto García Ábrego tried to take over the leadership of the Gulf Cartel but ultimately failed in his attempt.[3] He did not have the leadership skills nor the support of the Colombian drug-provisioners. In addition, he was under observation and was widely known; his surname meant this would continue.[4] He was to be replaced by Óscar Malherbe de León and Raúl Valladares del Ángel, until their arrest a short time later.[5] This led several cartel lieutenants to fight for the leadership. Malherbe tried to bribe officials with $2 million to obtain his release, but it was denied.[6] Hugo Baldomero Medina Garza, known as El Señor de los Tráilers, is considered one of the most important members of the Gulf Cartel.[7] He was one of the top cartel officials for more than 40 years, trafficking about 20 long tons (22 short tons) of cocaine to the United States each month.[8] His luck ended in November 2000 when he was captured in Tampico, Tamaulipas and imprisoned in La Palma.[9] After Medina Garza's arrest, his cousin Adalberto Garza Dragustinovis was investigated for allegedly forming part of the Gulf Cartel and for laundering money; this case is still open.[10] The next in line was Sergio Gómez alias El Checo, however, his leadership was short-lived when he was assassinated in April 1996 in Valle Hermoso.[11] After this, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén took control of the cartel in July 1999 after assassinating Salvador Gómez Herrera alias El Chava, co-leader of the Gulf Cartel and his close friend, earning his nickname Mata Amigos (Friend Killer).[12]

Cárdenas era and Los Zetas[edit]

In 1997, the Gulf Cartel began to recruit military personnel Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, an army general of that time, had assigned as representatives from the Attorney General of Mexico's offices in certain states across Mexico. After his imprisonment a short time later, Jorge Madrazo Cuéllar created the National Public Security System (SNSP), to fight the drug cartels along the U.S-Mexico border. After Osiel Cárdenas took full control of the Gulf Cartel in 1999, he found himself in a no-holds-barred fight to keep his notorious organization and leadership untouched, and sought out members of the Mexican Army Special Forces to become the military armed-wing of the Gulf Cartel.[13] His goal was to protect himself from rival drug cartels and from the Mexican military, in order to perform vital functions as the leader of the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico.[14] Among his first contacts was Arturo Guzmán Decena, an Army lieutenant who was reportedly asked by Cárdenas Guillén to look for the "best men possible".[15] Consequently, Guzmán Decenas deserted from the Armed Forces and brought more than 30 army deserters with him to form part of Cárdenas Guillén’ new criminal paramilitary wing.[16] They were enticed with salaries much higher than those paid by the Mexican Army.[17] Among the original defectors were Jaime González Durán,[18] Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar,[19] and Heriberto Lazcano,[20] who was killed in 2012 while he was the supreme leader of Los Zetas. The creation of Los Zetas ushered in a new era of drug trafficking in Mexico.[21] Between 2001 and 2008, the organization of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas was collectively known as La Compañía (The Company).[22]

One of the first missions of Los Zetas was to eradicate Los Chachos, a group of drug traffickers under the orders of the Milenio Cartel, who disputed the drug corridors of Tamaulipas with the Gulf Cartel in 2003.[23] This gang was controlled by Dionisio Román García Sánchez alias El Chacho, who had decided to betray the Gulf Cartel and switch his alliance to the Tijuana Cartel; however, he was eventually killed by Los Zetas.[24] Once Cárdenas Guillén consolidated his position and supremacy, he expanded the responsibilities of Los Zetas, and as years passed, they became much more important to the Gulf Cartel. They began to organize kidnappings,[25] impose taxes, collect debts, operate protection racket,[26] control the extortion business,[27] secure cocaine supply and trafficking routes known as plazas (zones) and execute its foes, often with grotesque savagery.[15] In response to the rising power of the Gulf Cartel, the rival Sinaloa Cartel[28] established a heavily armed, well-trained enforcer group known as Los Negros.[29] The group operated similarly to Los Zetas, but with less complexity and success. There is a circle of experts who believe that the start of the Mexican Drug War did not begin in 2006 when Felipe Calderón sent troops to Michoacán to stop the increasing violence, but in 2004 in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, when the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas fought off the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Negros.[30]

The death of Arturo Guzmán Decena (2002),[31] and the capture of Rogelio González Pizaña (2004),[32] the second-in-line, marked the opportunity for Heriberto Lazcano to take charge of Los Zetas. Upon the arrest of the Gulf Cartel boss Cárdenas Guillén in 2003, and his extradition in 2007, the actions of Los Zetas changed—they began to become synonymous with the Gulf Cartel, and their influence grew within the organization.[33] Los Zetas began to grow independently from the Gulf Cartel, and eventually a rupture occurred between them in early 2010.[34][35]

Cárdenas' standoff with U.S. agents[edit]

On 9 November 1999, two U.S. agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were threatened at gunpoint by Cárdenas Guillén and approximately fifteen of his henchmen in Matamoros. The two agents traveled to Matamoros with an informant to gather intelligence on the operations of the Gulf Cartel.[36][37] Cárdenas Guillén demanded the agents and the informant to get out of their vehicle, but they refused to obey his orders. The incident escalated as he threatened to kill them if they did not comply and his gunmen prepared to shoot them. The agents tried to reason with him that killing U.S. federal agents would bring a massive manhunt by the U.S. government. Cárdenas Guillén eventually let them go and threatened to kill them if they ever returned to his home turf.[36]

The standoff triggered a massive law enforcement effort to crack down on the leadership structure of the Gulf Cartel. Both the Mexican and U.S. governments increased their efforts to apprehend Cárdenas Guillén. Prior to the standoff, he was regarded as a minor player in the international drug trade, but this incident grew his reputation and made him one of the most-wanted criminals.[38] The FBI and the DEA filed numerous charges against him and issued a US$2 million bounty for his arrest.[39]

Kingpin Act sanction[edit]

On 1 June 2001, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Cárdenas Guillén under the Kingpin Act, for his involvement in drug trafficking along with eleven other international criminals.[40] The act prohibited U.S. citizens and companies from conducting any kind of business activity with him, and virtually froze all his assets in the U.S.[41]

Cárdenas' arrest and extradition[edit]

Osiel Cárdenas' extradition to the United States from Mexico.

Osiel Cárdenas Guillén was captured in the city of Matamoros, on 14 March 2003 in a shootout between the Mexican military and Gulf Cartel gunmen.[42] He was one of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives; they were offering $2 million for his capture.[43] According to government archives, this six-month military operation was planned and carried out in secret; the only people informed were President Vicente Fox, Mexico's Secretary of Defense Gerardo Clemente Vega, and Mexico's Attorney General, Rafael Macedo de la Concha.[44] After his capture, Osiel Cárdenas was sent to the federal, high-security prison La Palma.[45] However, it was believed that Cárdenas still controlled the Gulf Cartel from prison.[46] He was extradited in 2007 to the United States, where he was sentenced to 25 years in a prison in Houston for money laundering, drug trafficking, homicide and death threats to U.S. federal agents.[47] Reports from the PGR and El Universal state that while in prison, Osiel Cárdenas and Benjamín Arellano Félix, from the Tijuana Cartel, formed an alliance. Moreover, through handwritten notes, Osiel Cárdenas gave orders on the movement of drugs in Mexico and into the United States, approved executions, and signed forms to allow the purchase of police forces.[48] And while his brother Antonio Cárdenas Guillén led the Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cárdenas still gave vital orders while in La Palma sending messages through his lawyers and guards.[48]

The arrest and extradition of Osiel Cárdenas, however, caused several top lieutenants from both the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas to fight over important drug corridors to the United States, especially in the cities of Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico—all situated in Tamaulipas state. They also fought for coastal cities Acapulco and Cancún; the state capital of Monterrey, and the states of Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.[49] Using violence and intimidation, Heriberto Lazcano took control of both Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel after Cardenas’ extradition.[50] Lieutenants who were once loyal to Cárdenas began following Lazcano's orders. He tried to reorganize the cartel by appointing several lieutenants to control specific territories. Morales Treviño was appointed to oversee Nuevo León;[51] Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez in Matamoros;[52] Héctor Manuel Sauceda Gamboa, nicknamed El Karis, took control of Nuevo Laredo;[53] Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa, known as El Goyo, along with his brother Arturo, took control of the Reynosa plaza;[54] Arturo Basurto Peña, alias El Grande, and Iván Velásquez Caballero alias El Talibán took control of Quintana Roo and Guerrero;[55] and Alberto Sánchez Hinojosa, alias Comandante Castillo, took over Tabasco.[56] However, continual disagreement was leading the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas into an inevitable rupture.

