Key Cartel Operative’s Murder near Arizona Border Sparks Fears of Escalated Violence

Mexican crime scene
File Photo: ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images

The murder of a key Sinaloa cartel operative near the Arizona border in Mexico sparked fears of escalated violence with a looming cartel war.

Municipal police in colonias Nuevas in the Valle de Mexicali (located near the Arizona border) responded to numerous reports of shots fired. The call came it at approximately 7:30 p.m. about gunfire inside the cemetery on the outskirts of the rural community. Upon arrival, police discovered three men lying on the ground near a black BMW.

Officials declared two of the men to be dead at the scene. A third person required transportation to a nearby medical facility for treatment of his gunshot wounds. After further investigation, police identified one of the murder victims as Julio César Aguilar García, aka “El Vaquero”, a key regional Sinaloa cartel operative linked to Ismael Zambada García “El Mayo”, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. They identified the second victim as Rodolfo Antonio Galindo, aka “El Chupacabras”, also a Sinaloa cartel operative according to local law enforcement sources and media reports. Both, “El Vaquero” and “El Chupacabras” were armed with handguns. Investigators believed the victims were caught by surprise and were unable to retrieve their weapons to defend themselves.

 “El Vaquero”, is a well-known cartel operative in and around the municipality of San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora. The community borders San Luis, Arizona, and Mexicali, Baja California, which borders Calexico. The region provides key smuggling routes into the United States with easy access into Arizona and California. The region also provides the key Golfo de Santa Clara which is utilized to receive sea shipments of illicit drugs for eventual transportation to the north and U.S. drug market.

In 2011, elements of the San Luis Rio Colorado municipal police and the Mexican Army captured “El Vaquero” along with five other Sinaloa cartel operatives. “El Vaquero”, had been responsible for supervising the logistics of receiving and moving drug loads through the region. It’s unknown why he was subsequently freed.

In July of this year, a San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, municipal police officer was gunned down by cartel gunmen. The cartel violence in the border state of Sonora led to numerous attacks on police officers. In 2019, a total of 17 police officers were killed in Sonora.

Earlier this week, Breitbart’s Cartel Chronicles reported on the seizure of 1370 pounds of methamphetamine in two separate operations by the Mexican Army in San Luis Río Colorado.

In June of this year, at least 527 pounds of methamphetamine — worth an estimated $7.2 million — was seized during a joint investigation by local police and federal agents in the Arizona border town of San Luis, Arizona which borders San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, Mexico.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at


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