Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed state and local government officials of being behind the rise of José Antonio ‘El Marro’ Yépez and his Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.
López Obrador, who often criticizes past administrations for the country’s ongoing wave of violence, made the claim during a Sunday afternoon address that was uploaded to social media after El Marro and nine henchmen were captured at approximately 4am local time in the Guanajuato municipality of Juventino Rosas.
‘How did this cartel grow so much that Guanajuato became the most violent state in the country? They have 15 percent of the homicides that are committed in the entire country, 15 percent in Guanajuato. That is if there are 100 homicides, 15 are committed in Guanajuato in one day,’ López Obrador said.
‘And there are days of 20, of 25 homicides, so how did this grow? How did this case happen in Guanajuato? The usual complicities, the compromises with municipal authorities, with state authorities, impunity. The [arrest] is important, very important.’
With Yépez locked away in prison, intelligence reports accessed by Mexican newspaper El Universal show that his father, Juan Rodolfo Yépez, and brother, Rodolfo Yépez, could be taking over the cartel.
Juan Rodolfo Yépez was arrested March 6 in the Guanajuato municipality of Celaya while driving a vehicle that has been reported stolen.
But he was released June 26 after a judge granted him bail because the federal government had failed to build a case against him despite evidence that connected him to organized crime activities.
López Obrador had previously called for an investigation after a judge freed Yépez’s mother, María Ortiz; his sister; Juana Yépez; and a cousin identified as Rosalba, when the three women along with 30 other alleged cartel members were let go in June after they were arrested in a raid.
The leftist leader López even suggested that judge Paulina Iraís Medina colluded with cartel leader José Antonio ‘El Marro’ Yépez and was looking for any loophole that would lead to the release of the family members and henchmen.
The defense was able to prove that the authorities arrested Ortiz without obtaining a warrant to search one of her daughter’s home, which is located a block away from the stash house. The agents then took El Marro’s mother to the safe house so that they could claim they had apprehended her there.
Attorneys also proved that the Guanajuato Criminal Investigation Agency planted $89,000 at the stash house by removing it from 30 different addresses in the San Isidro de Elguera neighborhood. Authorities initially said Ortiz was in possession of all of the money.
Former Guanajuato prosecutor Juan Miguel Alcántara told Mexican newspaper El Universal that Yépez did not envision his organization dominating at a larger, national scale like the traditional criminal organizations.
The cartel was based out of the municipality of Villagrán and had a presence in the nearby cities of Celaya, Cortázar, Salamanca, Irapuato, Valle de Santiago, and his birthplace Juventino Rosas, where he was apprehended.
With Yépez in power, the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel rose to dominance via the theft of fuel from refineries operated by the state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos [Mexican Petroleum]. Yépez also drove out local cartels from the area that sold synthetic drugs.
In October 2017, the cartel’s influence in the area attracted the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and its leader, Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera, who also wanted in on the lucrative business, thus sparking one of the deadliest rival cartel conflicts that the government has witnessed and failed to contain in Guanajuato, once known as a relatively quiet state.
El Marro declared war on El Mencho, which led to a significant spike in murders as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel settled in the area and 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 2,293 people murdered in Guanajuato through June 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.