Monday, May 18, 2020

Conflict in Magdalena

By Buggs for Borderland Beat

A lot of people have been asking me about more details on the recent violence of cartel activity in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. I wanted to add to the post by Chivis on the matter, try to give a more detail perspective and historical preview of the complexity of the region. I have posted some media on the BB on Facebook, and some has already been posted by Chivis, so I will try not to be repetitive. Props to the people who brave their lives to record the confrontations, that helps us see what is developing in these events.

To give some understanding of the conflict in Magdalena we must know about the prominent and main driving force behind drug trafficking in the regions of Santa Ana, Imuris and Magdalena, Sonora. I will take you back in time how thing developed in Magdalena, and bring you back to the present, give you a perspective.


This group known as "Los Jabalís" are a group who belong to the Villagrana family. Los Jabalís were responsible for trafficking tons of marijuana and cocaine to the United States, they received planes from Oaxaca and Chiapas for merchandise purchased in Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia, their main supplier. This merchandise was stored in the ranches belonging to the Villagrana family a few kilometers from the US border line.

Los jabalís belonged to the Sinaloa cartel and were associated with the Beltran Leyva brothers, responding directly to Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran Leyva and in turn to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The known leaders of the Villagrana family or  Los Jabalís were:

- Jose Vasquez Villagrana "El Jabali."

- Cesar Villagrana Salazar "El Placas."

- Rene Villagrana Salazar  "La Rana" or "EL 15."

- Ambrosio Vasquez Villagrana ""El Jabalí Mayor," (No picture). 

These men are related to the famous Culichi Villagrana, there is a narcocorrido performed by Fabian Gomez called "El Culichi de Sonora," (video of narcocorrido at the end of page).

Hits to the Villagrana family:

- On February 21, 2010, in the city of Santa Ana, Jose Vasquez Villagrana El Jabali was arrested as the main operator of the Sinaloa cartel. El Jabali was presented to the press in a conference in Mexico City and his statement was video taped by the PGR. In it he talks about his relationship with the Beltran Leyva brothers and El Chapo Guzman. He relates that during the war that broke out between El Chapo Guzman against his cousins ​​of the Beltran Leyva, El Jabali decided to join El Chapo Guzman.  El Jabali said that he separated himself from the Beltran Leyva since at that time the alliance between the Beltran Leyva brothers and the Zetas were developing to fight against the Sinaloa cartel. He also talked about El Chapo Guzman's orders to keep the state of Sonora clean of theft, extortions or kidnappings.

- El Jabali actively participated in raids of sicarios in the cities of Nogales and Agua Prieta to clean the plazas of the people of the Beltran Leyva brothers.

- El Jabali maintained a sustained war against a lieutenant of the Beltran Leyva in Nogales named "El M4."

- On February 11, 2011 Cesar Villagrana Salazar El Placas was arrested, who at that time was plaza boss and successor after the arrest of El Jabali. He was detained by the military in the city of Magdalena. Cesar Villagrana provided support to a group of Gente Nueva led in the region by Edgar Romeo Resendiz Holguin "El Navajas" who was killed in the confrontation in Saric along with 20 other sicarios. This support consisted of sicarios, weapons and vehicles.

- On April 12, 2011, Ambrosio Vasquez Villagrana was detained in Altar right after taking leadership of the group when they arrested El Jabali and El Placas. He was sentenced to 20 years for the Trafficking of marijuana and cocaine in a light aircraft to Arizona and Texas.

- On August 14, 2016, Rene Villagrana Salazar died in an accident in the Kilometro 56 in the Rua Sinoquipe to Cucurpe. Rene was traveling at a high rate of speed aboard a Ford Triton truck when he lost control of his vehicle. Previously, in October 2, 2015 he had been arrested and presented as leader of Los Jabalís in Magdalena but it is not known under what terms he was released.

21-year-old Luis Carlos Villagrana"Carlitos"' was also detained in Magdalena and presented as leader of Los Jabalís on January 18, 2016. The young man threatened federal forces that he was under the command of El Chapo Guzman and that he was nephew of Cesar and Rene Villagrana and they should release him immediately.

Some more lower-ranking relatives of Carlitos were detained in Magdalena and Santa Ana, Sonora.

Anahi Beltran Cabrera

In an operation in the city of Santa Ana, Sonora, Anahi Beltran Cabrera was detained with a mega arsenal in a house, she was related to the Beltran Leyva brothers. The arsenal contained numerous AK-47s, AR-15s, 50 caliber Barret rifles, grenade launchers and thousands of ammunition for all the weapon. She alleged that she was only in charge of caring for the house where authorities seized the arsenal.

Conflict over the Plazas of Villagrana El Jabali

- There is talk of a fracture of the Villagrana where these groups were divided between a group loyal to Jose Vasquez Villagrana El Jabali fighting for control against people loyal to Cesar Villagrana Salazar El Placas. This conflict was to maintain control of the trafficking of drugs in the cities of Santa Ana, Imuris and Magdalena, Sonora.