United States v. Cárdenas-Guillén[edit]

In 2007, Osiel Cárdenas was extradited to the United States and charged with conspiracy to traffic large amounts of marijuana and cocaine, violating the Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute (also known as The Kingpin Statute), and for threatening two U.S. federal officers.[57] The standoff the two agents had with the drug lord in 1999 in the city of Matamoros led to the U.S. indicting Cárdenas and pressuring the Mexican government to capture him.[58] In 2010 he was finally sentenced to 25 years in prison after being charged with 22 federal charges;[59] the courtroom was locked and the public prevented from witnessing the proceedings.[60] The proceedings took place in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in the border city of Brownsville.[61] Cárdenas was isolated from interacting with other prisoners at ADX Florence.[62] He was eventually transferred to USP Florence High.

Nearly $30 million of the former drug lord's assets were distributed among several Texas law enforcement agencies.[63] In exchange for a 25-year sentence, he agreed to collaborate with U.S. agents in intelligence information.[64] The U.S. federal court awarded two helicopters owned by Osiel Cárdenas to the Business Development Bank of Canada and GE Canada Equipment Financing respectively; and both of them were bought using "drug proceeds".[65]


  1. ^ "'Los Zetas' se salen de control". El Universal. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  2. ^ "El origen de 'Los Zetas': brazo armado del cártel del Golfo". CNNMéxico (in Spanish). 5 July 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  3. ^ Castillo, Gustavo (2 May 2009). "Desplazan a los García Ábrego en liderato del cártel del Golfo". La Jornada.
  4. ^ Alzaga, Ignacio (1 May 2009). "Relegan a familia de García Ábrego en cártel del Golfo". Milenio Noticias. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011.
  5. ^ Weiner, Tim (19 January 2001). "Mexico Agrees To Extradite Drug Suspect To California". New York Times.
  6. ^ Lupsha, Peter. "A Chronology | Murder, Money, & Mexico". University of New Mexico.
  7. ^ Medellín, Alejandro (4 February 2011). "Medina Garza en 'La Palma'". El Universal. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  8. ^ Zendejas, Gabriel. "Detectan a poderoso capo del Cártel del Golfo". La Prensa. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
  9. ^ Ruiz, José Luis (3 April 2001). "Caen 21 miembros de cártel del Golfo". El Universal. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  10. ^ "Indagan a familiar de El Señor de los Tráileres". Milenio Noticias. 18 November 2008. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012.
  11. ^ Ramírez, Ignacio (10 April 2000). "La disputa del narcopoder". El Universal. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Desde las entrañas del Ejército, Los Zetas". Blog del Narco. 23 May 2010. Archived from the original on 25 December 2010.
  13. ^ "¿Quienes son los Zetas?". Blog del Narco. 7 March 2010. Archived from the original on 29 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Cártel de 'Los Zetas'". Mundo Narco. 15 January 2011. Archived from the original on 18 January 2011.
  15. ^ a b Grayson, George W. (2010). Mexico: narco-violence and a failed state?. Transaction Publishers. p. 339. ISBN 1-4128-1151-1.
  16. ^ Tobar, Hector (20 May 2007). "A cartel army's war within". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ "Los Zetas and Mexico's Transnational Drug War". Borderland Beat. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  18. ^ "Los 'grandes capos' detenidos en la guerra contra el narcotráfico de Calderón". CNN México. 6 November 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Video Interrogatorio de Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar "El Mamito"". Mundo Narco. 5 July 2011. Archived from the original on 9 July 2011.
  20. ^ "Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano "El Verdugo"". Blog del Narco. 3 March 2010. Archived from the original on 6 August 2011.
  21. ^ Ware, Michael (6 August 2009). "Los Zetas called Mexico's most dangerous drug cartel". CNN World. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011.
  22. ^ Sherman, Chris (25 January 2012). "Texas jury convicts alleged Mexican cartel hit man". The Monitor. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  23. ^ "Surge nuevo 'narcoperfil". El Universal. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  24. ^ "Organized crime and terrorist activity in Mexico, 1999-2002" (PDF). Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  25. ^ Schiller, Dane. "Narco gangster reveals the underworld". Houston Chronicle.
  26. ^ "The Mexican Drug War and the Thirty Years' War". Bellum: The Stanford Review. Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  27. ^ "Army troops capture a Zetas cartel boss in northern Mexico". Fox News Latino. 15 February 2011.
  28. ^ "¿Qué es el Cartel de Sinaloa?". Perfil.com. 24 August 2008.
  29. ^ Sánchez, Alex (4 June 2007). "Mexico's Drug War: Soldiers versus Narco-Soldiers". New American Media | La Prensa San Diego. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012.
