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Mexican cartel leader El Marro, charged with fuel theft, to remain in jail for at least two months

A Mexican court has ordered the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel held over for trial on organized crime charges.

José Antonio ‘El Marro’ Yépez will be held without bail for at least two months at Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, a maximum security prison in Almoloya de Juárez, State of Mexico, until further hearings are held.

The penitentiary, known as El Altiplano, is located just west of Mexico City and is the same facility Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán fled from through an underground tunnel that was built below his jail cell’s bathroom area.

The Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday that Yépez participated in a criminal organization that stole an average of 1.5 million gallons of fuel each month from government pipelines or refineries.

El Marro and eight other people were arrested at one of his hideouts in Juventino Rosas, Guanajuato, on August 2. Authorities also rescued a person that had been kidnapped. 

El Marro’s cartel spread violence through the central state of Guanajuato and fought a years-long bloody turf battle with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, leaving more than 9,000 people dead since 2017. 


Yépez was unusual among gang leaders because he posted videos with emotional calls to his followers, including one in June showing him appearing to cry after several of his supporters and his mother and sister were arrested, and threatening the government with violence.

In another video around the same time, he threatened to join forces with the Sinaloa cartel to defeat Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera and his Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the country’s fastest-rising criminal organization, with whom he’s been involved in a long-running war for almost three years.

El Marro’s network is based out of the Guanajuato municipality of Villagrán and had a presence in the nearby cities of Celaya, Cortázar, Salamanca, Irapuato, Valle de Santiago, and his birthplace Juventino Rosas. 

El Marro’s Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel has earned its illicit riches by stealing fuel from refineries operated by state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos [Mexican Petroleum]. 

After authorities stepped up security around pipelines over the last two years, the gang turned to extortion and kidnapping throughout Guanajuato, demanding payments from businesses like tortilla shops, restaurants and car dealerships. 

The battles between El Marro and El Mencho led to a significant spike in murders as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel imposed its presence in the Guanajuato cities of León and Salamanca.

The friction with El Mencho forced El Marro to seek an alliance with Los Viagras, which operate out of the western state of Michoacán and the Sinaloa Cartel, which under its former leader Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán maintained a relationship with El Mencho before he split off on his own.

Violence between the cartels has left at least 2,685 people murdered in Guanajuato through July 2020. 

Government data shows Guanajuato homicides increased to 2,834 in 2019 from 2,609 in 2018. Authorities registered just 1,084 murders in 2017 and 1,096 were reported in 2016.

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