MEXICO CITY – Mexican police and military forces said Sunday they have arrested the leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima gang who spread violence through north-central Mexico and fought a years-long bloody turf battle with the Jalisco cartel.
The armed forces and officials in the state of Guanajuato said they had captured José Antonio Yépez Ortíz, better known by his nickname “El Marro,” which means “The Sledgehammer.”
Yépez Ortíz was unusual among gang leaders because he posted videos with emotional calls to his followers, including one in June showing him appearing to cry after several of his supporters and relatives were arrested. In another video, he threatened to join forces with the Sinaloa cartel to defeat Jalisco, Mexico’s fastest-rising drug cartel.
Yépez Ortíz had been the subject of massive manhunts for years, and was caught along with five other suspects allegedly holding a kidnapped businesswoman.
His Santa Rosa gang was not a drug cartel, but rather a powerful, violent gang that grew up in a farming hamlet of the same name in north-central Guanajuato state by stealing fuel from government pipelines and refineries and robbing freight from trains.
The turf battle with Jalisco turned the industrial hub of Guanajuato, with its foreign auto plants and parts suppliers, into the most violent state in Mexico.
The Santa Rosa gang was also unusual in that it tried to build a support network among local residents by allowing them to take a minor share in the spoils of the robberies. But when the trains and pipelines became better-guarded, the gang turned to widespread extortion and kidnapping.