Aside from the moos of hungry cattle, only silence greeted Mexican Marines as they pulled up to the front house of Rancho San José. With guns drawn in a ready fire position, they exited their vehicles and directly spotted four bodies in the front yard. A perimeter inspection revealed two more bodies.
AK47 shell casings and fragments were scattered on the ground, scores of bullet impacts had defaced the ranch house walls on all sides of the concrete exterior. Grenades had blown through multiple areas of walls leaving large gaping holes.
There was not a doubt in the minds of the Marines, that what occurred was an intense, violent battle, between the gunmen dead in the home’s exterior, against those yet to be discovered in its interior.
The smell of gun fire still hung in the air as they opened the front door, and rushed in, weapons still drawn, as they spread out and began their in each of the four rooms.
The windows were barricaded with wood, with guns propped against openings to the outside.
The floors were littered with dozens of spent cartridges, interior walls pitted with bullet holes and grenade fragments.
It was in the bathroom that they came upon the lone person in the interior, an elderly man, lying on the tile floor. The man was dead, with a gun resting at each side of his corpse.
The marines looked at each other in disbelief as the realization sank in; the man had taken down six narcos, alone…. with hunting guns. Later the man would be identified as the proprietor of the ranch, Don Alejo Garza Tamez.
After Galileo’s recantation, his pupil Andrea laments “Pity the country that has no hero,” to which comes the somber retort, “Pity the country that needs a hero.” For it is the platform for mass action….
It is said that at this time Mexico is in desperate need of heroes, that apathy has permeated Mexican society of today. Possibly that explains why, when a man demonstrated to Mexicans how heroes live, and heroes die, that the hero would be a man of yesterday’s generation. The generation of our fathers, and grandfathers, when those who lived with honor, valor and virtue, were not exceptions to the rule. Living life by examples set by generations past, ethical standards that were never questioned.
At 9 AM on Friday November 13, 2010, a group of strangers arrived at the ranch of 77 year old Don Alejo Garza Tamez, it was a typical day, Don Alejo was at his ranch, working his land with his ranch hands. As it turned out, the strangers were there not so much to speak to Don Alejo, rather to deliver an order. The strangers were narcos, from an organized criminal group, used to getting what they need or want, by any means necessary, but typically means are not necessary, a request is all that is needed.
What they want on this November day is Don Alejo’s Rancho San José. A ranch logistically perfect for their business of trafficking drugs into the United States. They left a demand with Don Alejo, they wanted his property and would be back in 24 hours for him to sign over the property. Don Alejo gave them a quick answer, he was not giving up his ranch, and he would be waiting for them.
Don Alejo’s “San Jose Ranch” was in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, 15k from Ciudad Victoria, and adjacent to Lake Padilla. He and his brother Rodolfo purchased a large land parcel, which they split; Rodolfo’s half bordered the Corona River.
Ranching and the woods were both embedded in the heart of Don Alejo. Fishing and hunting were his favorite pastimes as a child in Allende, Nuevo Leon.
The city of Allende sits at the south east tip of the state, about 50 miles from Monterrey, sitting at the foothills of the Sierra Madre.
His father owned a small sawmill, consequently, when Don Alejo was a young child his father taught him to how to operate the machinery and mill wood, which he along with his brothers, would sell mostly in the city of Monterrey.
Growing up in Ciudad Allende provides a massive adventure playground to explore, hunt and fish. Allende known as the orange and honey capital of Mexico, is adjacent to the mosaic landscape of the Sierra Madre, with its forests, grutas (caves) with cave rivers reaching 100 miles in length, ancient Indian wall “paintings” in shearing canyons framing Cerro de la Silla (saddle mountain) its 12K plus altitude, lakes and water systems that cascade over hundreds of waterfalls.
In Ciudad Allende, is the beautiful Rio Ramos. Ancient Pines and Oaks surround and line the river that runs through the city. Ramos is where young Don Alejo most frequented to fish, where he would catch catfish, crappie and bass. When Alejo was not working the lumber mill, it was fishing, hunting, and exploring the mountains of the Sierra Madre.
As a young hunter Don Alejo became sharply familiar with firearms, both long guns and small arms. He had collected guns since his childhood, and he had a reputation for an eagle eye and steady grip, which he put to use hunting deer and geese. He never tired of his childhood pastime and as an adult he co-founded the ‘Dr. Maria Manuel Silva Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Club in Allende, Nuevo Leon’. Mexico’s constitution provides its citizens the right to bear arms, however it imposes caliber restrictions, to handguns at .380 or less and shotguns or rifles at .22.
There are exceptions, bt those exceptions are severally restricted to those living in rural areas for hunting and target or silhouette shooting. Don Alejo passes the rigid requirements, which includes character references of six non related persons, with good standing in their respective communities. This allowed him to include slightly higher caliber weapons in his collection, but not anything comparable to an assault weapon.
The family lumber business was so successful it allowed expansion into lumber supply retail outlets, in Allende and Montemorelos. The stores were named“El Salto” homage to El Salto, Durango where they acquired the raw product.
It was a wonderful life; success gained by sweat and hard work, not by gift or by “taking” property not rightfully theirs.
One can only imagine what Don Alejo thought about the new generation of Mexicans. Those who satisfy desires by taking, who traffic drugs, kill, extort, kidnap and terrorize to attain their brand of success. Those of the new generation, the malevolent 1% holding Mexicans hostage to their rule, who violate with impunity, whose philosophy shuns honest work, finding it far easier to entrap citizens by fear, for personal gain.
