La Fuerza Anti-Unión (FAU) is a criminal organization that has grown rapidly since its inception as a vigilante group. The FAU is known for its involvement in illicit economies across Mexico City and use of aggressive violence in an ongoing bloody turf war with its sworn rival, La Unión Tepito.
Despite the capture of certain top leaders, the group is one of Mexico City’s largest criminal threats. The FAU appears set on expanding its presence in the nation’s capital through forging strategic alliances with other powerful criminal organizations.
The FAU’s emergence onto Mexico City’s criminal landscape has been suggested by two theories. One idea posits that the FAU came about as a vigilante group to violently combat La Unión Tepito’s extortion of business owners in Mexico City. Another suggests that when Roberto Moyado, alias “El Betito,” became La Unión Tepito’s leader, members of the organization splintered off to form the FAU, resulting in both groups contesting the control of microtrafficking and extortion territory in the city.
The FAU’s bloody rivalry with La Unión Tepito is widely reported to have begun at the end of 2017, as both groups targeted each other with public acts of aggression. This has led to members from both sides being executed, with bodies typically being left for display on public highways.
Since its inception, the FAU has grown rapidly, seeing through multiple attempts to expand its territory and involvement in Mexico City’s illicit economies for extortion and microtrafficking. Authorities have suggested that between 2017 and 2018 the group claimed fresh territory in its turf war with La Unión Tepito, including the municipalities of Álvaro Obregón, Tlalpan and Cuauhtémoc. In such zones, murders, violence and the presence of “narcomantas” — banners used by criminal groups to make announcements and threats — increased dramatically.
During its period of expansion, the FAU’s ambition to control drug sales and extortion rackets in Mexico City’s Historic Center became clear. In 2018, it was reported that the FAU and La Unión Tepito had been contesting the bustling street of Manuel Peña and Peña in Cuauhtémoc, with both groups publicly killing rival gang members to gain control of lucrative criminal economies in the area.
Correspondingly, the FAU’s growth has been consistently underscored by ongoing violence with its sworn rival.
In June 2018, two dismembered bodies were discovered on Avenida Insurgentes, one of the most heavily traveled routes in Mexico City. A narcomanta was also found on the scene. The banner contained a message threatening El Tortas. The incident is reported to have been co-ordinated in Álvaro Obregón, where the FAU had been increasing its presence. Two days after the appearance of the banner, shootings and executions occurred at various points throughout the city, leaving at least seven dead.
Approximately one month later, the FAU’s efforts to challenge La Unión Tepito for control of illicit economies in Mexico State became clear. In the space of a week, 12 people were murdered across Nezahualcóyotl, Ecatepec and Naucalpan, just outside of Mexico City. Authorities linked such homicides directly to the FAU and La Unión Tepito, claiming the FAU’s then-leader, Jorge Flores Concha, alias “El Tortas,” had sent members of the group to find and kill El Betito, in an effort to facilitate territorial expansion.
The group’s involvement in such public acts of violence have also affected some of Mexico City’s most popular tourist zones. In September 2018, six people died in the capital’s Plaza Garibaldi, after two gunmen dressed as mariachis opened fire in another attempt to murder then-FAU leader, El Tortas. The hitmen were allegedly working on the orders of La Unión Tepito.
Since El Tortas was captured in May 2019, the FAU has seen a spate of leadership changes, prompting media outlets and authorities alike to claim the group is weakening. High-ranking members of the organization have attempted to restructure operations.
However, powerful figures in the group have continuously been arrested. Authorities detained seven presumed members of the organization in July 2020, in four separate raids across Azcapotzalco, Venustiano Carranza and Ecatepec. In each operation, cocaine was seized, along with a selection of firearms and other drugs, including marijuana and crystal methamphetamine. The FAU’s most recent leader, “El Lucas”, was captured in October 2020.
The group has consistently allied itself with Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization, the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG), which is seeking to deepen its presence in the nation’s capital. The CJNG has reportedly been supplying the FAU with weapons, drugs and manpower.
In October 2020, the strength and relevance of this alliance was showcased when a shoot-out in the district of Azcapotzalco left six dead and four wounded, with one of the arrested perpetrators telling police they were hired by the CJNG to attack drug dealers associated with La Unión Tepito.
Recent investigations from authorities have suggested the FAU is currently operating in the municipalities of Azcapotzalco, Álvaro Obregón, Coyoacán, Cuauhtémoc, Iztacalco, Magdalena Contreras, Miguel Hidalgo and Venustiano Carranza.
However, it appears as though neighborhoods in Cuauhtémoc and Venustiano Carranza are consistently contested by the FAU and La Unión Tepito. Recently, it was reported that in the first six months of 2020 over 60 people had died as a result of the ongoing turf war, with numerous homicides having occurred across Cuauhtémoc.
The FAU’s current leader is unknown. Since the capture of its high-profile founder, El Tortas, the group has seen frequent changes in who sits at the top of its organizational structure. This has reportedly led to internal divisions.
