The Mexican government’s war against drug cartels has “fragmented into smaller crews spinning across the border like shrapnel,” the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times detailed the case of Jorge Rojas-López, who is accused by federal prosecutors of running an elite squad of kidnappers and hitmen from his suburban San Diego home. Kelly Thornton examined the trend in a twopart series in March.

Here’s an excerpt from the Times story:

Mr. Rojas-López’s ambitions were fueled by more than just desire for a piece of the marijuana trade. He also wanted revenge for the death of his brother, Victor, a cartel enforcer, who was killed by the Arellanos organization in 2003 for insubordination. Mr. Rojas-López’s squad eluded the Arellanos cartel and law enforcement officials in San Diego for three years. Investigators heard whispers of a mutinous enforcement squad operating in the area but were unable to put the pieces together.

Relatives of the kidnapping victims either avoided the police or withheld crucial information about their loved ones. Instead, they quietly sold assets on both sides of the border, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of days.

Some victims were released unharmed. Others were smothered with masking tape, shot in the stomach or pulverized with a police battering ram and dumped on a suburban street. Or they were boiled down in acid and never seen again, a technique known in Mexico as “pozole,” or Mexican stew.

— KEEGAN KYLE

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