Authorities in Mexico confirmed the release of Axel Alfredo Cárdenas, son of alleged Gulf Cartel leader José Alfredo Cárdenas Martínez, known as “El Contador,” from prison on January 20, according to reports.
Axel Alfredo and his brother Alen Alexis were arrested in May 2023 in Tamaulipas and identified by police as leaders of the notorious Gulf Cartel engaged in drug trafficking and human trafficking operations in the state. However, a judge ordered Axel Alfredo’s release earlier this month along with another alleged Gulf Cartel member, Jesús Roberto.
“They are considered the main generators of violence and responsible for 22 road blockades in those municipalities, carried out on April 30, May 2 and 3, 2023,” detailed the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection (SSPC) at the time of their arrest.
The SSPC said the brothers took over control of the cartel after the arrest of their father, “El Contador,” in 2022 in Mexico City.
The Gulf Cartel has long been considered one of Mexico’s most ruthless drug trafficking organizations. Founded by Osiel Cárdenas Guillén in the 1990s, it has been engaged in bloody turf wars with rival cartels for control of lucrative smuggling routes into Texas for decades.
When Axel and Alen were arrested last Spring, authorities linked them to escalating cartel violence and intimidation tactics in Tamaulipas, including over 20 road blockades that left two dead.
“Videos captured a caravan of around 40 vehicles carrying out blockades ordered by the Cárdenas brothers at the end of April last year,” police noted.
Both were charged with organized crime activity involving drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnappings. Their release raises concerns of renewed violence in the state.
Their Father “El Contador”
Their father, Jose Alfredo Cárdenas Martínez, alias “El Contador,” was arrested in 2022 and accused of assuming leadership of the Gulf Cartel following the downfall of his uncle and cartel founder Osiel Cárdenas Guillén.
A federal court annulled his indictment in October 2022 due to procedural violations, after his defense argued authorities improperly obtained statements from minors present at his arrest.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports leaked in March 2023 outlined the Gulf Cartel’s leadership structure, identifying “El Contador” as head of the Ciclones-Escorpiones faction.
The release of his son Axel Alfredo back into the streets raises concerns that he could reignite the cartel’s violent rivalry over control of key drug smuggling routes into Texas. Authorities vow to monitor the activities of all suspected cartel members closely.