Family structures play a pivotal role in the shadowy underworld of the Mexican drug trade, as demonstrated by the Gulf Cartel’s reliance on lineage to maintain power and expand operations. This interplay between bloodlines and crime is not exclusive to one organization but can be seen across the board.
While the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) and the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) have been noted for their family-based operations, it’s the Gulf Cartel, particularly the Grupo Escorpion cell, that stands out as a testament to the importance of lineage in Mexican drug trafficking.
At the helm of this faction, military intelligence documents and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) records identify Jose Alberto Garcia Vilano, often known by his aliases “La Kena” or “Cyclone 19.” But it’s not just Garcia Vilano; the leadership spectrum of this criminal organization is populated by both direct and indirect descendants of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the former leader of the Gulf Cartel and a pivotal figure behind the rise of the infamous Los Zetas.
The Cardenas Dynasty
Among those in the spotlight is Yahaira Cárdenas Muñiz, alias “Yaya,” the eldest daughter of Osiel Cárdenas, infamously known as “El Mata Amigos.” Reports label her as a significant figure for Grupo Escorpión and also indicate her relationship with René Villarreal Garza, who identifies himself with pseudonyms like “El Gordo” and “Escorpión 1”, marking him as a key leader within the organization.
Another notable figure is Celia Marlene Cardenas Salinas, another daughter of the former cartel leader. She has been marked for alleged activities as a loan shark operating out of Texas. Interestingly, she is believed to have ties with Carlos Fabián Martínez Pérez, alias “El Cuate,” a close associate of Cárdenas Guillén known for an extortion network that targets transmigrant companies in the Brownsville and Matamoros region.
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Grecia Cárdenas Salinas, another daughter of the erstwhile criminal mastermind, and her sister, Celia Marlene, have not evaded attention either. Both are reportedly involved in the loan sharking operations for Grupo Escorpión. Adding another layer to this intricate family web is “Mini Osiel,” a sibling sentenced in the U.S. for arms trafficking.
Expanding the family tree
The Cardenas lineage doesn’t stop with Osiel. His brothers, Mario, known as “El M1”, and Ezequiel, alias “Tony Tormenta”, also held significant positions within the Gulf Cartel. The next generation, including Ezequiel and George Cardenas Rivera (sons of “Tony Tormenta”), has swiftly climbed the cartel ranks, with the former known for his ties to a gang named Grupo de Operaciones Cercanas an Ezequiel Cardenas (G.O.C.E.C.) and the latter reported to control drug trafficking routes to the U.S and oversee nightclubs in the border region.
Beyond the Cardenas family, other connections have emerged. The García Leal sisters, for instance, have ties to the Cárdenas Guillén brothers. Balkys Marlene García Leal is cited in multiple reports as the financial operator for the Grupo Escorpión cell in Matamoros and is closely linked to José Alfredo Cárdenas Martínez, alias “El Contador,” Osiel Cárdenas Guillén’s nephew. Similarly, her sister, Nelia García, is believed to be a key player for the group in the Brownsville and Matamoros regions.
The intricate web of family connections that pervades the Gulf Cartel’s operations underscores the significance of lineage in organized crime. This trend has been consistent for at least the past two decades. The Gulf Cartel has seamlessly woven a tapestry of power and influence across generations through marriages, relationships, and direct descendants.