José Antonio Yépez Ortiz aka El Marro wasn't the first and certainly won't be the last. It does remain to be seen though what the future holds for the brand that is Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL), at the moment it's thought that his brother and father will lead. As I've spoken about on Twitter, the group is much smaller than made out to be and definitely smaller than the rest of the groups they're often mentioned alongside. But at the same time, they've certainly carved out a place for themselves within Guanajuato, making it seemingly less likely that they will be co-opted by someone else in the area. To get a sense of what to expect, I jumped over to Google and had it work its time-traveling magic for me. Sure enough, we've been in a similar position before. Which for anyone who's been paying attention for some time shouldn't be surprising in the slightest.
1019 days between Crutches and Marro apprehension
It was Tuesday, October 18th 2017 when Eulogio Plaza aka El Muletas, translated El Crutches, was arrested. This appears to have come by chance, as he was found to be stupidly speeding on the Salamanca-Irapuato highway and discovered only after being pulled over. At the time it was reported that he was second in command of a criminal organization known as La Unión Guanajuato and the right-hand man to El Marro. In typical narco fashion a video apparently the same day pops up on social media displaying a new group. Calling itself, you guessed it, the Santa Rosa de lima Cartel. In the video featured is three dozen or so men, predominately wearing black and masked, holding long guns in the air hooting and hollering their allegiance to El Marro and proclaiming their fight against the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
How new new
If you use the magic of Google and set the filter to show you results only before Sept 18, 2017, you will find almost nothing about CSRL. If you alter the filter to show you the following month Oct 18 2017, you will see a list of headlines along the lines of "El Muletas falls, but a group emerges that declares war on the CJNG" or "The New 'Santa Rosa De Lima Guanajuato Cartel' Appears And Declares War On The CJNG." The question of newness is always a worthwhile one to ask. New usually purports that criminal actors who weren't previously involved in the conflict are now involved in the conflict. This can be misleading because it neglects the fact that sometimes it's not that a new group is entering the conflict for the first time but more so that the dynamics of the criminal landscape in the area are shifting. This shift is bound to put some groups further into the spotlight while removing others. I think it would be fair to say that this shifting around is more prone to happen in certain circumstances, a main one being the apprehension of a kingpin. I've not dug around enough to speak on the history of "La Unión Guanajuato" meaning I can't say if this was simply a name change. But what is for certain though is that after the apprehension of Crutches, Marro felt the time was right to step forward. But it's worth noting that he was already number one at the time, at least according to the state. It appears though maybe not number one in the eyes of CJNG, which after that video we can presume obviously changed.
Same shit, different kingpin
None of this should really be surprising and isn't something just related to arresting kingpins. It's no secret that when any sort of High-Payoff Target(HPT) is apprehended that it creates space in the arena for a new top dog to jump in. Someone was also going to have to fend off the offensives from CJNG. What is noticeable maybe is how smooth the transition appears to have been. Heck, you had a video come out the exact same day, as if Marro was waiting for something of the sort to happen, giving him his chance to step up. I think it's safe to say it is the unity and cohesion of CSRL that has allowed Marro to out maneuver both the state and CJNG for so long. I'm curious if he assumed that he would have had more support from the state. Thinking that as long as he kept his sights on CJNG that he wouldn't have to worry much. But what is not always as apparent as the large flashy guns is the corruption that occurs behind the scenes. In many ways CJNG can't 'win' over the municipalities that CSRL 'controls' with shear force alone. Meaning that all the while during the exchange of lead between groups, CJNG is also trying to work it's silver into the hands of those in positions of power, either in the state or municipal government, or law enforcement within the region. This causes a problem for someone like Marro. Because maybe at first it was easy for him to keep his sights solely on CJNG, but now he's got people from within the state trying to take him out. And as we saw, at the end of the day it was those quote, insiders, who eventually took him off the map and not CJNG. Leading some to say that the state government has done nothing but provide a gift to CJNG for taking out their biggest enemy in the region for them. As I tweeted, the state is undoubtedly aware of the ramifications of Marros arrest for the criminal landscape of the state. Hence why it'll be interesting to see what happens next because if nothing happens one could say that CJNG will just hastily take over the region. There is logic to that thinking being that CSRL has been the ones preventing them from doing so thus far. But at the same time that simplifies the reality of what actually will happen and we can't be so naive to think that the apprehension of Marro is simply the complete end of CSRL.
We do not find it implausible that a group under a different name could be announced in the coming weeks. At the same time that maybe not be necessary as there are a couple established groups in the region who will most likely see this as their time to step up. One main contender being Nueva Plaza Cartel headed up by Érick Valencia Salazar aka El 85. Released from prison in 2017 on some funkiness, he's a former associate of Mencho but now long time enemy. 85 probably is one of the more motivated ones currently willing to officially take a stand against CJNG. We saw some evidence of this the other day with a big manta showing up in Pénjamo stating that his group will begin a "clean" of the area. As David Saucedo writes in his article, Pénjamo is thought to be one of the main areas of incursion into the state from CJNG.
Let's also not forget that the main focus of the group has historically been the theft and illicit sale of fuel(petrol and diesel). It would not be surprising to see the group lessen overall operations, minimizing themselves back to focusing solely on that. Which could pull them out of the limelight some and potentially even out of CJNG crosshairs. Their chances of "defeating" or more appropriately put, fending off offensives from CJNG even with Marro at the helm was a challenge. Making the likelihood of success even more difficult for the group now without their main dude. But that all remains to be seen, not much is particularly known about specifically how CSRL was run. I presume though that in the coming weeks it will become more evident as the remaining leadership works to organize or even reorganize itself. Typically as groups go through such a process, cracks within the hierarchy become more apparent, giving us further insight into their inner workings. The main concern for a group without their head honcho is unity. Without unity the group could find itself having to deal with internal conflicts, all the while still having to fend off an offensive from CJNG. That certainly wouldn't put it in a good place for survival.
We will be watching closely.