“HEARST” for Borderland Beat 

A man was gunned down with his wife and two children, alongside two others, on a highway in Veracruz. The man turns out to be the brother of El Pelón, the leader of the local cartel group Los Pelónes.

Warning: Some graphic images within this story. 

The Shooting

At around 4:00 pm in the afternoon of Sunday, January 22, 2023, a vehicle chase began on a highway in the city of Heroica Veracruz.

The chase occurred on the sections of the highway which run through the Las Bajadas and Tejería neighborhoods, located in the southwestern edge of the city.

A white SUV with cartel hitmen chased after a vehicle while shooting at the occupants. At some point in the chase the white SUV stopped and hitmen jumped out of the vehicle in order to open fire, standing  in the middle of the street. The hitmen appear to be shooting at a sedan. This moment can be seen in the footage embedded below.

Video contains no graphic content. It is footage of the shooting from afar.

The exact sequence of events during the chase and shooting is currently unclear. All we know is that later two different vehicles (neither one a white SUV) with victims of gunshot wounds were found on the highway. 

One of these vehicles was a black pickup truck, which had five deceased victims inside. Two of the injured victims were children. 

Video contains no graphic content.
It is footage of the scene after the shooting, only damaged vehicles are seen.

WARNING: Video contains graphic content.
It is footage of the victims lying dead inside a vehicle, including two dead children.

The other vehicle was a sedan cab, cab number #418, which had a dead male and an injured, but living, cab driver. Both men had suffered gunshot wounds.

It is unclear if the cab was uninvolved, and simply caught in the crossfire, or if hitmen targeted the cab because it picked up someone who survived the attack on the black pickup truck. 

The first video in this story, where hitmen appear to be shooting at a sedan style vehicle, suggests that the cab may have been targeted however it’s impossible to really determine what the hitmen are shooting at due to the video resolution. 

Police and soldiers were called to the scene and a section of the highway was shut down while evidence was being documented by investigators. 

The Alleged Target

The likely target of the attack has been identified by newspaper La Silla Rota, which wrote that “Fernando Perez Vega, aliases ‘El Pino’ and ‘El R15’, was killed in an armed attack along with his family.” 

This quote suggests that the woman and two children who were killed in the attack were his wife and children. 

On the surface, El Pino was just an aspiring politician, having run to become mayor of Coxquihui, a town in northwestern Veracruz in 2021. He ultimately lost this race. 

But if you look a little deeper you’ll find that El Pino was an important figure with the group Los Pelones, which has been identified as a cartel group by Army (SEDENA) intelligence. See, El Pino was the brother of Reveriano Pérez Vega, alias “El Pelón”, the founder of Los Pelones. 

His brother Reveriano had actually been elected as mayor of Coxquihui twice, serving as mayor between 2008 – 2010 and 2014 – 2016.

The Mayor & The Wedding

On March 8, 2014, a man named Crescencio Dorantes Cruz showed up at the local state Attorney General’s Office (FGE) and told investigators that he had just heard that the man who had killed his brother was currently at a wedding in Sábanas de Xalostoc. 

The FGE already had a warrant out for Lorenzo Vega Vega, the killer of Crescencio’s brother, José Dorantes Vega, but they had been unable to locate him. Lorenzo was a local cartel thug connected with Los Pelones who knew how to hide in the remote region of Coxquihui, a mountainous municipality, sometimes called the “the corner of impunity”. 

The FGE sent 4 agents and Crescencio to the church in Sábanas de Xalostoc so that they could carry out their arrest warrant. 

The group arrived at about 1:00 pm and the agents asked Crescencio to point out which man was Lorenzo Vega Vega. 

After scanning the crowd, Crescencio spotted him and pointed, saying “That’s the guy.”

The agents approached the man and asked him if he was Lorenzo Vega. He replied that he was and he was immediately arrested. As the agents were taking Lorenzo back to their vehicle, a man stepped out of the crowd of party goers and demanded they stop. 

The man was Mayor Reveriano Perez and he  yelled at the agents “You are not going to take away anyone. So long as I am mayor, you are not doing this. Let him go. I don’t give a fuck. I do what I want and I am the boss of Coxquihui.”