  30. ^ Fantz, Ashley (22 January 2012). "Saldo por el combate al narcotráfico: muerte por un negocio millonario". CNN Mexico. Archived from the original on 23 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  31. ^ Sullivan, Kevin (21 June 2004). "Betrayal on the Mexican Border". The Washington Post.
  32. ^ Sánchez, Jesús Olguín. "Cae líder de los "Zetas"". México: Presidencia de la República. Retrieved 3 November 2004.
  33. ^ "Drug Trafficking Organizations". National Drug Intelligence Center. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  34. ^ "Weekend shootouts in northeastern Mexico kill at least 9". CNN News. 17 June 2011. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  35. ^ "El origen de 'Los Zetas': brazo armado del cártel del Golfo". CNN México. 5 July 2011. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013.
  36. ^ a b Buch, Json (28 February 2011). "Dangers higher for federal agents". San Antonio Express-News. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018.
  37. ^ Schiller, Dane (15 March 2010). "DEA agent breaks silence on standoff with cartel". The Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018.
  38. ^ "Grayson: Zapata slaying will have repercussions". The Brownsville Herald. 17 February 2011.
  39. ^ "$2 Million Reward Offered Leading To The Arrest or Conviction of Drug Traffickers". Drug Enforcement Administration. 14 December 2000. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007.
  40. ^ "DESIGNATIONS PURSUANT TO THE FOREIGN NARCOTICS KINGPIN DESIGNATION ACT" (PDF). United States Department of the Treasury. 15 May 2014. p. 1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  41. ^ "An overview of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act" (PDF). United States Department of the Treasury. 2009. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
  42. ^ "'Drug boss' captured in Mexico". BBC News. 15 March 2003. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  43. ^ "Osiel Cardenas-Guillen". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  44. ^ "Cae Osiel Cárdenas: Se enfrentó a tiros con el Ejército". El Universal. 15 March 2003. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  45. ^ "Nuevo auto de formal prisión a Osiel Cárdenas". Esmas.com. August 2005. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012.
  46. ^ Aponte, David (5 January 2005). "Líderes narcos pactan en La Palma trasriego de droga". El Universal. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  47. ^ "Sentencian a Osiel Cárdenas Guillén a 25 años de prisión en Texas". CNN México. 24 February 2010. Archived from the original on 4 September 2011.
  48. ^ a b "Maneja Osiel mafia desde la carcel, prueban". El Universal. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  49. ^ "Desertor del Ejército, nuevo líder del cártel del Golfo: informes castrenses". La Jornada. 3 February 2008.
  50. ^ "Detienen a un líder del Cártel del Golfo en Tabasco". Esmas.com. 7 September 2008.
  51. ^ "Miguel Morales Treviño, Z-40, un narco violento ya está en la mira". Mundo Narco. 22 December 2010. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010.
  52. ^ "Loz Zetas: Grupo Paramilitar Mexicano" (PDF). Policias y Sociedad. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  53. ^ "Cartel leader believed slain in Reynosa violence". The Monitor. 17 February 2009. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009.
  54. ^ "Confirman militares enfrentamiento con narcotraficantes". El Mañana: Reynosa. 27 November 2009. Archived from the original on 5 January 2002.
  55. ^ "Revelan que desertor del Ejército mexicano liderea Cártel del Golfo". El Porvenir. 3 February 2008. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012.
  56. ^ "Capturan al líder de los 'Zetas' en Tabasco". Tabasco Hoy. 8 September 2008.
  57. ^ "United States of America v. Cardenas-Guillen" (PDF). United States Court of Appeals for the Southern District of Texas. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  58. ^ "DEA agent talks of 1999 Matamoros standoff with Osiel Cardenas-Guillen". The Brownsville Herald. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  59. ^ "Extradition: Past cases highlight limits". The Brownsville Herald. 5 March 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  60. ^ Langford, Terri (9 November 2011). "New U.S. attorney no stranger to Houston". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  61. ^ Perez, Emma (23 September 2008). "Cardenas Guillen awaits trial". The Brownsville Herald. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  62. ^ Schiller, Dane (30 September 2011). "Mexican drug lords decry U.S. prison conditions". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  63. ^ "Assets from drug boss go to Texas law enforcement". The Houston Chronicle. 17 January 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  64. ^ Schiller, Dane (4 August 2011). "Trafficking defendant: I was a DEA informer". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  65. ^ "U.S. turns over custody of Cardenas-Guillen helicopters to businesses". The Monitor. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 2 April 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2012.