“MX” for Borderland Beat
|Former Matamoros treasurer was kidnapped and killed; no arrests have been made|
Luis Miguel Fuentes Garcia, the former treasurer of Matamoros Municipality in Tamaulipas, was found dead inside a vehicle in a dirt road near the border of San Fernando and Valle Hermoso Municipalities. He had been missing for nearly a week. As seen by the pictures taken by local journalists, the body was thrown across the vehicle’s front seats and had its pants pulled down.
Fuentes Garcia was the treasurer under Matamoros mayor Norma Leticia Salazar Vázquez, who served from 2013 to 2016 as a member of the National Action Party (PAN). After her term, Fuentes Garcia returned to the private sector and managed a custom broker company that he had for over 15 years. He had recently tapped into the oil sector before his death.
Investigators have not established a motive for his death. Fuentes Garcia was recently linked to Tamaulipas Senator Américo Villarreal Anaya of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), leading some investigators to believe that his murder was politically-driven. However, other investigators suggested Fuentes Garcia had ties with the Gulf Cartel.
Citizen journalists said that Fuentes Garcia had issues with Carlos Martinez Perez (“El Cuate”), son-in-law of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the former legendary leader of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. They also said that he owed money to Osiel Cardenas Jr. (“Mini Osiel”) and that his death may have been cartel-related.
When Fuentes entered the municipal administration, he was part of Luis Alfredo Biasi’s treasury team. Biasi is currently imprisoned in Ciudad Victoria for his alleged involvement in extortion and kidnapping. Salazar stepped down as a PAN member shortly after her tenure and is currently being investigated by Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca.
In July, Salazar’s father Ramiro Salazar Rodriguez was kidnapped by suspected organized crime members. Local sources said that his abductors ordered his relatives to pay MXN$50 million (approximately US$2.3 million) for his safe return. He was released a week later but authorities did not confirm is a ransom was paid.
Matamoros has been on the national spotlight in recent months due to several high-profile incidents. Last month, Borderland Beat reported the murder of Lizbeth Flores, a U.S. citizen who went missing in Matamoros and was then found dead near a public library; she was stripped naked by her assassins and had all her teeth pulled out. A narco-tunnel was discovered in a neighborhood close to the border with Brownsville a few weeks later, as reported by Borderland Beat.
Borderland Beat reported two weeks ago that U.S. and Mexican authorities announced that they had joined efforts to capture Gulf Cartel faction boss Evaristo Cruz Sanchez (‘El Vaquero’, The Cowboy). Since mid-2019, Borderland Beat forum contributors noted that El Vaquero was vying for the control of Matamoros. His main rival is Mario Alberto Cárdenas Medina (‘El Betito’), another local cartel boss. El Betito was arrested in 2019 but continued to fight El Vaquero for control of Matamoros by siding with local plaza boss Raul Garcia Martinez (‘Escorpion 2’).
Borderland Beat interviewed several people in Matamoros who confirmed that there have been shootouts and kidnappings in recent weeks that have not been reported by the local media. Historically, the Gulf Cartel has controlled Tamaulipas news outlets, and particularly those in Matamoros, by having enlaces (“links”) inside newsrooms. These cartel representatives are part of the deeply institutionalized system of cartel censorship in Tamaulipas and help filter the news before it is published.