June 8, 2013
Twelve young Mexico City citizens disappeared in the morning hours from the Zona Rosa district on Sunday, May 26. It is believed the group was at the bar “Heaven”, which is an after-hours bar that youth often frequent after a night of partying.
Several days passed before much noise was made of the crime. It took family members blocking a street in protest to get the attention of authorities.
Those kidnapped were not from just any neighborhood in Mexico City, they were from the infamous Tepito. The rough and tumble neighborhood that is sharp as nails is known for drug corners, bootleg property, and Santa Muerte devotees. Hard working families set up makeshift street stalls every day, hoping to make enough sales to put food on the table.
While the barrio may be famous for its criminal activity, the hard work ethic of the neighborhood should not be downplayed. The barrio is one of the oldest in Latin America and has proven it can withstand the trials of time. The neighborhood seems to be almost forgotten by the local government, but has always found a way to provide for itself.
Tepito consists of 72 blocks, holding an estimated 120,000 people. Many residents live in apartments and makeshifts home for free. Residents often pay no rent to building owners, who gave up on collecting rent decades ago.
Details of the kidnapping were scarce for over a week. Authorities claimed that the case of the missing was purely a disappearance, not a kidnapping. Three suspects were eventually arrested in connection with the crime. The suspects, Gabriel “El Diablo” Carrasco Llizarriturri, Andrew Henonet, and Brenda Contreras Angelica Casas, were all believed to have been present during the kidnapping. El Diablo worked as security for the bar and at times served as a driver for the owners. During the arrest, the three were found with narcotics and weapons.
Another associate of the bar was arrested on June 6. Mario Alberto Rodríguez Ledesma, a 40 year old partial owner of the bar, is being held in connection with the disappearance of the 12. Mario’s brother, along with another owner of the bar, is currently wanted in connection with the mass abduction. The group of men have numerous alleged ties to drug trafficking and money laundering.
One man has came forward who claimed he was present during the kidnapping. The witness states he escaped from the captors by fleeing from the roof. The witness gave a fake number, address, and name when talking to police. After making statements at the police station, he was not located again until June 7.
Police pulled video footage from the whole area, looking for any evidence. The video cameras at the bar showed nothing. Cameras on the streets show a few large vans with tinted windows in the area at the time of the incident. The evidence is not clear enough to build a case.
A source, who is allegedly involved in the case, has made statements regarding the reason for the mass kidnapping. His identity has not been revealed, but a recorded telephone conversation was given to some members of the press.
In the conversation, the informant claims the kidnapping was in retaliation for a murder. Allegedly two days before, a drug dealer was killed in the Condesa area. The drug dealer, Angel Vite “El Chaparro” Horacio, was robbed and killed. Apparently Horacio has strong ties to the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templars).
The informant goes on to say that the Caballeros Templarios asked permission from La Unión to seek revenge against those responsible for the murder. Permission was granted.
La Unión is the most dominant organized crime group in Tepito. The group has been labeled everything from a street gang to a cartel. Regardless, the group moves a good amount of drugs. Tepito is known as the easiest neighborhood to pick up narcotics on the go. The area has at least 100 known narco-tiendas (illegal drug stores/stops). Youths on mopeds and motorcycles buzz up and down the streets, delivering drugs to consumers and dealers.
La Unión rose to prominence in the neighborhood in 2008. Gangs in this area have always existed, as has violence. However, gangs are not usually seen a nuisance, but more as a necessity. The gangs rarely prey on their own, and often help with day to day life in Tepito. Without the gangs, most citizens would be more concerned for their safety from outsiders.
Other noteworthy gangs in Tepito are Los Villafaña, El Fortis and El Conejo. The focus of all street gangs here are to profit from drug sales and to provide protection for their homes. Ties have been made over the years with La Familia Michoacana and with the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The ties were necessary to provide cheap prices on bulk narcotics.
The Caballeros Templarios, the group who some think are behind the kidnappings, are a splinter of La Familia Michoacana drug cartel which is based in the state of Michoacán. The group has been portrayed as highly religious and as giving strict rules to its members. The group was formed in 2011 and has since spread further into central Mexico. The cartel is known for methamphetamine trafficking, but dabbles in all aspects of the drug trade. The group may not have huge numbers in Mexico City, but with connections and money, they can mobilize for needed tasks quickly.
