When it came to being a drug leader, Jesús Salas Aguayo of the Juárez Cartel had no comparison.
In 2008, Salas Aguayo – a notorious hit man who aspired to run his own drug operation – was sent to Ciudad Juárez, the border town in Mexico’s northern Chihuahua state, to head the organization.
As soon as he arrived, the city, which is located across the Rio Grande river from El Paso, Texas, was soon caught up in an unstoppable spiral of crime.
That year, more than 1,600 people were murdered in the city and by 2010 the number of homicides had risen to 3,115 a year — the highest murder rate in the world.
At the center of it all stood Salas Aguayo.
But on Friday, as he visited his ranch in the town of Ahumada, Mexican federal police closed in and a shootout ensued. His bodyguard was gunned down in the battle.
Mexican authorities had captured one of the most-wanted murderers in the whole of the Western Hemisphere, while at the same time dealing another blow to cartel leaders, who have grown weaker in recent years.
He ordered the murders of 15 people at a bar who were selling drugs without his authorization
Known by his alias “El Chuyín,” Salas Aguayo was a prime target for both Mexican and US authorities. His ruthless killings included using dynamite to behead his victims, and he gave little importance to which side of the border he was on.
On May 15, 2009, a government-protected witness, Daniel González Galeana, was gunned down in front of his home in El Paso. His assassin was his best friend, a former US soldier who had joined the drug cartel’s ranks.
According to US authorities, the murder was ordered and planned by Salas Aguayo.
Investigators also blame El Chuyín for the July 15, 2010 car bombing that took the lives of two federal police officers and two doctors on a busy avenue in Ciudad Juárez.
Salas Aguayo also ordered the attack on the El Colorado bar in May 2012 that left 15 people dead. He was reportedly upset that they were selling drugs at the establishment without his authorization.
Also known as the Juárez Cartel’s “liquidator,” Sala Aguayo suddenly rose through the ranks last October following the capture of the organization’s leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. Carrillo, who was also known as “El Viceroy,” was the brother of the legendary “El Señor de los Cielos,” the founder of the cartel who died while undergoing cosmetic surgery in 1997.
Under Señor’s command, the Juárez Cartel was able to penetrate US markets by opening clandestine routes to the north, making it one of the most important drug cartels in the Americas.
With the founder’s death, continuing police offensives and, above all, the more-than-decade-old internal war launched by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, the captured leader of the Sinaloa cartel, for control of the Juárez operation, the organization has been severely weakened.