In summer 1999, Salvador “El Chava” Gomez, who had helped guide the Gulf cartel to the top of Mexico’s narco hierarchy, was gunned down, reportedly on the orders of his long-time friend and partner, Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

The killing earned Cardenas the nickname, “El Mata Amigos,” or “the friend killer.”

And while he hated that name, he didn’t let it distract from his lunge for power.

It took just a few months for him to feel secure enough to launch the standoff that made Cardenas a marked man for US authorities, who would eventually bring him down.

‘You f—— gringos’

US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Joe DuBois and FBI agent Daniel Fuentes were driving through the streets of Matamoros — just across the border from Brownsville, Texas — on November 9, 1999, in a white Ford Bronco with diplomatic plates.

Accompanying them was an informant — a reporter for a small local Mexican newspaper, specializing in covering crime. The informant was giving DuBois and Fuentes a tour of cartel members’ homes and of stash houses they used for smuggling drugs north to the US.

 

Direct Action: Chapter Thirty

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Featured image courtesy of Reuters