The Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG in San Cristóbal de Las Casas (II)
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, is located in the Highlands area of the state of Chiapas and has an approximate altitude of 2,200m. The last population census, conducted by INEGI, shows a figure of 215,874 people throughout the municipality. It has the peculiarity of being a multicultural and also cosmopolitan city. It should be noted that the population figure recorded by the INEGI may have a relatively high margin of error. In the last seven or eight years, the number of settlers who have taken over or invaded land on the outskirts of San Cristóbal has gotten out of control. Several of these groups took over the land, armed, and complaints about invasions proliferate every year. The absence of, ineffectiveness or complicity of the authorities accompanied each of the recorded invasions, since neither municipal or state police nor the National Guard or the Army intervened. Only the media record remained. In many cases, the registration of the identities of many of the new settlers was practically impossible.
Currently, the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) controls a large part of the Chiapas territory, and for the purposes of this work, we focus on the operation and part of the scope that it is developing in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, as well as in a part of the Highlands area of the state.
The proliferation of CDS cells, the arrival of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), plus the organized and non-organized crime operation, based in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, a large part of the Highlands area, and the route to the border region, passing through Comitán de Dominguez, is already a reality nowadays.
The involvement of political and social actors in criminal or delinquent groups has been pointed out and denounced, time and time again, in the different testimonies that Rompeviento TV raised in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, San Juan Chamula, San Andrés Larráinzar, Aldama, Chenalhó , Puerto Cate, Jitotol and Comitan.
Pieces of a complex puzzle
Without being able to specify from when exactly, in the last five years or so, the presence of the Jalisco Nueva Generación (New Generation) Cartel (CJNG) increased the dispute with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) for control of the Central area and Highlands of Chiapas, as well as the border with Guatemala. Unlike other federal states, Chiapas has the peculiarity of having a very high number of social organizations; This and other characteristics exacerbate the problem in the Mexican southeast. Cells of both cartels begin to create links with various social organizations in Chiapas; that is, they have a social base, they have unions, leaders and market tenants, coffee growers, peasants, taxi drivers, among others.
Marco Antonio Cancino González was the municipal president of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, from 2015 to 2018. The former president is very close to organizations in the northern zone and, in fact, he won the elections thanks to them. On the tourist sidewalks of San Cristóbal, he created a “cleansing” group against the street vendors who worked there, but were not part of his organization. A kind of indigenous police dressed in civilian clothes, who appeared on the sideways, set up the stalls of indigenous and non-indigenous vendors who were sitting on the streets or on the ground of the tourist paths with rudimentary tablecloths on the floors. Marco Antonio Cansino provided his “civilian police” with a motorcycle and a radio; this is how the “Motonetos” were born in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, which had one function and ended with another. In this way, without meaning to, the youngsters learned a new way of operating and earning resources; many did not have to wait for a motorcycle as a gift, they already had one, which is very common in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and in the poor neighborhoods on the outskirts. Some phrases became common in neighborhoods, and in San Juan Chamula: “take your motorcycle because there is a job”, “take your motorcycle because there is a mess”.
At the same time, the establishment of the drug cartels became stronger and stronger, and the young people became cannon fodder. Scooters, purchase, sale and distribution of cocaine, prostitutes, shock groups and firearms became the new horizon of the young Tsotsil indigenous people from the outskirts of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Today, these activities generate more income and power than any federal social program, however well-intentioned.
The number of scooter groups varies from three to 21, operating in San Cristóbal de Las Casas (SCLC). The Motonetos are identified as unidentified criminal groups, they cover their faces when they operate. Today, when the residents of San Cristóbal see them moving around, they prefer to hide, they know that their lives depend on it.
Most motorized groups don’t work for a specific group, they work on a piece-rate basis. What are some of the characteristics of all the scooter groups that operate in San Cristóbal? In principle, they are indigenous, they are young, they live in the peripheries, irregular settlements or nearby towns, historically poor, excluded and discriminated against.
The Motonetos are motorized gangs, with muffled faces, from poor neighborhoods, trying to escape from a panorama destined to repeat the marginal history of their family. Each group has a leader and that leader is the one who makes contacts or whom they make contact with, from businessmen, politicians, officials, cartels or other non-motorized criminal groups. They are hired to do dirty work, for example, collection of property, collection of debts for financing companies, beating people or groups that are adversaries of their contracting party, setting fire to premises or businesses of the competition. That is to say, whoever pays can hire them. They are also hired as “rent-a-crowd” or shock groups by rival politicians, officials or groups. Different groups of Motonetos can be hired and whoever pays more has the chance to hire more, just as they have more chances to win the battle. The Motonetos are abandoned, discriminated and oppressed youth, government after government. As happens in various parts of the Mexican Republic, the social programs of the current administration not only arrived late, they are also insufficient; even more so if the state or local government does not cooperate. Without a structural project that attacks the causes in the short term, not only with pensions or economic resources from social programs, it will be difficult for the problem to be solved. They are indigenous people without land, or with little land; It’s not the same, but it’s the same. Children of social marginalization, these young people are the periphery, with all that that means.
The Chamula Cartel or the Chamula Powers
In the documents hacked by Guacamaya Leaks, SEDENA identifies the brothers Mario, Manuel and Javier as “Los Collazo Gómez” and/or the “Chamula Power”. The testimonies collected from the inhabitants of San Juan Chamula, San Cristóbal de Las Casas and San Andrés Larráinar also coincide with the SEDENA documents. In fact, they point out that Mario Collazo Gómez is the bridge with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS). His brother Manuel Collazo Gómez is located as the CDS operator in the Merposur market, while Javier Collazo Gómez does the same in the North Zone market of San Cristóbal.
