Monday, July 9, 2012

Chapo Isidro: A History

By ACI for Borderland Beat

Of all of the narcos roaming freely around Mexico few bring to mind the outlaws of old more so than Chapo Isidro Meza Flores. From the mountains, he and his band control one of the last hold outs of the Beltran Levya Cartel in Sinaloa. He controls most of the ranches and farms which produce significant quantities of both opium and marijuana for the Beltran Levya/Zeta alliance. His base of operations is in Guasave and surrounding villages, and is, and has become one of the most important lieutenants of Hector Beltran Levya, the last of the brothers who has avoided both death and capture. There was a recent shift in power however when one of his top men Adelmo "EL Lemo" Nuñez , betrayed him and went to work for Chapo Guzman. That's when all hell broke loose, the battle still rages as we speak. This war between Isidro and Adelmo "EL Lemo" Nuñez, will continue till either one is arrested, dies or disappears.

To understand how he and his cohorts have been able to outwit and outmaneuver several military offensives against them, one must understand the geography of the area. Northern Sinaloa is in the heart of the "Golden Triangle" the term used to describe Mexico's drug producing region. The mountainous region seems defiant of gravity, rugged and steep, beautiful and lush from a distance, it is hard to see the secrets hidden here and this place has many secrets.

Some of the roads are treacherous to navigate, they hug precariously to the sides of their mountains, steep cliffs and narrow valleys dot the landscape. Offering many opportunities to ambush or outmaneuver the military. Most places have only a couple points of entrance and can be secured using a fairly small quantity of men. With much of the area cut off due to geography, getting from one area to another can be a daunting task. Many mountains can only be hiked by foot and the vegetation and rock outcroppings offer ample places to hide what may need to be hidden.

High up in the Sierras, where isolation is a part of life, a culture emerged. One born out of self reliance and hardship, centered on the ruggedness of living in the harsh and unforgiving Sierras. The culture had little care for the authorities which offered them little in return. Outsiders are not welcome here, even without the cartel threats most locals would treat you the same, an outsider, someone who does not belong and is not to be trusted. A kind of Robin Hood bravado holds in the air, as the locals quietly praise those who went against the government. These criminals or outlaws were often related to many of those who called this place home. The locals never saw the harm in letting these men get one over on a government, which they only saw as inept and corrupt. Out of this environment were born many of the narcos you read about today.

Chapo Isidro was no stranger to the world of the cartels, having been involved since at least the early nineties. It is said Chapo Isidro began his climb up the cartel corporate ladder working under the Amado Carrillo Fuentes Organization. He was one of many who abandoned Juarez after The Lord of the Skies died. He left and began working under the Beltran Levya Brothers. With time he proved himself to be a skilled sicario, capable of daring, cunning and bravado. A skilled tactician with an eye for details, Chapo Isidro has had many successful operations which have propelled him to the status of the outlaws of old. These small groups which outsmarted the government again and again, making a mockery of those who attempted to capture them are alluring to the poor and disenfranchised.
El Mochomo
Many left the Beltrans when Arturo was killed to follow “La Barbies” faction but Chapo Isidro seems to have remained fiercely loyal to the Beltrans. There may also a connection between him and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes or Viceroy of the Juarez Cartel as well. Since Isidro Meza Flores worked for his brother, there is no reason to doubt the rumor. Due to the alliance with Beltran Levya and Los Zetas, one can assume they have continued to boaster this arrangment as both groups stand to gain from destroying the Sinaloan Cartel.

His group was the one of a few groups who starred in "The Battle" of Burrion where they confronted a group of sicarios backed by Chapo and Mayo. Some say some fifty trucks belonging to “Los Anthrax” a cell that operates under El Mayo Zambada went looking for revenge for the killing of Pancho Arce, they blamed Isidro and his Mazatlecos. Once again Chapo Isidro was the victor and it is said that many in that convoy never returned home. Isidro and his people earned the new title, "The Nightmare of Los Anthrax."
X Marks the Spot

His group also played a major role in the famous shootout in Tubutama, Sonora, where he and El Gilo annihilated another group of gunman from the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloan Cartel sent Felix the Ice Cream Man, Raúl Sabori, Paéz Soto, Nini Beltrán and Los Jabalí and Jose Vásquez’s men to take El Gilo out, it is said that they rode in a convoy of thirty to forty vehicles, all notoriously marked with the letter X on the windows. Some say there were upwards of a hundred Sinaloan gunmen, all with the aim of taking out the Beltran Levya’s last remaining transit routes through Sonora. What the convoy never anticipated was the ambush Chapo Isidro and El Gilo had set in place for them.

