HomeNewsBriefAMLO Security Crackdown Met With Mexico Cartel Death Threats

AMLO Security Crackdown Met With Mexico Cartel Death Threats


Two death threats were made against the president of Mexico in the same week from two different criminal groups, suggesting that the president’s strategy for confronting such groups has done little to sway their confidence.

Authorities found a narco message January 31 in the city of Salamanca in central Guanajuato state that threatened President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and demanded that he pull back security forces in the area, Vanguardia reported. Guanajuato is home to the Salamanca refinery, a key hub for the lucrative oil theft business dominated by Mexico's cartels.  

López Obrador has attempted to crack down on rampant oil theft by shutting down major pipelines and deploying soldiers to protect refineries and oil tankers run by the state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Days prior to the death threat, a bomb was placed inside of a truck outside of the Salamanca refinery. 

The narco message threatening López Obrador referenced the bombing and was signed by the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and its leader, José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro.” The group is waging a bloody battle against the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) -- Mexico’s most powerful criminal group -- over control of oil theft in the so-called “Red Triangle” corridor that sits above a massive underground oil pipeline in east-central Mexico.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

Days later, López Obrador received yet another death threat. The Arellano Felix Organization, also known as the Tijuana Cartel, claimed responsibility for the message in response to the president’s deployment of security forces to Tijuana in Baja California state along the US-Mexico border, Vanguardia reported on February 7.

Tijuana, once home to some of the bloodiest conflicts during the so-called “war on drugs," has seen a resurgence in killings as a result of small-time dealers battling one another for control of local drug sales, primarily involving methamphetamine.

The recent death threats come just after López Obrador announced at a morning press conference in late January that his administration’s security policy was decreasing levels of violence, and that there would no longer be a war against organized crime groups. In response to the threats, the president said that he would not give in to intimidation.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is alarming that López Obrador has received death threats from two powerful organized crime groups shortly after recent security decisions and actions by his administration. Such public threats suggest that criminal groups are sending a message that they will confront him head-on as he and his administration increasingly return to a militarized security strategy. 

Part of what propelled López Obrador to the presidency was his promise to move away from decades of failed militarized security strategies deployed by his predecessors and to end the “kingpin strategy” of attacking the heads of Mexico’s criminal groups.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

However, the president's heavy-handed response to oil theft and insecurity in Tijuana is the latest sign that he has walked back some of his key campaign promises and reverted to old techniques. With the latest death threats and rising violence in key criminal corridors, the country's criminal groups don't appear to have wavered. Meanwhile, López Obrador seems to have jumped the gun on claiming that his new strategy has secured important security gains.

The Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, for example, set up roadblocks with burning vehicles to counter López Obrador's anti-fuel theft operations in municipalities the group controls in Guanajuato.

What's more, Mexico recorded nearly 3,000 murders during López Obrador’s first month in office in 2018, an almost 10 percent increase from the number of murders recorded in December 2017 under former President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Outside of Tijuana, other criminally strategic regions near major ports and along the US-Mexico border have seen grisly scenes of violence to start the year, including dismembered and calcified bodies.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


A new report documents an increase in US Special Operations Forces training missions in Latin America, amid ongoing concerns about…

MEXICO / 13 MAR 2015

Under Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's national defense plan, the army is supposed to phase out 121,000 German G3 H&K…


Maritime drug trafficking along the Pacific coast from Mexico to the United States has risen steeply in recent years as…

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…


InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.


Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…


Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.


Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…