Ruling against Juarez cartel mostly ‘symbolic’, expert says


Families of slain American women and children unlikely to collect $4.6 billion judgment North Dakota federal judge assessed on La Linea

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The families of nine American women and children killed in 2019 by members of a drug trafficking organization in Mexico will struggle to obtain a $4.6 billion judgment that a US judge recently assessed on this, said a security expert.

Indeed, the group – the Juarez Cartel – is unlikely to volunteer to pay and has fractured itself under the shadow of the once powerful organized crime alliance that dominated much of Mexico’s illegal narcotics trade. in the 1990s.

“It is going to be difficult to find assets belonging to the Juarez Cartel, seize them and return the proceeds to the families. That’s how it is, and it’s unfortunate,” said Scott Stewart, vice president of TorchStone Global, a US-based security company. “But at the same time, it is a symbolic victory for the family that a US court finds the Juarez/La Linea Cartel guilty in this wrongful death lawsuit.”

US Magistrate Judge Clare Hochhalter recently granted a combined $4.6 billion judgment under the Terrorism Act to the families of Christina Langford, Rhonita Miller, Dawna Ray and six children who were shot or burned to death on November 4 2019, at a cartel highway checkpoint in Sonora, Mexico.

Court documents show that La Linea had staged a raid the previous night against rivals of the Sinaloa Cartel in Agua Prieta, across the border from Douglas, Arizona. La Linea withdrew to an area near the Sonora-Chihuahua border and established a 9-mile defensive perimeter.

Three vehicles driven by the women crossed the checkpoints and were attacked. At least two of the women tried to get out of the vehicles, so there was little chance they would be mistaken for rival drug dealers; the third woman and her children were set on fire after the gunmen realized they were still alive inside their vehicle, according to court documents.

The judge sided with the victims’ relatives in calling the killings a deliberate act of terror against civilians by the cartel to assert its control over the region and its people.

Border Report has contacted two relatives of the victims for comment and is awaiting a response.

Where is the Juarez Cartel today

Stewart has written extensively about the fracturing or “balkanization” of Mexican drug cartels. When a cartel leader is “taken out” or killed, his successor may not be able to hold the organization together and the organization fractures into small groups.

In the case of the Juarez Cartel, the 1997 death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, aka “The Lord of the Skies”, resulted in a loss of influence and size for the organization. The drug lord‘s nickname refers to his use of a fleet of Boeing planes to smuggle in drugs from South America. Being on the losing side of an all-out war with the Sinaloa Cartel in the mid-2000s further reduced the influence of the Juarez Cartel.

“The way we saw the breakup of the Juarez Cartel is not what it was like when the ‘Lord of the Skies’ was running things,” Stewart said. “It’s not a very cohesive organization anymore. You have these smaller cells and even street gangs like Los Aztecas operating under the umbrella name (Juarez Cartel). It’s a bunch of groups working together or even just individuals working together.

The influence of La Linea, the strongest group, is mainly limited to the state of Chihuahua. Even there, he is engaged in a battle for territory with cells of the Sinaloa Cartel in the mountains of western Chihuahua. Their other battlefront is on the Chihuahua-Sonora border for control of a drug corridor to southeast Arizona. It was the conflict that led to the massacre of the nine Americans.

Stewart said those associated with the Juarez Cartel umbrella likely had at least some assets in the United States, including money laundering bank accounts. However, plaintiffs or the US government would need to find these accounts and prove that the individuals controlling these accounts were connected to the massacre of Americans. “I don’t see any names (in the lawsuit), all I see is the Juarez Cartel,” he said.

Court documents indicate that the gunmen who killed the women and children were led by two individuals identified as “Gil” and “El Tolteca”. The Mexican government identified “El Tolteca” as Freddy Calles Romero; he remains imprisoned in Mexico for murder and organized crime. We don’t know who “Gil” is.

Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the trend among drug trafficking organizations in Mexico is moving away from a pyramid structure and being more compartmentalized.

“It’s a bit more busted out,” Manjarrez said. In the past, “there was a kingpin and the lieutenants and all the bric-a-brac. And as arrests took place and murders took place, it fragmented, it became more horizontal, almost sub-units of a larger enterprise.

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