When the convoy approached a narrow pass in the road, gunmen from the Beltran Levya blocked off both sides of the road and unloaded an arsenal on the convoy. It was utter destruction, bodies laid strewn across the road, vehicles pot marked with bullet holes, tires flat, blood caked to the interior. Some of the gunmen were only able to make it a few feet from their vehicles before being cut down. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

El Shaka

Also his group was responsible for the murder of King Castro one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, as well as the of the singer Sergio Vega (El Shaka.) The killing of the singer occurred only hours after he joked on the radio of avoiding another attempt on his life, he died on a highway as he was heading out to organize a show he was going to perform.

The group also ambushed a group of judicial police, leaving 7 dead.

The Dead in Nayarit

In May of 2011 there was a major clash of gunmen in Nayarit leaving another twenty nine Sinaloa Cartel gunmen dead. While not attributed to his group it bears all the hallmarks of a Chapo Isidro ambush. Authorities claimed the killers were Zetas, however accounts by those who knew of the situation, stated that is not entirely correct. While some Zetas were present, they were only assisting the Beltran Levya in the operation, which was being overseen by Chapo Isidro.

This group is also responsible for the ambush of the Secretary of Public Safety in Sinaloa, where they killed 11 PEP officers and 1 civilian, in a shocking display of power. This ambush shocked most of the country and forced the government to reevaluate the security of their officials.

Sinaloa's Governor
They also placed several blankets around Sinaloa, directed at the Governor and call attention to supposed corruption, which was bias towards the Sinaloa Cartel.

There have numerous clashes in the mountains surrounding Choix that have been attributed to Chapo Isidro. This may well in fact be his last stand. He seems to have had internal conflict with a man called El Lemo, who apparently used to work for Isidro but now works for the Sinaloans. Much of the fighting in this area can be attributed to this, which has now claimed at least seventy lives in the past few months. It has become clear that Chapo Isidro has received help from the Los Zetas organization. The use of cloned vehicles, which arrived through the northern side of Sinaloa points a clear finger at Los Zetas involvement.
Dead found in and around Choix
This including killing numerous member of the elite police force which were lured into a trap by a false call to the authorities. The phone call reported that there had been a car accident, when the police arrived they were attacked from all sides, the tactics for this ambush fits with the militarization Los Zetas has fostered in the Cartel Wars.
Cloned Police vehicle in Choix

They have also been blamed for the forced evictions of several families thought to be colluding with Sinaloa Cartel. They have also taken some families hostage, taken food and water and have basically been hiding in the surrounding mountains, coming down to resupply, then returning to their mission of rooting out the traitors, El Lemo in particular. The fighting around Choix has continued and the military has sent in a second offensive to try and root out the criminals. The outcome of this is likely to resemble the last attempt to root of Isidro’s men, with the criminal element vanishing into the mountains only to return again once the military has left.

It can also be assumed his group was also responsible for the recent incursions by the Zetas into Culiacán. The messages attributed to Z-40 recently, which were directed at El Chapo Guzman were likely the work of Chapo Isidro. While most bandits are despised while alive, they grow into legend as time progresses. Many of the outlaws from both Mexico and the United states have become famous, from Billy the Kid, to Jesus Maverde. Not to say Chapo Isidro is some robin hood like figure, quite the contrary, he steals from the poor, takes advantage of those most vulnerable, but history has a funny way of distorting the truth. He has earned his place within the cartel world, which often turns evil men into folk hero's; stories of those who fought against governments that most see as corrupt and inept, and to make something for themselves. This should in no way validate the atrocities of these men, but history likes repeating itself and Mexico has already laid the groundwork.

For more on this ongoing fight go here, here, here and here

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