“HEARST” for Borderland Beat 

Hitmen from the Northeast Cartel (Cártel del Noreste, CDN) have been burning the border city of Nuevo Laredo down after the arrest of one of their leaders, El Negrolo. 

The violence in the city reached unprecedented levels and the state government has urged residents to take “extreme precaution”. 

The US consulate in the city has canceled all appointments for the day due to the “emergency situation”.

The Arrest

At 4:30 am on Monday, November 28, 2022, authorities successfully captured a CDN leadership figure named Heriberto Rodríguez Hernández, aliases “El Negrolo” and “Negro 35”.

So far the federal government has not clarified if Negrolo was caught due to happenstance, during routine surveillance, or if an operation specifically targeting him was carried out although they have stated that there was “an arrest warrant that the detainee had pending for various federal crimes.”

The arrest was made  in the state of Tamaulipas, within the border city of Nuevo Laredo, a city known to be primarily controlled by CDN. 

Almost no details about the arrest, such as the specific location and the number of casualties the military took, have been released as of the writing of this story.

One thing that is clear, however, is that he was not taken easily. Below is a video which is alleged to depict hitmen shooting at Army soldiers from inside an armored vehicle, or blindado

The poster of the video, Esmaylin, claims the footage shows CDN hitmen trying to free the arrested Negrolo from Army custody.

Their efforts were evidently unsuccessful. Soldiers were able to transport Negrolo to an airfield where he was flown out to Mexico City, where he is currently being held. Agents from the federal Attorney General’s Office spoke with Negrolo and he was then presented before a judge.

The Retaliation 

The reaction from CDN was swift. A series of shootings broke out across the city. Residents filmed videos of the sound of the gunfire they awoke to. Below are just two of the multitude of videos which were uploaded online.

CDN hitmen commandeered vehicles, forcing drivers out of their cars or trucks at gunpoint. They parked the vehicles across lanes of traffic and set fire to them, blockading the roadway and paralyzing traffic across the city. 

One of these vehicle blockades can be seen in the video below. 

Authorities Respond

Less then two hours after the arrest, at 6:05 am, the US Consulate in the city of Nuevo Laredo sent out a security alert, saying:  

“There is an emergency situation in Nuevo Laredo following an arrest operation. Reports of gunfire in multiple locations in the city. Shelter in place and standby for further information.”

Half an hour later they sent out another alert, saying: 

“Due to an emergency situation in the city, all appointments scheduled for today (November 28, 2022) at the US Consulate General Nuevo Laredo and the CAS will be rescheduled. We will contact you to reschedule your appointment.” 

The municipal government of Nuevo Laredo announced that they were canceling public school classes.

Later that same day, during the presidential morning press conference, President Lopez Obrador acknowledged the violence in Nuevo Laredo, saying

“And we are going to continue providing security to the people. Today at dawn there was a confrontation in Nuevo Laredo. A person was arrested, who was the leader of a criminal group, and there were reactions. 

But this arrest has been carried out and there is evidence that shows that he was responsible for other violent acts there in that area. He has already been transferred to Mexico City. Action is already being taken. That was at 4:30 in the morning.”

By 9:35 am, Tamaulipas Public Security sent out their own alert, writing:  

“Given the emergency situation present in the city of Nuevo Laredo, the population is urged to take extreme precautions, avoid circulating in areas reported as a risk zone and non-essential exits.

The State Guard is assisting with the Army in clearing the roadblocks.” 

The violence has drawn the attention of major media outlets from the US, such as ABC News and the Washington Post

By 2:51 pm, Carmen Lilia Canturosas, the Mayor of Nuevo Laredo, made her first acknowledgement of the events when she announced on Twitter that: 

“Nuevo Laredo is resuming its normal activities after the events that took place early this morning.

Economic activity has resumed with vigor. Maquiladoras [US owned factories in Mexico] and commerce are operating normally and public transportation service was reestablished on most routes.”

Who is El Negrolo? 

Many news outlets have given little to no further details about who El Negrolo is. Excelsior and La Jornada described him simply as a CDN “operator”. 

SDP Noticias describes him as a “regional leader of the Northeast Cartel”, adding that “he was a mid-level commander, but an important one given the reactions.” Meanwhile Nacion 321 claims he is “the second in command of the criminal organization.” 

Some of the news articles that do attempt to further describe him, such as Dallas News, misattribute him as the man who is “in charge of the criminal cell called Tropa del Infierno,” but this is likely incorrect. 

As previously covered on Borderland Beat, there is a split within CDN involving two factions: the followers of El Negrolo and the followers of Fernando de Jesús Rodríguez Adame, alias “El Werko.” 

Now El Werko was arrested some time ago, all the way back in August 2021, however the split between the two factions seemed to continue even after his arrest. 

Twitter user PERRACO alleged that subgroups like Tropa del Infierno were a part of El Werko’s faction, not El Negrolo’s faction. This claim, however, has not been verified and has not been made by any other sources so further information is needed to really understand the dynamics of the group. 

PERRACO alleged that there was a persistent belief among the followers of Negrolo that Werko was slipping information about their safehouses to authorities and getting their locations raided. 

PERRACO also makes some confusingly worded claims about another CDN subgroup, Los Alfas, but it’s not clear if they are saying they fall under Werko’s faction or Negrolo’s faction.

It appears that the previous rumors that El Negrolo was just the new alias of a well-known CDN commander, “Negro 35”, who who supposedly died in a 2019 attack on the military, has been confirmed because many news outlets are referring to Negro 35 as one of his aliases.

Social media account EspartanoM23 has posted an audio clip in which Negrolo can allegedly be heard speaking on radio. To listen, please see this previous story.