Don Alejo and his brother most likely could not have imagined that their choice of land, chosen thirty six years ago because of its ideal location for hunting and fishing, it would also become strategically prime location for the malevolent ones to conduct their business, some three decades later.
Don Alejo’s land is situated on the outskirts of Ciudad Victoria, a city in the turbulent Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Ranchers in this region were under constant threat and attack. Don Alejo’s San Jose Ranch was one of the more than five thousand ranches that dot the landscape of Tamaulipas. His land sat adjacent to the main highway with rural roads where one could bypass main roads for clandestine passage from the south to the north border.
Cartels target ranches with these roads, roads not unlike the one Miguel Treviño was travelling on outside Sabinas, Coahuila, when he was recently arrested. They “evict” ranchers, and convert ranches to“narco safe houses”, camps and killing fields.
Zetas split from CDG
In 2010 the state of Tamaulipas was exploding with violence in pockets all over the state. The year began with Los Zetas Cartel rancorous split from Cartel del Golfo (CDG).
The fracture was not a shock to drug war watchers, who had taken note of the discord between the enforcer group, and their former ally. Trouble ensued after the capture of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the premier leader of CDG.
To understand the relationship between Los Zetas and CDG one should reflect back to the arrest of former premier leader of CDG, Juan García Ábrego in 1996, thereafter CDG was troubled by tentative leadership at the helm of the then powerful cartel.
After a couple of failures, Osiel took control, along with his close friend Salvador Gómez Herrera aka El Chava, they became co-leaders. It was Osiel’s who decided to form an enforcer group comprised of the best Mexico had to offer. Osiel had become acquainted with a member of the prestigious Special Forces agency GAFE, his name, Arturo Guzmán Decena. It was Guzmán Osiel spoke to regarding the formation of an enforcer group. Guzmán defected from the military and formed the group known as Los Zetas. Guzmán was known by his moniker “Z-1”.
In a diabolical move, Osiel named Chava as the padrino (Godfather) of his daughter. In the Mexican culture, being asked to stand as a padrino is a great honor bestowed on those closest to the parents of the child.
Though Chavo and Osiel shared a close relationship, by Osiel selecting Chavo as his daughter’s padrino, this must have given Chavo a false sense of security and compromised his typical cautiousness, allowing him to lower his guard.
Two stories abound of the exact circumstances, but at the end of either version, Chavo was in the front seat of a vehicle with Osiel when Z1, sitting in the back seat, delivered the coup de grâce to the back of Chavo’s head, killing him instantly.
Osiel was now the sole leader of CDG and earned the nickname “Mata Amigos”, (Friend Killer) the year was 1999.
Z1 had proven his loyalty to Osiel, but the partnership did not have longevity, it was cut short on November 22, 2002. Again, there are multiple historical accounts of what transpired, but fact holds with all accounts; Z1 was killed by the Mexican Army in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
In retaliation, Osiel ordered the abduction and execution of four members of the Office of the General Prosecutor in January 2003, outside Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
When the Zetas second-in-command, Rogelio González Pizaña (aka Z2), was captured in October 2004, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano (aka Z3) ascended to the premier leadership role. Within four months after the death of Z1, the Mexican military captured Osiel on 14 March 2003.
The arrest of Osiel was the turning point in the relationship between Zetas and CDG.
Although Osiel proved to be a competent leader, respected by his membership and his enforcer group what was not known at that time, was how poor a businessman Osiel would be proven to be, and at the time of his arrest he was having difficulty paying his border traffickers.
Succeeding Osiel’s arrest the dynamics of Zetas role with CDG changed dramatically.
In place of a subservient role, they became synonymous to CDG, and began the process of independence. Rather than rushing a complete break from CDG, they first cultivated control of territories and plazas belonging to CDG, by developing loyalties among authorities, agencies, and Politians, who for the most part were corrupt and in bed with organized crime. This is how they were able to claim places such as Veracruz and Coahuila at the time of the split.
CDGs troubles with Zetas was complicated by the fact Osiel was unable to replace his position with competent leadership, infighting and continual discord with Zetas weakened the cartel and placed Zetas in good position to make the break in a station of power.
After the 2007 extradition of CDG leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, “El Coss”, took charge of the Gulf cartel along with Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillen, aka Tony Tormenta, and Los Zetas were led by Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Treviño Morales.two groups created an agreement that would allow both to work on the same routes independently but defend the territory as if it were a single organization, while each maintaining their own leadership.
Lazcano and Treviño became increasingly wary of CDG leadership, suspecting they were in a conspiracy to weaken the Zetas. It came to a head when El Coss sent assassins to Reynosa to kill Victor Peña Mendoza, “Concord 3”, the chief of finance for the Zetas, and close friend of Miguel Treviño. Treviño demanded Coss hand over the killer or the consequences would be war. Coss’ noncompliance was the nail in the coffin of the alliance between the cartels, and snapped the tension that had taken hold for over two years. This was mid January, 2010.
The split caused fighting over Tamaulipas plazas, and the corrupt heads of municipalities and state agencies were forced to choose their loyalty between the two cartels. Infighting within the CDG cartel severally complicated and harmed the cartel. The two CDG factions, Metros and Los Rojos, became embroiled in battle after the death of Samuel Flores Borrego (at left), said killer of Concord 3.
(note: Metros’ loyal to the Cárdenas family, Rojos to Coss)
All of this played out at an unprecedented scale of violence. Terror in the streets and rural roads of Tamaulipas, as the eyes of the world were fixated on Juarez, the devil came to Tamaulipas and no one seemed to be watching.
Part two: will include; Tamps violence 2010, The Rancho San José show down, and The aftermath