Reuters on Dec. 10 reported that the alleged Chicago regional jefe of Mexico’s Guerreros Unidos narco-gang faces federal charges with seven others for a plot that involved moving heroin and cocaine to the Windy City on passenger buses. Pablo Vega Cuevas and his brother-in-law, Alexander Figueroa, 37, both of Aurora, Ill., were arrested in Oklahoma, and three suspected accomplices were busted in the Chicago area. Warrants have been issued for three others, including one believed to be in Mexico. The investigation led to the seizure of 68 kilos of heroin, nine kilos of cocaine and more than $500,000 in cash. “These arrests will have a significant impact on the supply and distribution of heroin and cocaine throughout the Midwest,” Dennis Wichern, the DEA’s Chicago special agent-in-charge, said in a statement.
The Guerreros Unidos are the same gang named by Mexican authorities as behind the disappearance of 43 college students from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state in late September. One of the missing students has now been confirmed dead. Local authorities (at least) appear to have been in on the mass abduction. Among those arrested in the case is the former mayor of Iguala, the town where the students disappeared, as well as local police officers and accused members of the Guerreros Unidos. The case has sparked mass protests across Mexico, as outrage grows at a narco-state deeply intertwined with the cartels.
An increasingly plausible conspiracy theory holds that the Mexican government and DEA have been backing one side against the other in the bloody war between the country’s two major cartels—collaborating with the Sinaloa Cartel against the rival Zetas. Are the Guerreros Unidos in the Sinaloa camp, as the logic of this theory would suggest? Borderland Beat, a blog that closely follows Mexico’s cartel wars, names most of the Guerreros Unidos leaders as associated with the Beltran-Leyva Organization, which broke from the Sinaloa Cartel a few years back, and has now mostly been crushed by the hard-to-beat Sinaloa boys. But the Oklahoma arrests come on the heels of high-profile cases against accused top-level Sinaloa operatives in Chicago. So there may be continued cooperation between the BLO and Mexico’s most-favored cartel.