In Mexico’s former territory controlled by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a tragic incident unfolded as a U.S. Ph.D. student found himself in the midst of violence and danger. Gabriel Trujillo, a 31-year-old botanist who had dreams of starting a family, embarked on a research trip to apply his findings on the buttonbush shrub, known for its environmental benefits, in order to create a garden and restore wetlands in Mexico.
On June 22, authorities discovered Trujillo’s lifeless body in the state of Sonora, which has become a hotbed of violence since El Chapo’s arrest in 2016. Private investigator Jay Armes III, specializing in crime in Mexico, revealed that three cartels are currently engaged in fierce conflicts in the region. This includes factions from the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, as well as the Caborca Cartel, which operated simultaneously with El Chapo’s approval.
Armes III explained the dire situation, stating, “Now, you have a scenario where a minimum of three cartels are vying for control of the same territory. In addition, the leader of the Jalisco-based Nuvea Genercion Cartel is attempting to extend their influence, dipping their toes into this region.” Trujillo unwittingly entered this war zone at the worst possible time. Instead of just one cartel patrolling the area, he encountered three rival groups, each aggressively searching for their enemies and eliminating anyone perceived as a threat.
According to Armes III, Trujillo’s fiancée, Roxanne Cruz-de Hoyos, reported him missing after she failed to hear from him since the morning of June 18. It is believed that cartel spotters had been monitoring Trujillo’s movements since he crossed the Arizona border on June 17. These spotters, known as “falcons” or “halcones” in Spanish, are individuals, including children, teenagers, adults, and even elderly men, who are paid by the cartels to act as informants. Equipped with encrypted walkie-talkies, they alert the cartel to any suspicious activities.
The loss of Gabriel Trujillo serves as a stark reminder of the dangerous realities present in Mexico’s cartel-controlled regions, where innocent individuals like Trujillo can unknowingly become casualties of the ongoing conflicts. The incident highlights the urgent need for enhanced security measures and greater international attention to address the escalating violence in these areas.