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Since April 1, 100 Narco killings in Tijuana

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Alarm!

Alarm!

Severed heads and body parts inside an icebox. Bodies hanging from street lights. Rivers of blood in the gutters. The shooting of a state agent at a busy intersection on a weekday afternoon. Grisly, visible crimes have come back to Tijuana in recent weeks, shattering the relative calm of 2014.

Since April 1, Tijuana has seen more than 100 murders, just about all coming from the city’s drug trade.

“There’s much lack of control in the world of small-scale drug traffickers,” said José María González, Baja California’s deputy attorney general for organized crime. “From the information that we have … the problems are at the lowest levels, among those fighting for street corners in the colonias, not among the midlevel and high-level commanders.”

Hey, is José María González defending the narco big guys, as he attributes much of the violence in the city to the flourishing Tijuana street market rather than to the big boys.

Once Tijuana was the uncontested territory of the Arellano Félix Organization. With that organization being beaten out by the Sinaloa drug cartel, formerly run by El Chapo Gusman, it is far more difficult to track a world of shifting alliances with small, semi-independent cells functioning at the base of an intricate organized crime pyramid.

“The cartels sell them crystal meth so that they can sell them in the colonias [parts of the town],” said Victor Clark, a human-rights activist in Tijuana who has studied the drug trade. “What we have is the corporatization of the Tijuana neighborhood drug trade.”

The Sinaloa drug cartel is now acknowledged to be the dominant drug organization in Baja California. “Absolutely, we believe that Sinaloa controls Tijuana,” said Gary Hill, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego.

The Sinaloa group’s alleged leaders in Baja California are two brothers well-known to U.S. authorities: Alfonso Arzate, known as “El Aquiles,” and René Arzate, or “La Rana.” Both are fugitives under indictment in San Diego federal court on drug trafficking charges.

In a statement this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office described Alfonso Arzate as “the alleged Tijuana plaza boss for the Sinaloa cartel” and René Arzate as “an enforcer for the cartel in Tijuana who is believed responsible for a significant amount of violence in the Tijuana.”

Just as the street-level trade is constantly shifting, so has the bigger picture. Groups from central Mexico, the Nueva Generación from Jalisco and Caballeros Templarios from Michoacan, have been quietly moving loads across the border with permission from Sinaloa. And remnants of the Arellano Félix Organization are still in town, seeking to reorganize.

Luis Manuel Toscano, also known as “El Mono [the monkey],” was shot to death on April 9 and believed to have headed street drug sales in Tijuana’s Zona Norte as well as the adjacent Tijuana River channel, which has been cleared by Tijuana police— according to our source.

Some of the former Arellano bosses are waiting and watching from down south in Guadalajara after serving federal sentences. Our source tells us, “They may not be calling themselves the Arellano Félix Organization anymore, but to them it’s still their plaza.”

One of the root causes of the problems is the corruption of the Tijuana police. Just try to drive an expensive vehicle through Tijuana and the police are ready to stop you for a bribe – usually about $85. Be ready, tourist friends.

“Geez,” said Jim, “We ain’t goin’ to drive over to Tijuana no more.”

“Or anywhere near,” I added.

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