“HEARST” and “Enojon” for Borderland Beat


El Flaquito, one of the top cartel leaders in the border city of Tijuana, was shot by cartel hitmen and rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Let’s review the top three cartel groups who are suspected of being behind the hit.

Update: Law enforcement now states that El Flaquito cannot be found inside the hospital, meaning that Flaquito has evaded arrest.

Warning: Some graphic photos below this point.

The Shooting

On Wednesday, December 20, 2023, Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño, alias “El Flaquito” (sometimes spelled Flakito) was shot in Tijuana. 

Flaquito, or Flako, is the leader of a prominent Cartel Arellano Félix (CAF) group which is allied with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) – Chapitos faction.

Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño, alias “El Flaquito”, is the leader of a prominent Cartel Arellano Félix (CAF) group which is allied with the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) – Chapitos faction. Note that not all CAF groups are a part of this alliance and some of them are, in fact, bitter rivals with CDS – Chapitos. 

On the night of December 20, El Flaquito and some of his bodyguards were either driving near, or standing inside, a store called Farmacia LH Lomas, located on Las Ferias Avenue, when two gunmen inside a white pickup truck opened fire on them. 

According to AFN Tijuana, the attacker’s Ford F-150 pickup had tinted windows and a United States license plate. It also reportedly had strobe lights, meant to mimic law enforcement, on the interior dash

Flaquito and at least one of his bodyguards were struck by the gunfire. A 60-year old woman driving in her black Mazda, who was merely a bystander, nearby, was also hit. The new sources La Jornada and Esquina 32 both report that a total of four people were injured in the attack. 

The injured El Flaquito and his bodyguards sped out of the area in a white Chevrolet Silverado SUV, driving to the nearest hospital, Hospital del Prado, which is about a 4 minute drive from the shooting location. 

Police officers arrived at the scene of the shooting long after Flaquito and the attackers had fled. They found bullet holes in the walls of the pharmacy and buildings nearby, along with blood stains. 

According to La Jornada, officers found 16 shell casings in the street while AFN Tijuana claims just 9 shell casings were found. 

At the Hospital

La Jornada newspaper reports that a surveillance camera captured footage of Flaquito and his bodyguards rushing inside the emergency room of Hospital del Prado. Unfortunately, the footage has not yet been released. 

According to the cartel news account Eco_1_LVM, Flaquito’s bodyguards were said to be wearing fake FEMDO shirts when entered the hospital, disguising themselves as federal agents who specialize in taking on organized crime (Fiscalía Especializada en materia de Delincuencia Organizada, or FEMDO). 

Some of the bodyguards were also said to be wearing bulletproof vests featuring the text “FEF Fuerzas Especiales de El Flaquito” or, in English, El Flaquito’s Special Forces. Photos above and below show leaked images of a bodyguard’s fake FEMDO shirt as well as a black baseball cap with a custom logo. 

Medical staff worked to treat Flaquito and the injured bodyguard. Eco_1_LVM claims that Flaquito’s gunshot wounds were so serious that he was considered “critically injured”. It appears that staff were able to stabilize them and Flaquito is believed to have survived the attack. 

Word spread around Tijuana that Flaquito was recovering from the attack at Hospital del Prado. This led to police officers entering the hospital on December 21, where they searched for Flaquito, presumably intending to put him under arrest. 

A video of some officers entering the hospital can be seen below.

Law enforcement has not confirmed if they found Flaquito inside the hospital, however, they chose to station over 50 police vehicles around the perimeter of the hospital and began searching every person who attempted to enter the area, which may as well be an official confirmation that he was found.

Police and soldiers continue to surround the hospital, guarding the area from gunmen which might seek to finish off Flaquito as well as guarding it from Flaquito’s own hitmen who might seek to rescue him from police custody. 

The Possible Motives and Suspects

 

This attempted hit on Flaquito took place just days after three men were found murdered in El Tule, outside of the city of Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa. One of the men was seen to be wearing a soccer jersey from a Tijuana club (Xolos), which suggested that he may have been from Tijuana. 

The cartel news account La Masakr3 later reported that the three dead men were rumored to be subordinates of El Flaquito.

So, why were Flaquito’s men killed in Sinaloa? And why was there a hit put out on Flaquito? And was the same group behind both?

It’s currently unclear, but there are three rumored perpetrators being discussed online. They are: 

  1. CDS – Mayo / Aquiles

  2. CDS – Chapitos

  3. Flaquito’s own people 

1. CDS – Mayo / Aquiles 

Some people suspect Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) – Mayo faction due to the recent theft of a drug shipment in Tijuana which belonged to the cartel leader Alfonso Arzate Garcia, alias “El Aquiles”, who is associated with the Sinaloa Cartel – Mayo faction. 

A leaked audio recording of a phone call between an officer and a man known by the alias “El Moreno”, a subordinate of Aquiles, revealed that Aquiles’ drug shipment was stolen by a group which consisted of Tijuana police officers, National Guard soldiers, and agents from the State Attorney General’s Office (FGE). 