Although SEDENA or the Ministry of the Interior classifies them as the Chamula Cartel, in San Juan Chamula itself and a large part of the Highlands area, they classify them as “Chamula Power”, that is, the so-called Chamula Cartel and Chamula Power are the same.
In June 2022 there was a confrontation and heavy shooting in the Northern Market. Internal official documents indicate the brothers Maximiliano López Díaz, alias “El Max”, and his brother Mateo López Díaz, alias “El Tigre” as operators of the attack on the North Market, leaders of Molino de Los Arcos and the Association of Transportation Cooperatives of the Chiapas Highlands (ACOTRACH), an organization that also controls pirate minibuses in an area of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Different testimonies indicate that Javier Collazo Gómez opened the doors of the market controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, to the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), and that this caused the confrontation. Men masked with powerful high-caliber weapons could be seen in the videos that circulated on the internet. The type of confrontation and dispute that sometimes occurred in San Cristóbal or other regions of the Highlands area was different, the nature of these groups was and is different, the type of weapons is used exclusively by the Mexican Army, some of them very sophisticated, with bulletproof vests, with strategy and order, their characteristics are more like cells that operate in the northern regions of Mexico.
The Northern Zone market, created in 2010 by the current municipal president of SCLC, Mariano Díaz Ochoa, who was re-elected for the third time, is the market where trucks arrive with all kinds of illegal merchandise. Hence the seriousness, in case it is confirmed that Javier Collazo Gómez, has opened the door to the CJNG. Mario Collazo Gómez, who is identified by SEDENA as the head of the Chamula Power (or Chamula Cartel) was the treasurer of the first MORENA government of San Juan Chamula in the period 2018-2021, in the government of Ponciano Gómez Gómez. Later he was the MORENA candidate for the presidency of San Juan Chamula, in the June 2021 elections, however Mario Collazo lost the elections to the PRI candidate, Juan Collazo Díaz.
In October 2021, under the banner of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Juan Collazo Díaz assumed the municipal presidency of San Juan Chamula. Juan is the brother of Sebastián, who was also the municipal president of San Juan Chamula, for the PRI, in the period 2012-2015. Sebastián Collazo Díaz was arrested in July 2016 in Juquila, Oaxaca, accused of participating in the murder of the mayor Domingo López González – belonging to the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) and who had been elected to succeed Sebastián Collazo Díaz, for the period 2015-2018—, but he was assassinated in 2016.
In short, those who control the main markets of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, control of the sale of drugs through the markets and bars themselves, and those who control irregular or pirated public transportation, among others, are the Sinaloa Cartel, and it does so through the leaders of San Juan Chamula. The group identified as the Chamula Cartel is actually a cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, identified by the residents themselves as the Chamula Power.
Senator Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar
The name of the MORENA senator, Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar, is one of the names that was repeated the most in the testimonies collected in his hometown, Comitán de Domínguez, and also in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, San Juan Chamula, San Andrés Larráinzar, Chenalhó and Jitotol. Senator Ramírez is a very feared character in this region of the Highlands. He is linked in a special way with Mario Collazo Gómez.
In the image, escorting Senator Eduardo Ramírez Aguilar, Javier Collazo Gómez appears on the right, identified by SEDENA, as one of the heads of Chamula Power; on the left, Domingo Ruiz López, alias El Pixtol (hat, in Tzotzil), both invited by Senator Ramírez Aguilar to the plenary session of the Senate. Domingo Ruiz is the manager of the Northern Market stalls in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Ramírez Aguilar is known as the politician who links the Collazos to the federal level.
Tiélmans Market and Santo Domingo Market
Narciso Ruiz Santiz is the current leader of the Association of Traditional Market Tenants of Chiapas (ALMETRACH) and, together with his cousin, Jerónimo Ruiz, controlled the Tielemans market and the Santo Domingo market, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. However, on April 17th, Jerónimo Ruiz was shot dead by young motorcyclists. There are two groups of Motonetos controlled by Narciso Ruiz, Los Torres and Los Quesos.
San Cristóbal de las Casas: place of distribution and consumption of drugs
Twelve years ago, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas (SCLC), indigenous youth were unable to distinguish the different types of drugs; today that is history, particularly among the youth of the peripheries, the poorest. Now everyone knows how to distinguish between marijuana, cocaine, crystal, stones, and almost everyone has even tried them. In various testimonies from fathers and mothers of families in the periphery, who have historically worked in non-hazardous jobs, they express their concern about what is happening with their children, in their neighborhood, and in SCLC.
The sale, distribution and consumption of drugs metastasized in some indigenous and mestizo towns. You can get bags of cocaine or other types of drugs in SCLC as well as in the towns of Ocosingo, Comitán, Altamirano, Margaritas, Benemérito de las Américas, and/or in the towns of Taniperla (Ocosingo), Xuxchén (Aldama), Vicente Guerrero (Las Margaritas).
In the Cuxtitali El Pinar ejido, municipality of SCLC, there is an organization called Sentimientos de la Nación, created by Mr. Fernando Díaz. Sentimientos de la Nación was later headed by Pablo Pérez Santiz, who was arrested at the end of October 2022, accused of homicide. Pablo Pérez Santiz was also identified by the Chiapas Prosecutor’s Office as the leader of the Motonetos groups, Los Vans and Los Patos.
Just as there are groups of articulated and/or politicized Motonetos, there are groups of Motonetos which are not. The latter are the most independently hired; without a powerful leadership, they are even more marginal groups.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas