Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Mazatlán Motorcycle Week turns bloody with accident, assassination

Motorcycle Week in Mazatlán, Sinaloa turned deadly on Friday, when an alleged Sinaloa Cartel financial operator was run over and, in a separate incident, armed men shot a rider visiting from Tijuana.

The first incident occurred Friday afternoon. Martín Humberto Ponce Félix, 57, an alleged financial operator associated with Juan José “El Azul” Esparragoza Moreno, a former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was visiting Mazatlán from his home in the state capital of Culiacán for the port city’s Motorcycle Week, an annual event that draws thousands of domestic and international visitors.

His plans were cut short: as he rode his motorcycle through the high-rise hotels of Mazatlán’s “Golden Zone,” a gray Jeep took an illegal U-turn, sending Ponce flying. Paramedics determined at the scene that Ponce had suffered severe head injuries and he was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Local reports do not mention what happened to the Jeep or its driver.

Ponce had been blacklisted by the United States Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) since 2012 for his connections to a number of gas stations accused of laundering money for Sinaloa Cartel leader “El Azul.” “El Azul” was widely reported to have died in 2014 at the age of 65, but authorities were unable to verify his death.

Martín Humberto Ponce Félix lost his life after a truck did an abrupt illegal U-turn and crashed into Ponce’s motorcycle.

Later the same day, armed gunmen killed another man along Mazatlán’s beachfront, near the Fisherman’s Monument. The victim, Francisco “N” of Tijuana, age 45, was in town along with family members to participate in Motorcycle Week.

Francisco was seated on his motorcycle outside a restaurant at the time of the attack, early Friday evening. Witnesses said that at least two armed men on motorcycles shot him at close range. Before police arrived, the attackers escaped into the crowd, where hundreds of motorcycles and pedestrians had gathered.

According to Civil Protection, at least 18,000 people attended Mazatlán Motorcycle Week this year.

On the same day farther south, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) lost a financial operative of its own. Saúl “N,” alias “El Chopa,” was killed in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, after a firefight with the federal forces.

The National Guard was carrying out “preventative intelligence” operations in the upscale neighborhood of Marina Vallarta when they were attacked, the Department of Defense (Sedena) said in a statement. The National Guard returned fire, injuring El Chopa. He and his bodyguard were arrested and El Chopa was taken to a hospital but succumbed to his injuries and died shortly after.

He was allegedly the top financial manager for the CJNG. His responsibilities included supplying arms and tactical equipment to CJNG cells, and he was linked to the murder of Jalisco ex-governor Aristóteles Sandoval, Sedena said.

Mazatlan Motorcycle Week attendee 2022
This biker from Nayarit was one of an estimated 18,000 attendees of Motorcycle Week from all over Mexico and beyond.

Back north in Sonora, another Sinaloa Cartel-related incident occurred in the town of Pitiquito on Thursday, when a group known as Los Cazadores (“the Hunters”) tore down several houses belonging to their rivals. Los Cazadores are an armed cell controled by Los Chapitos, the four sons of notorious drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and part of the current Sinaloa Cartel leadership.

With reports from El Sol de Mazatlán, El Debate and Infobae

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