The Fight for the Sonoran Desert

By Buggs for Borderland Beat

Caborca is the imposing door to the great desert of Sonora. This region is currently experiencing moments of terror due to confrontations from groups of organized crime. Today we will try to recapitulate and explain the details of this war and the reasons for the bitter struggle in the pearl of the desert.

In Caborca along with the coastal areas of Caborca, Altar, Sonoyta, Pitiquito and others is where criminal organizations have formed their defensive walls and bases to operate.

The Battlefront in Caborca.

The city of Caborca is well known for being the home base of the Caro Quintero dynasty. Rafael and Miguel Angel Caro Quintero made Caborca an operational area for the organizations they once led. From here is where the operations started for of the group of the Paez Soto family that was led by Pedro Paez Soto and later by Octavio Paez Soto until his death. The group was inherited for his brother Ignacio Paez Soto who was recently arrested. The family relationship between the Caro Quintero and the Paez Soto is very apparent nor as the Paez group is led by the nephew of Rafael and Miguel Angel Quintero, is name is Rodrigo Paez Quintero.
This family was linked to the Sinaloa cartel (CDS) and the Beltran Leyva brothers (BLO), who always shared in operations with both groups. Over time during the rise of El Chapo Guzman his federation of cartels brought expanded growth to other groups/cells like Los Paleteros and Los Saboris who were affiliated with the clan of Los Salazar, a family that ran the state of Sonora for El Chapo Guzman led by Adan Salazar Zamorano and Alfredo Salazar Ramirez, at least until they were both arrested.

Gerardo Jauregui Meza, El Paletero.
Los Paleteros were led by Felix Adolfo Jauregui Meza “El Paletero,” who was killed in 2013. Los Paleteros were the strongest group in the region and shared operations with Ignacio Paez Soto “El Nachillo.” Los Sabori were led by Raul Flavori Cisneros “El Negro” that was arrested in 2011.

After the death of El Paletero and the arrest of Ignacio Paez Soto, the drug trafficking structure experienced a reorganization due to a power struggle/power vacuum in the region. The group of Los Paleteros was inherited by a brother named Gerardo Jauregui Meza also known as El Paletero and Felipe de Jesús Hernández Rojas known as “El Cabe,” or “KB.” Working on behalf of the Paez group and the person in charge of the operations of the group fell to Rodrigo Paez Quintero “El  R” and Oscar Pascual De La Rocha “El Chapon” or “El Chapo de la Rocha.”

Oscar Pascual de la Rocha was arrested in February 2015 and the regional chief of Los Paleteros in Altar, Felipe de Jesús Hernández Rojas “El Cabe” was executed in April 2015 in Zapopan, Jalisco, which led to other drug trafficking groups trying to take over the plaza. An example of this was the shooting that occurred in Caborca five days after his death, where there was a shootout that resulted in 5 alleged sicarios killed and four agents of the State Investigating Police (PEI) injured in the heart of Caborca.

At the same time there was a battle in Sonoyta between Los Salazares and Los Memos, both groups linked to the Sinaloa cartel.

The groups formed a truce, on the part of Los Paleteros was Gerardo Jauregui Meza who remained in charge of the group and for the Paez family was Rodrigo Paez Quintero. Both groups agreed to a pact for peace in the region.

House and vehicle where Gerardo Jauregui was travelling in.
However, everything changed on August 21, 2018 with the death of Gerardo Jauregui Meza, El Paletero, who was executed in front of his home in Colonia Tierra Blanca. A convoy of armed men had followed him and managed to kill him with two gunshots. The attack was attributed to the Paez group because they did not agree with the management style of Gerardo Jauregui and the sale of the crystal drug in the region.

Days after the murder, retribution by the group of Los Paleteros did not take long, there was a confrontation around 1600 hours on W Avenue between 10th and 11th streets. The streets of the city was the scene of the shooting between sicarios aboard various vehicles.