The group’s most recent confirmed leader, El Lucas, was captured in October 2020. He was linked to the sale and distribution of drugs in the municipalities of Cuauhtémoc and Venustiano Carranza, killing members of rival groups and distributing arms to FAU members at two flower shops in Cuauhtémoc and robbery.
The FAU largely operates in Mexico City, although it reportedly has a presence in the nearby State of Mexico. Since its period of rapid expansion in 2018, the FAU has dealt in illicit economies across much of the capital.
According to reports, El Tortas wanted to expand the group’s operations prior to his capture, with a focus on claiming cities across the State of Mexico, including Toluca and Ecatepec de Morelos. The leader also reportedly sought to seize a greater number of municipalities across Mexico’s capital, including Benito Juárez, Iztacalco and Iztapalapa, to name but a few.
However, given the FAU’s ongoing volatile turf war with La Unión Tepito, it is difficult to say which municipalities in Mexico City the group truly dominates at any one time. For example, the FAU made temporary gains in Central de Abasto, the city’s largest marketplace where theft, trade in contraband and drug trafficking are commonplace. The group had been using underground tunnels to facilitate the work of approximately 50 members installed in the zone to control drug sales and extortion rackets. A site of this importance is unlikely to stay in a given group’s hands for long.
Mexico City’s tourist hotspot, Plaza Garibaldi, is another highly-disputed zone for the FAU. The local area hosts ample opportunities for microtrafficking and extortion rackets, meaning it is regularly contested between the FAU and La Unión Tepito. Ongoing battles between the two groups to control such zones have transformed the capital’s criminal landscape, despite persistent official denials that the city is largely free of cartels.
While the FAU’s illicit activities are overwhelmingly concentrated in Mexico City, high-profile figures of the group have maintained crucial ties to other states.
El Lucas was reported to have had bases in Morelos, Acapulco and Guerrero, where he evaded authorities, prior to his capture.
Meanwhile, El Tortas frequently traveled to the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala and Morelos, where he allegedly presented himself as an operative of the CJNG.
Allies and Enemies
The FAU was essentially born out of its rivalry with La Unión Tepito, the group’s long-term prime enemy.
This enmity has been characterized by public killings, frequent shootings and subsequent displays of dismembered bodies, often with threatening messages attached. The FAU’s overarching aim when performing such acts of aggression has been to claim territory currently under La Unión Tepito’s control and essentially enhance its share in criminal economies for extortion and microtrafficking.
The group’s activities have been bolstered by its strong alliance with the Jalisco Cartel New Generation, Mexico’s foremost criminal threat. This tie was reportedly formalized in a pact between El Tortas and CJNG leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho" in 2019. However, suspicions of links between the CJNG and La Fuerza Anti-Unión have existed since at least 2017, when the National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information for Combating Crime (Centro Nacional de Planeación, Análisis e Información para el Combate a la Delincuencia – Cenapi) first warned of it.
The FAU’s alliance with the CJNG has endured multiple leadership changes. The group’s most recent head, El Lucas, reportedly had strong ties with CJNG operatives.
The firm coalition is underscored by compatible criminal interests, mutually facilitating the CJNG’s ambition of deepening its presence in Mexico City and the FAU’s goal of reducing La Unión Tepito’s share in local illicit economies.
The CJNG’s astronomic levels of power and influence on Mexico’s criminal landscape mean that it has the economic resources necessary to provide the FAU with weapons, drugs, vehicles and even hitmen, as both fight a united battle to take control of Mexico City’s trade in drugs and extortion rackets away from La Unión Tepito.
An October 2020 raid at Mexico City’s Central de Abasto wholesale market found tunnels used to move drugs and weapons, which city officials said belonged to La Fuerza Anti-Unión, who had been supplied with weaponry by CJNG. In the same month, members of the CJNG reportedly hired hitmen to attack drug dealers associated with La Unión Tepito.
The FAU has also benefited from ties to corrupt officials. It was reported that the group’s amicable relations with high-ranking members of Mexico City’s Secretariat of Security and Civilian Protection (Secretaría de Seguridad Ciudadana – SSC) staved off the capture of El Tortas, as officials would pre-warn the leader of raids setting out to detain him.
Authorities claim to have effectively disbanded the FAU, suggesting frequent captures of its leaders and alleged splintering have weakened the organization’s operational structure. The group has perhaps been less cohesive since El Tortas was detained.
However, the FAU is highly unlikely to diminish its role as a critical player on Mexico City’s criminal landscape, particularly for as long as its strong alliance with the CJNG persists. This coalition provides the FAU with the resources and logistical support it needs to expand while deepening its influence in crucial zones of Mexico’s capital.
On the contrary, displacing La Unión Tepito will not be a simple task for the group. To do so, the FAU and CJNG must break the very deep ties – even familial ones – that La Unión Tepito has in the center of Mexico City.