June 15, 2015 2:15 pm • By Perla Trevizo Arizona Daily Star
A Sonoyta police official was killed Sunday, the Sonora investigative police reported. Saúl Fernando Félix del Castillo, deputy chief of the Plutarco Elías Calles municipal police, was found dead at about 8:20 a.m. in a vacant lot of the Burócrata neighborhood in the border town across from Lukeville.
A gunshot wound was visible, the news release said, and officials found handgun bullet casings at the scene.
Sonoyta and the rural communities to the east, all part of the municipality of Plutarco Elias Calles, have been the battleground for rival cartel factions vying to control valuable territory for moving people and drugs into the United States. So far this year, the Sonora state police have reported nearly 40 homicides just in the Sonoyta area — with a population of about 18,000 — and another five wounded. The recent violence across the border is due to fighting between cells of the Sinaloa cartel known as Los Memos and Los Salazar. Violence in the Sonoyta area began to spike in January over Los Memos’ attempt to take control over the Sonoyta plaza and all drug smuggling routes. It’s the most intense fighting since early 2009, when 12 dismembered bodies were found in an abandoned vehicle along the Caborca-Sonoyta highway, with a narco message saying the Sinaloa Cartel was taking over the plaza.
Sonora has always been a key place for traffickers. To the south and east, in neighboring Sinaloa and Chihuahua — and somewhat within Sonora, too — is significant drug production, including opium poppies, marijuana and meth. To the north, the border is more porous than in other places and far more desolate.
State Department travel advisory
Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. The region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north, including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar, and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, are known centers of illegal activity, and non-essential travel between these cities should be avoided. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours.