Cartel leader José Antonio Yépez Ortiz aka “El Marro” (the sledgehammer) was arrested on Sunday in the north-central state of Guanajuato by Federal and state authorities. The leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, 40, is notorious for stealing millions in fuel from government pipelines, up to $2 million a day the New York Times reports. At least five other people were detained in the joint operation, and a businesswoman who had been kidnapped was rescued, according to a joint statement released by the Guanajuato government and Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Security.
#ÚltimaHora “El Marro” ha sido capturado. En operativo coordinado de fuerzas federales y estatales se ha concretado su captura y se logra la liberación de una empresaria secuestrada. pic.twitter.com/CgZPI4qO3X
— Fiscalía General del Estado de Guanajuato (@FGEGUANAJUATO) August 2, 2020
Alfonso Durazo, Mexico’s Security Minister, announced the arrest on Twitter saying he’d been arrested for “organized crime and fuel theft.” His crimes have attributed to the spike in violence in Guanajuato as the more powerful New Generation cartel of Jalisco fought for access to the government-owned oil refinery Yépez Ortiz was stealing from. The fight between the two groups made Guanajuato the country’s deadliest state last year with more than 3,000 murders, three times as much as in 2016 the Los Angeles Times reports. According to local authorities, 91 percent of these killings were linked to confrontations between both cartels.
Hoy en la madrugada, en una acción encabezada por el Ejército Mexicano y apoyada por la @FGEGUANAJUATO, fue detenido José Antonio “N”, también conocido como “El Marro”. En este momento se encuentra a disposición de la autoridad judicial local. 1/3
— Alfonso Durazo (@AlfonsoDurazo) August 2, 2020
His arrest concludes a 516-day long hunt for Yépez Ortiz by state forces, Borderland Beat reports, who also states that he worked with different municipal police corporations to gain information about his pursuers. The Santa Rosa de Lima itself attempted to connect with local residents by giving them some of the shares of their train robberies in order to gain their support. However, once security tightened they turned to extortion and kidnapping.
Durazo said Yépez Ortiz would be taken to the Altiplano penitentiary, a maximum-security prison where famous drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was housed before he escaped through a tunnel in 2015 only to be recaptured the following year.
In June, Yépez Ortiz was seen in a widely-shared video lamenting the arrest of his mother and sister, who were taken into custody with 30 gang members, they were later freed but claimed they had been tortured, Al Jazeera reports.
“The Ministry of National Defense, with the local government’s support, achieved this very important detention,” Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known as AMLO) said following the arrest. “We need to continue attending to the causes that provoke violence. We say no to corruption and impunity.” This is a major win for AMLO who pledged to crack down on cartel violence during his 2018 campaign but violence has since spiked in the wake of his “hug not bullets” approach.