It is said that Cesar Villagrana Salazar El Placas formed an alliance with people from the state of Chihuahua to maintain power and control of the plaza of Magdalena. In a narcomanta found on November 28, 2018 it refers to a character named "El Audi" who apparently is originally from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and is described as the person in charge of the Magdalena plaza to traffic the drug crystal.

 This narcomanta was the most evident sign that the city was staying "heated," so much that on the afternoon of December 11, 2018, the city exploded in a fierce confrontation through the main streets of Magdalena. The city saw armed groups of sicarios traveling in vehicles at high speed heading to the point that was boiling, videos and pictures show how sicarios burned vehicles and the loud detonations of gunfire ended with the death of the El Audi.

There was a body laying in the middle of the street tore up from gunfire and his head smashed open from being run over.

 The raid and cleaning of the plaza of Magdalena was ordered by the powerful Sinaloa cartel and the people directly responsible for the violence was attributed to the people of Jose Vasquez Villagrana El Jabali and supported by the people of the Altar, sent by the Salazar family.

On January 29, 2020, a large convoy of sicarios was seen through the city and highways of Magdalena. The convoy was patrolling the city after the death of an alleged drug trafficker in Nogales, "El JJ." In videos and photos uploaded to the BB social media network and reported here in Borderland Beat Blog, you can see a large number of trucks with strobe lights and fueling up in Magdalena. The convoy belonged to the group Gente Nueva del Cazador or El Noveno that operate in the city of Caborca ​​and Altar and are supported by the leader of the drug trafficking organization in Nogales "El 5."

The city returned to relative calm, but not until April 7, 2020 when Magdalena again saw cartel activity where groups announced new fighting for control of the plaza. A narco lieutenant of Los Jabalís was executed on a road that leads to Santa Ana, another plaza base of the group. The plaza boss executed was non other than "El Gil" or "El 7" was caught by a group of sicarios who shot him. El Gil was still alive when found but died from his injuries in a hospital in Magdalena.

El Gil was loyal to the people of Jose Vasquez Villagrana El Jabali.

With the death of El Gil a new confrontation has now emerged between the people of El Jabali against the people of Altar. This for the control of the plaza of Magdalena.

The morning of May 13, 2020, an intense firefight began in the surrounding areas of Cucurpe and Magdalena. The shooting started at 1:30am and ended around 7:00 am, lasting almost 6 hours of intense confrontation. In the morning authorities found abandoned weapons and vehicles but no presence of wounded or dead.

Given the secrecy of the authorities, the large presence police and military in the city remained alert and attentive to new possible rounds of violence. It did not take long, in the afternoon of May 14, 2020 at 4:00pm a new intense round of gunfire began again in the neighborhoods and streets of Magdalena. In videos uploaded to BB social network you can see the power of the weaponry, as well as the actions of the sicarios where at one point in a Magdalena collection booth are seen as they rush and close the entrance to the booth. You can see how they descends of their vehicles and start a confrontation, gunfire is heard.

The result of the shootout resulted in vehicles burning, some people dead and others detained, as well as the death of innocent people. One of the casualties was former mayor of the city and current councilman, Engineer Alfonso Robles Contreras, who was allegedly caught in the crossfire. I saw his white truck that was riddled with bullet holes on the hood, windshield, driver side and rear window, hard to believe it was collateral damage, but that is for another story. Robles Contreras is a personal friend of Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich and his death provoked a heavy response from police and military forces.

Alfonso Robles Contreras with Governor Claudia Pavlovich

It is said that the fight is between rival gangs but associated with the Sinaloa cartel. In the videos you can be see that the trucks are marked with a "9" that refers to the drug trafficker "El Noveno"’ or "El Cazador." This would indicate that the people of Altar are attempting to make an incursion in the city of Magdalena, this would then be clearly a cleaning up against the remnants of Jose Vasquez Villagrana El Jabali. 

These operations are potentially being supported by a lieutenant of Mayo Zambada "El Gigio" from the city of Nogales. In this new conflict it is clear that a new internal struggle is being established within the Sinaloa cartel.

Here you can see a video where a group of sicarios display their weapons with the brand of "El Cazador or El Noveno" and heard in the background a narcocorrido played by the musical group Los Minis de Caborca where it refers that the plazas of Santa Ana and Magdalena already belong to the drug trafficker called "El Cazador" or "El Noveno." (video of narcocorrido at the end of the page).

There is also a video on twitter where a sicario is seen video recording a convoy at night and in the background a corrido dedicated to "El 20," a sicario executed in Nogales who maintained a war with the Paredes family in Agua Prieta. The corrido is performed by Los Traviesos de la Sierra (video of narcocorrido at the end of the page). This makes a possible allusion to the people of the Gigio of Nogales, since both were previously associated.

Presently the plaza of Magdalena is in locked down where a strong presence by a tight security from the police, national guard and state police, all with the aim of bringing peace to the city.

Fabian Gomez - El Culichi de Sonora


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