A gunman disguised as a clown has killed the oldest brother in the clan running Mexico's once-mighty Tijuana Cartel, raising the question: why would someone target one of the last remaining members of a dying cartel?
Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was attending a children's party in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur on October 18, when an unidentified assassin entered and shot him in the head and chest, reported Proceso. The Attorney General's Office later confirmed the identity of the victim.
According to authorities, the homicide is considered a common crime, and will be investigated locally, because Arellano Felix was not under investigation for any federal crime at the time of his murder, reported El Universal.
InSight Crime Analysis
Francisco Arellano was the oldest brother in the Arellano Felix clan, the family responsible for what was once one of Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations, the Tijuana Cartel.
SEE ALSO: Tijuana Cartel Profile
He was first arrested in California in 1980 for selling cocaine to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, and after posting bail, fled to Mexico. He was newly arrested in Mexico in 1993 and sentenced to ten years in prison. Shortly upon completing his sentence, he was extradited to the United States in 2006, but was released early from a seven year prison sentence for good behavior.
The lack of current charges against Arellano would seem to indicate that he was no longer a major figure in Mexico's drug scene, or in the cartel, at the time of his death. The killing could have been a settling of accounts from the bloody feud that occurred with rivals during the cartel's heyday. However, authorities also recently reported the hanging of a narco-banner in Tijuana signed by the "New Tijuana Cartel," meaning there could be new actors at work in the area.
The failure of the cartel thus far to retaliate for Arellano's death is another potential sign of weakness. In August, a DEA agent claimed the Tijuana Cartel was "finished," following the sentencing of Eduardo Arellano Felix, who was arrested in 2008. The clan has suffered numerous arrests and the deaths of two of top members, in the past decade. It is now run by a nephew of the brothers, Fernando Sanchez Arellano, and continues to operate helped by an alliance with former rivals of the Sinaloa Cartel.