Leader of los Rumas/Costeños
Principal leader of Los Rumas/Costeños
The dispute for territory that Gerardo Jauregui controlled started, the first to fight were Los Rumas and the brother lieutenant on behalf of Los Chuvetos/Cazadores. Los Rumas or Costeños group that has a presence on the coast of Caborca is led by Luis Abel Gaxiola Ochoa “El Costeño” and Carlos Humberto Gaxiola Ochoa “El Indio.” On the part of the group of Los Cazadores is the leader Humberto Limon Lopez “El Cazador” or “El Noveno” or “El Chuveto.” Also, in charge of Los Cazadores is Noveno’s head of sicarios, Jose Bibiano Cabrera Cabrera “El Durango” or “El Traka.” Both groups are affiliated with the group of the Salazar family in Sonora. For its part, the group of Los Paez are led by Rodrigo Paez Quintero along with Oscar Pascual de la Rocha “El Chapo de la Rocha,” their head of sicarios is Jesus Dario Murrieta Navarro “La Cara de Cochi” and a lieutenant with a nickname on “El 22,” in charge of security in Caborca.
Humberto Limon Lopez, El cazador/Noveno/Chuveto,
Leader of Los Cazadores
Boss of sicarios of Los Cazadores
The first confrontations occurred in the region due to the strong presence of Los Paez in the area. We started to see the first messages on social networks, where they accused Rodrigo Paez and Dario Murrieta as the ones responsible for the wave of violence in the city. They also accused Commander Eduardo Leal Molina, Commissioner General of the Municipal Public Security Directorate, of covering up the crime for the group.

In the first 10 hours of July 27th and 28th of 2019 there were 5 executions in different parts of Caborca, people were abducted and executed leaving their bodies thrown on the ground.

Therefore, the incursion of a group into the city linked to Los Paez started. This group was La Barredora 24/7, an armed group of the Cartel de Caborca entered to confront (dar un topon) La Gente Nueva de Los Salazar/Casadores/Costeños. A message surfaced that was attributed to La Barredora and there was a video where it shows a person accused of working for the people of Altar (in reference to the group of Los Cazadores/Chuvetos) is burned alive.

This is the full message:

“ATTENTION PEOPLE OF CABORCA, ALTAR AND PITIQUITO! This is the second and last notice! We wanted to be in peace because they offered us a peace pact but in a few days they did not respect it, WE REPEATED this war is NOT with you gentlemen of the MEXICAN ARMY, NATIONAL GUARD, FEDERAL POLICE, STATE POLICE AND MUNICIPAL POLICE! The war continues against the people of Altar and this will not stop! People who collaborate for the people of altar, leave the town before we come for you, all of you are on our lists! We do not want TAXISTS or any public service that comes from the Altar to Caborca, or people who come to make money movements in COPEL, we have everything well monitored.
ATTE: LA BARREDORA at the order of 24/7

This was the group’s first public incursion to the city, in which anyone who supported the rival La Barredora groups were threatened and accused of violating a peace pact. Thus began the cleaning of the area of any person linked to Los Salazar or any group affiliated with them.

During the following months, the forced disappearance and abductions were seen within the region, the confrontations came to light in December 2019 with a powerful force armed with heavy-caliber weapons, as well as with trucks mounted with 50-caliber machine guns, leaving hundreds of spent casings scattered all over the streets of the city.

List of confrontations between Los Paez vs Los Cazadores/Costeños:

  • In December 2019, the town of Y Griega, located on the coast of Caborca, Sonora. The confrontation between the two groups took place when El Jeremias (head of sicarios) was attacked. This topon resulted in 4 sicarios killed and several trucks abandoned.
  • Again in Y Griega on April 2020 there was a new confrontation where cars were burned and more than a thousand spent casings were scattered in the Gas station at the entrance to the town. At least one person was seen lying dead and possible others, is what was reported.
  • On April 30, 2020, in Puerto Lobos, a fishing town belonging to the municipality of Caborca, there were moments of terror for the residents when armed men arrived and caused a tremendous shootout. They set fire to a store where they sold shrimp and groceries.
  • The events of May 2020 occurred near the Dorados de Villa and Campo La Morena beaches. There was a confrontation on the coast of Caborca. They left vehicles burning and the bodies lying on the road were the sight of a new confrontation that happened in the morning on a Caborca coastal road.
  • On June 19, 2020 in the rural area of Caborca, and in the coastal area of Puerto Libertad and Puerto Lobos, as well as in the vicinity of the neighboring municipality of Pitiquito, a large convoy of sicarios arrived and attacked buildings belonging to Rodrigo Paez, as well as a ranch in the area of Puerto Libertad.
  • That same day of June 19, 2020, but at this time at night in the city of Caborca, an attack was carried out at strategic points against Los Paez. Buildings linked to Darius Murrieta Navarro, La Cara de Cochi, were burned, as well as people abducted in smaller confrontations. A gas station was attacked with firearms and grenades, vehicles were burned down and abandoned. At least 2 people were reported killed in these attacks. The convoy that attacked the city had the “X” mark in their trucks. The convoy belonged to Los Salazar which was supported by the groups of Los Cazadores/Costeños/Memos/Cuzas.
  • On July 5, 2020 there was a confrontation in Altar, the base of Humberto Limon Lopez, “El Cazador, Noveno or Chuveto.” Two people were reported killed in the confrontation. The attack was directed by La Barredora 24/7.

