As one inmate named Osiel Cardenas is scheduled to be released from a U.S. federal prison, another who made the same name infamous is to stay locked up another 10 years in this country’s most secure prison.
They are father and son. Each grew up in the South Texas-Mexico border region and each was snared by the U.S. government.
The younger Cardenas, 24, is to finish a 10-month sentence Friday for attempting to sneak hundreds of rounds of ammunition and tactical gear from Brownsville into Matamoros, Mexico.
The contraband was found in his sport utility vehicle by law-enforcement officers who had apparently been tipped to keep an eye out for him.
Such bullets are an especially hot commodity in Mexico, where they can’t be purchased legally by most civilians, but are vital to drug cartels that are warring with each other as well as government security forces. His arrest and prosecution was significant enough that the Department of Justice issued this news release.
It is unknown how much, if anything, the younger Cardenas has to do with the Gulf Cartel that his father ruled with a heavy fist and built into what was one of the most powerful and wealthy criminal organizations in the hemisphere.
The father was captured in Mexico in a wild, rolling gun battle with the military in 2003, then extradited to the United States, where he ultimately pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges in a locked and guarded federal courtroom in Houston.
The senior Cardenas, 48, is known by U.S. law enforcement not just for ratcheting up the cartel, which is based along the southernmost tip of Texas, but for creating the Zetas from military deserters and those who had been trained by them.
As the older Cardenas, who uses the last name Cardenas Guillen, has been locked away in prison – now in the Supermax in Colorado, the Zetas evolved from being the Gulf Cartel leader’s private security force to the cartel’s fiercest rivals. The Zetas are blamed for increasing the savagery in Mexico’s underworld and for terrorizing civilians and rivals alike.
When the younger Cardenas leaves prison, he’ll face a crossroads much like his father, who was also arrested in Brownsville in his early 20s by U.S. agents.
The father was released a few years early and sent back to Mexico under a prisoner exchange program. It was not long before he had climbed the ranks of the cartel, and set a course toward becoming one of the most well-known gangsters in Mexico.
Only time will tell if the younger Cardenas takes another path.