MCALLEN, Texas – One of the most famous leaders of the Gulf cartel is suing the U.S. government in an effort to have a federal judge determine if he is a U.S. citizen or not.
Juan Garcia Abrego, the man who ran the Gulf Cartel from the 1980’s until 1996 and was the first drug lord to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted list, is expected to go before U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen this year for a hearing to determine if he was born in a ranch near Matamoros or if he was born in La Paloma Texas.
Garcia has been in custody since his January 1996 arrest near the industrial city of Monterrey. He was quickly extradited to the U.S. where he was convicted of several drug trafficking and money laundering charges and ended up getting 11 life sentences. Currently the U.S Bureau of Prisons lists Garcia as an inmate in the ADX Florence maximum security prison.
In Garcia’s request for declaratory judgment the former drug capo claims to have been born on September 13, 1944 in La Paloma, Texas, but that he personally filed that birth certificate as a delayed birth with Texas authorities in 1965. Garcia also claims that he was registered in July 1945 as having been born at the Las Puertas Ranch in the Mexican border city of Matamoros.
The discrepancy about his birth certificate was an issue during his 1996 trial when prosecutors claimed he was an American citizen and didn’t need to go through an extradition process. The documents came up again in when the Texas Department of Health and Human Services denied him a copy of his U.S. birth certificate in March 2013 stating that since he had an older certificate in Mexico his U.S. birth certificate wasn’t valid.
“It’s not very clear what the immediate benefit to Ábrego would be if the courts can agree he was actually born in Mexico, as it’s unlikely he would be released to the Mexican government for a proper extradition request,” said Breitbart Texas Contributing Editor and Border Security Expert Sylvia Longmire. “Given his age and decades-long removal from the drug scene, he poses no practical security threat. However, Ábrego is a legend in Mexico’s drug war history, and his capture remains one of the most significant in the past 20 years. It would be highly unusual for a drug lord of his stature to go through this process just out of principle, so there is likely an ulterior motive for this birth certificate search that may not be immediately apparent.”
Garcia Abrego inherited the Gulf cartel in the 1980’s from his uncle Juan N. Guerra who started the crime syndicate in the 1930’s smuggling liquor and tobacco in Matamoros a city where he was the de-facto ruler holding court out of his restaurant Piedras Negras in the city’s downtown area. Sometime during the 1980’s Guerra turned the power over to Garcia who got the crime syndicate into the drug business and for a time became known as the Matamoros Cartel before becoming known as the Gulf cartel. At one point it was the most powerful cartel in Mexico. Guerra was never prosecuted in the U.S. or in Mexico. During Garcia’s reign of the cartel, he is credited with having been responsible for the trafficking of more than 190,000 pounds of cocaine and 38,000 pounds of marijuana, court records show.
After the fall of Garcia, the cartel had a slight power vacuum that was filled by Osiel Cardenas Guillen, a ruthless drug lord who killed his way to the top and is credited with starting the Zetas as his personal guard. The Zetas distinguished themselves as the most vicious hitmen and grew to be the armed wing of the Gulf cartel until 2010 when the two sides got into a bloody war that continues to this day. Cardenas is currently serving a 25-year prison term in the U.S. while the Gulf cartel undergoes an implosion as various regional commanders have been fighting each other over old vendettas and power. The rivalry has led to regular shootouts along the Mexico-Texas border where convoys of gunmen clash with each other as well as with the Mexican military which has tried unsuccessfully to restore public safety to the Mexican state.