This conflict is for the purpose of cleaning everything that has to do with the Paez group or the Caborca Cartel, this cartel is a group formed by Los Salazares that is made up of regional groups such as Los Rumas, Cazadores or Chuvetos, Memos and Cuzas.

Los Rumas were controlling the Caborca coast, Los Cazadores are those who are in the desert of Altar and dedicate themselves to drug trafficking, smuggling of immigrants in to the US and Los Memos are those who are working in the Sonoyta desert like Los Cuzas and their role is the trafficking of drugs and humans.

Los Memos are led by Adelmo Nieblas Gonzalez, “El Momo, El Señor or G3.” He is from Durango and is plaza boss in Sonoyta. Los Cuzas is another group linked to Los Salazares and are led by a lieutenant called El Cuza, who has a family relationship with Adelmo his father-in-law of his, as Cuza is married  to a daughter of Adelmo Nieblas.

Los Memos and Los Cuzas maintain another battlefront with the alleged Lieutenant of Guano, brother of El Chapo Guzman. the operator is called Abel who maintains control of sectors in Sonoyta and confronts Los Memos and Los Cuzas groups.

The bodies found on June 20, 2020 on the Caborca-Sonoyta highway were part of the group of Abel, the alleged Guano operator in the region, were executed on the orders of Los Memos and Los Cuzas. A total of 10 bodies were discovered on the highway. This was found after the June 19 attack in Caborca against Los Paez. Apparently it was an operation coordinated by the groups to heat up the plaza. Those executed were from a farming community of Sonoyta.

Apparently the Guano operator, Abel, supported the group of Los Paez in the war with Los Rumas or Los Costeños, that is why the onslaught of Los memos and Los Cuzas of Los Salazars. Still without corroborating, there is talk of a cleaning in Sonoyta to this Guano operator or others who say that he fled to the reserves in Arizona but continues to maintain strength in the Sonoyta region.

That is why the groups of Los Memos and Los Cuzas participated in this round-up of violence against all people not aligned with Los Salazares or Los Chapitos.

Another group led by Chavo Felix with a presence in Puerto Peñasco is currently awaiting to provide support to Los Paez group in the war with Los Salazares, Puerto Peñasco is a territory of El Mayo Ismael Zambada.

Los Paez group is accused of robbing La Herradura mine, owned by the Penmont Company, from which they stole a large loot worth millions of pesos. There are also complaints about extortion of landowners and charges of fees by the group. The farmers identified in their complaint a group of gunmen headed by Jesús Germán Gil Millanes, from the Paez group, who allegedly works with a politician who is trying to appropriate the lands of Ejido el Bajío.

There are accusations that they tried to affirm through the discovery of bodies dismembered on the morning of Monday, May 18, 2020 under the bridge known as “Curva del Mechudo” with a narco-message referring to the return of Rafael Caro Quintero to the region with accusations of charging fees (cobro de piso) and extortions.

Pamphlet where information is requested from Los Cazadores for the trafficking of human organs.
There are also accusations against the group of Humberto Limon Lopez, “El Cazador or El Noveno,” of extorting and kidnapping immigrants on the way from Altar to the United States, as well as the sale of crystal within the region. They also accuse them of trafficking human organs through the desert of Altar and the Sasabe corridor, this accusation is based on the large number of missing reports in the region. it is rumored that he uses the bodies of his fallen men to traffic in their organs, as numerous casualties have been reported from El Cazador/Noveno group.