Although the drug shipment was taken by this group of soldiers and officers, it’s important to remember that many members of law enforcement and the military are on the payroll of local cartel figures and they may effectively be doing their bidding. Some Tijuana officers are paid by CDS – Mayo cartel groups, some by CDS – Chapitos groups, some by the CJNG and some by the CAF. Precincts can be divided, with some officers working for one group, while other officers work for a rival group, leading to complicated, competing interests. 

The actual theft of the drug shipment took place on November 17, 2023, in the El Lago neighborhood of Tijuana. The weekly magazine Zeta Tijuana reports that the following people were known to be involved: 

Police Officer Martín Carrillo Grande

FGE Agent Óscar Gauci Orozco 

FGE Agent Melissa Ramos Curiel

FGE Agent Salvador Vargas Ruiz

6 unnamed National Guard soldiers 

The leaked audio recording revealed that the law enforcement group had attempted to return the stolen drugs to Aquiles’ men, however, El Moreno insisted that not all of the shipment had been returned and Aquiles continued to be displeased. 

Zeta alleges that Aquiles hired hitmen from outside of Tijuana to travel to the city and attack those who were involved. 

During the weeks after the theft, a series of shootings targeted the thieves, leaving some of them dead or injured.  

One of the people who managed to avoid being hit, however, was the overall orchestrator of the theft: a man known as “El Federal” or “Alfa”. Details of his true identity are currently unknown. 

The Tijuana Security Roundtable believes El Federal is an agent from the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR), something which the FGR ardently denies. Others say that El Federal got his alias through being a soldier before turning to a life of crime. 

Some claim El Federal is a cartel member who regularly acts as an informant for law enforcement, handing over the addresses of safe houses where drugs or cartel members are hiding out, which allows security forces to raid the location and improve their seizure/arrest records. 

Zeta writes that El Federal is believed to work under El Flaquito, as well as Héctor Manuel Gil García, alias “El Kado” and James Brayan Corona, alias “El Apache”. 

This means Flaquito may have been involved in stealing Aquiles’s drug shipment, hence, some suspect that Aquiles / CDS – Mayo men may be behind the murder of the three men and/or the hit on Flaquito. 

2. CDS – Chapitos

Another group suspected is CDS – Chapitos. Some say that the Chapitos figure, Nestor Isidro Perez Salas, alias “El Nini”, was the primary link between Flaquito, a CAF figure, and los Chapitos, who Flaquito went on to work with

There is some evidence for this claim. Nini was known to have been born in Tijuana back in 1992 and it is  rumored that he was friends with Flaquito. 


The Chapito brothers recently gave up El Nini to the federal government, handing over information which led to his arrest, as a way of mitigating the law enforcement pressure bearing down on themselves. 

It’s rumored that the three men who ended up dead in Sinaloa had traveled to Culiacan for a meeting with people from Los Chapitos, in order to clarify aspects of their alliance.

Proponents of the Chapitos theory claim that the brothers handing over Nini upset Flaquito and tension grew within their business relationship, eventually leading to Chapitos deciding it was better to not only cut ties with Flaquito, but have him eliminated. 

3. Flaquito’s Own People 

Eco_1_LVM claims that there are rumors that Flaquito’s own people tried to have him killed because he was “andar bajando merca” or stealing drugs. Details on which theft this refers to and who could have ordered such a hit are scant. 

Update 1: Char noted that a narco ballad (a song commissioned directly by the narcos being praised) called “Para el Flaquito”, sung by Miguel Comando, which was released two years ago, highlights how Flaquito is a friend of Nini, has an alliance with Chapitos , visits Culiacán often, that his people wear military uniforms, and mentions that he visits Colombia. 

Update 2: Within the last four hours, law enforcement announced that Flaquito could not be found within the hospital, meaning that he managed to escape arrest and slip away from the area.  

Update 3: Zeta Tijuana has now revealed that Flaquito was shot by the attackers while he was inside the pharmacy, getting a normal yearly shot, like the flu vaccine or the latest COVID vaccine. 

They write “for seven months, members of all the cells of the Sinaloa Cartel operating in Baja California have been searching for Pablo Edwin Huerta Nuño to kill him for his responsibility in several drug thefts. On December 20, they found him and shot him when he went to get an injection/shot at a pharmacy. “

They published images which show blood drops on the floor of the pharmacy. 



Sources: La Jornada, Esquina 32, Yolanda Caballero, Alfredo Alvarez, Eco_1_LVM Post 1, Post 2, Post 3 , LaMasakr3, Said Betanzos


Video Sources: Punto Norte, Eco_1_LVM, Eco_1_LVM, Anonymous

Further Reading on Flaquito:

Aquiles Men threaten Flaquito’s Men in Narco Video 

Drug Distributor Who Works under Flaquito Executed Inside Motel Room

Major Hit to CAF’s El Flaquito With Cabo 89 Arrested