As he was saying this, Reveriano approached Lorenzo Vega and grabbed him by the arm, trying to lead him away from the FGE agents. 

A group of 10 to 15 armed men, many of them municipal police officers, who were acting as Mayor Reveriano’s bodyguards stepped forward, took out their firearms, and surrounded the agents who were forced to let Lorenzo Vega go. 

This incident became one of the first three criminal charges against Mayor Reveriano, which were (1) having obstructed an arrest, (2) the abuse of authority, and (3) refusal to comply with a lawful order.

Investigation into The Cartel Mayor 

At the end of his second mayoral term, in 2016, state congress began an investigation into the criminal dealings of Mayor Reveriano Pérez Vega. Recently another incident, the (4) theft of a Toyota Hilux pickup truck, had been levied against the mayor.

The investigation found evidence of wrongdoing and Reveriano was found guilty in a state congress trial in November 2017. 

Reveriano disobeyed an order to not flee the area while the trial was ongoing and at this point he became a fugitive of the law. 

In 2018, an arrest warrant for Reveriano was approved by a judge and state police offered a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. 

When the reward was announced, the governor said “The area – particularly during several months last year – had intense criminal activity. Fuel trafficking, stolen vehicles, and there were shootouts in Coxquihui, that you all remember, where several municipal police officers died.”

Reveriano Pérez Vega hid out from law enforcement in the remote town of Sábanas de Xalostoc, in Coxquihui municipality. 

Any attempts to arrest him were prevented by men from a local taxi driver union who were loyal to Los Pelones. Similar to La Cosa Nostra’s infiltration of US labor unions, organized crime is believed to engage in labor racketeering in Veracruz. 

After two years of being a fugitive, Reveriano was caught on his way to an amateur basketball game in the neighboring state of Puebla in 2019.

He was sent to Poza Rica prison while he awaited trial for the 4 aforementioned charges, however he quickly bonded out.

Just after he stepped foot outside of the prison, however, police officers arrested him again, this time on charges of intentional homicide, for the murder of a municipal officer who was killed when armed men stormed a government building in Coxquihui. 

After a few days his lawyers convinced a judge that the charge did not warrant Reveriano being held in jail and he was subsequently released. 

He did not spend any time in prison thereafter and it’s unclear what became of the charges against him. Eventually Reveriano would reappear in 2021, showing support for his wife Claudia León Mejía during her mayoral campaign. 

His current location and status is unknown however in 2022, news publication 24-Horas alleged that a confidential Army intelligence report named Reveriano as one of the 17 most wanted criminals in the state. 

El Pino, As A Cartel Figure

Let’s go back to Reveriano’s brother, Fernando Perez Vega, “El Pino”, who was just gunned down on the highway. 

El Pino is believed to have been involved in cartel activity since at least the year 2016, when he was arrested on charges of unlawfully carrying a firearm and the illegal possession of drugs. 

At the end of December 2022, José Luis Quinto Lorenzo, the commander of the police department in Espinal, Veracruz, was abducted by cartel hitmen. 

The commander was interrogated by hitmen on video and he confessed that worked for El Pino. He admitted that he would have his municipal officers act as lookouts for El Pino. He also had his officers transport cartel figures and hitmen in municipal patrol vehicles. 

Commander Quinto Lorenzo was later executed by the hitmen, who left his decapitated head alongside a poster which named and threatened Fernando Perez Vega in the very first line. The banner went on to claim that Fernando was charging extortion fees on local businesses and kidnapping people for ransom.

The cartel group behind the banner and video did not choose to identify themselves and its quite likely that they are the ones behind the hit on Fernando and his family. 

According to Army intelligence leaked through Guacamaya, the cartel groups that have a presence in the state of Veracruz are: 

Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG)

Sinaloa Cartel (Cártel de Sinaloa, CDS) 

Zetas Vieja Escuela (a subgroup within the Gulf Cartel) 

Fuerza Especial Grupo Sombra (FEGS)

Cártel del Noreste (CDN)