Four bodies were found inside a cargo box in front of the municipal cemetery, which are rumored to be “halcones” from the Paez group while other say they were people of El Cazador/Noveno who he executed because they were people who could no longer be trusted.

Apparently, there is a strategy used buy criminal elements to try to link Rafael Caro Quintero with active participation in the Caborca cartel but even there has been no evidence of any of it.  It is known from reports from the DEA in the United States and from the journalist Anabel Hernandez where they say that Caro Quintero continues to be active in the narco business. The most common way to connect the Paez group with Caro Quintero is the relationship he has that through family ties among them there are nephews, godchildren and others who share a relationship with Caro Quintero. The ramification of surnames within the family, some are Caro Payan, Caro Paez, Paez Soto or Paez Quintero that could be related to the active life of Rafael Caro Quintero.

In social networks, they warned of the pending attack on altar, the home base of Los Cazadores/chuvetos, where they were warned of the arrival of 100 sicarios in search of Humberto Limon Lopez “El Cazador/Noveno” and Jose Bibiano Cabrera Cabrera “El Durango or El Traka.”

The message talks about the fear of the residents, here the full text:


“I am a resident of the #REFORMA, I am reaching out to you and at the same time I ask for help from the #CORRESPONDENT_AUTHORITIES due to the serious situation that the RESIDENTS OF TUBUTAMA, ATIL AND #ALTAR are experiencing,

My sister lives in #OQUITOA and says that many people came walking and that they only come through #CHUVETO and that nobody leaves their houses.

Also in #ARROYO de la JUANA my uncle saw at many people walking,

DON’T go out, they say they’re not going to leave until CHUVETO shows his face,

they already killed a lot of people.

There on the side of the #ANTENA there are more than 100 people waiting to be given the #Green_Light to enter through it.

The sicarios are telling them not to go out, my cousin stopped her, they told her not to go out because this is going to get #COLOR_DE_HORMIGA”

The sicarios are saying the following;

“Through an alert there are no #DECEPTIONS

And in a declared War there are no dead soldiers.”

Apparently, the threat came true and there was a confrontation in Altar, where they reported two people killed but in reality there were around 16 people killed from El Cazador’s group, these were people abducted by the same group.

It is rumored of a possible internal problem in El Cazador’s group, there is a conflict between Humberto Limon Lopez El Cazador/Noveno and Jose Bibiano Cabrera Cabrera El Durango, for the support that El Durango provided to the convoy made up of Rumas/Costeños/Memos/Cuzas in their incursion and attack in Caborca. El Cazador is upset because he was not consulted or gave any authorization for the incursion.

There is also talk of a group of young people from Durango who were sent in support Los Rumas or Costeños, but they deserted due to the dangerous situation in the region. They returned to Durango, but it is reported that they were abducted and are now missing in the territory of the state of Durango.

Altar residents report operations by the National Guard and the military where there have already made arrests. At the moment the operations inside Caborca are still active, there are reports of attacks and executions within the city.

The situation in Caborca has not dissipated and is not expected to return to the peace pact that was made before the confrontation erupted. This is a confrontation to the death, which has already claimed many lives among them, many innocent lives.

The government tried to stay out of the violence at first, but organized crime has already taken on the municipal, state and federal authorities. There is a heavy presence of police/military authorities in the Caborca region, but incidents continue to occur.

Caborca is another chapter of the battle of Sonora from the great capos of the nation, the offensive of the sons of Joaquin Guzman Loera to maintain and recover territories that were once their father’s and the disagreements with all those who did not align themselves with the new leadership of the Sinaloa cartel.

The Sonoran Desert joins the wave of violence that is experienced in the southern state of Sonora, where executions are carried out daily in Ciudad Obregon, Guaymas and Empalme. The confrontations and attacks in the Sierra Alta area of Sonora, where there is talk of the abductions against the head of the plaza in Ures, called el Negro, the alleged operator of the Gigio de Nogales and who received direct orders from a lieutenant of the Gigio, nicknamed “El 6.3” who is regional Leader of the municipalities around Hermosillo, Sonoran capital.

It is a fact that remains …