Much of the talk of the kidnappings has centered on Jerzy Esli Ortiz Ponce, at 16, the youngest kidnapping victim. Many regard him as a young street smart criminal, who has attempted to push his way into the narcotic trade of central Mexico City.
The mayor has tried to downplay the connections with the recent incidents to the presence of a cartel in Mexico City, stating that there is no cartel in the city, only local street gangs.
Historically, the violence of Tepito is typically kept in check. Usually when someone is killed, the neighborhood confirms that the victim had it coming. Typically your neighbors are more likely to watch your back, than to think of stealing from you. However, the youth are not holding the bar as high as their elders. Respect is not the priority it once was. This disregard of respect and the possible influence from major outside cartels could be a formula for disaster.
Some media outlets have made note of the recent killing of Malcolm X’s grandson in Mexico City. Malcolm Latif Shabazz, a 29 year old rights activist, was beat to death after refusing to pay an inflated bar tab. He was traveling with another rights activist, who had recently been deported from the United States. The two had partaken in drinks and working women, when they were surprised with a large bill.
This incident took place near Plaza Garibaldi. The murder did not actually occur in the plaza, which is famous for mass groups of mariachis playing through the night. The crime occurred just outside, on a major street north of the popular Bellas Artes area. Plaza Garibaldi lies less than 500 meters from what is considered the edge of Tepito. Many young Tepito residents work in the bars and restaurants in the plaza.
From that southwest corner of Tepito, the bar in Zona Rosa where the kidnappings took place lies less than 4.5km to the southwest. The distance from the Zona Rosa bar to the Condesa bar, where a drug dealer was killed days earlier, is a mere 2km.
The three neighborhoods are close in proximity, but very distant in appearance. Condesa is one of the more upper class neighborhoods to be seen at. Young professionals and artists frequent the bars and coffee shops. Zona Rosa could be classified as middle class and open for everyone. It is not a gay district per say, but is definitely a safe zone that gay couples frequent. The zone is close to the business district on Reforma, drawing in people of all types. Tepito, as described before, is a lower class rough neighborhood, with few options for entertainment besides running the streets.
Despite authorities attempting to downplay the seriousness of the kidnapping incident, the city is at a mild unrest. This style of mass kidnappings is not known in the nation’s capital. The case seems to be more of the tales heard from the far north Frontera, the border land which is almost deemed as another country to those living in the capital.
Authorities have stated that they are still looking for two of the owners of the bar where the mass kidnapping took place. Ernesto Espinosa Lobo and Dartx Rodríguez Ledesma, the owners of bar Heaven that are still on the run, have not been located since the incident. Some have suggested the owners setup the kidnapping. At least one of the three who were first arrested in the case have made statements fingering the owners as aiding in the abduction.
|Four killed at this Tepito Gym|
THE MISSING ( from AP among other sources) 1. Eulogio Fonseca Arreola, 26, a street vendor who sells cell-phone accessories with his sister and family. “They went out to have fun. They are not criminals,” sister Isabel Fonseca said.
2. Jennifer Robles Gonzalez, 23, a single mother of a 6-year-old boy. Her family said she posted a message on Facebook after 8:30 a.m. Sunday saying she was dancing at the bar less than two hours before the kidnapping allegedly took place.
6. Alan Omar Athiencia Barranco, 26
7. Said Sanchez Garcia, 19, who helped his mom sell purses and cleaning items in a street market. He was last seen late Saturday when he came home for a sweater before going out to another nightclub and then the bar. The youth’s father, Alejandro Sanchez, has been in prison for more than 10 years on drug-related charges.
8. Jerzy Esli Ortiz Ponce, 16, went to the party with his friend, Said Sanchez. Father is convict Jorge Ortiz Reyes, alias “”Tanque”, who was a drug boss in Tepito. He is currently serving prison time.
9. Gabriela Tellez Zamudio, 34
10. Rafael Rojas, no age
11. No information 12. The twelfth victim was later confirmed. No information available.