MEXICO CITY—Numerous surveillance videos leaked to VICE World News show gunmen in Mexican special forces uniforms breaking a cartel boss out of jail just miles from the U.S. border. The shocking footage shows at least four gunmen wearing bulletproof vests with the logo of the Mexican Navy special forces (UNOPES for its Spanish acronym) storming the jail with surprising ease.
If the gunmen in the video are in fact active members of the UNOPES, it may be the most visually damning evidence of state corruption since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in December 2018. López Obrador has given increasing powers to Mexico's armed forces in his nearly three years as president. The Mexican Navy did not respond to questions regarding whether the gunmen were active or former members.
José Alfredo Hernández Campos, alias El Calamardo or Metro 27, was broken out of the Attorney General's Office in Reynosa, Tamaulipas—across the border from McAllen, Texas, on July 13. He was allegedly a high-ranking member of the Metros faction of the Gulf Cartel.
Video of the incident obtained exclusively by VICE World News shows the gunmen entering the building with no resistance from local cops. They go in and out of unlocked doors, and eventually lead an officer to the cell of the waiting Hernández Campos. The local cop unlocks the door, and after allowing the alleged narco to leave, he walks nonchalantly back down the hall.
In the aftermath of the escape, members of the Gulf Cartel set up blockades throughout the city to stop police from recapturing Hernández Campos, leading to clashes with gunmen throughout Reynosa. One gunman was arrested wearing camouflage and a UNOPES vest, along with Defense Department identification. There have been conflicting reports on whether he is an active or former member of the Mexican armed forces.
Breitbart Texas cited U.S. law enforcement sources working in Mexico who claimed that the raid was conducted by a mixture of current and former members of the Mexican armed forces. The law enforcement sources alleged that Hernández Campos had claimed during his initial arrest the day prior that he was already paying protection fees to Mexican armed forces.
While various news outlets reported on the jailbreak at the time, the video footage has not been publicly available until now.
Hernández Campos is alleged to have been one of the top lieutenants of the Metros faction of the Gulf Cartel controlled by César Morfín, alias El Primito, and his younger brother, Alvaro Noe Morfín, aka R8. The two brothers were listed as some of the Tamaulipas State Government’s Top-10 most wanted in January 2021.
A source connected to a faction of the Gulf Cartel alleged to VICE World News that the Metros under the control of the Morfín brothers have forged an alliance with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG for its Spanish acronym), and have used the money raised from human trafficking and drug smuggling in Tamaulipas to help fund an ongoing war in the southwestern state of Michoacan. The Morfín brothers are allegedly the stepsons of a high-ranking CJNG member leading the dispute in Michoacan. VICE World News could not independently verify that theory.
The northeastern border state of Tamaulipas has long been the bastion of the Gulf Cartel, which has a history of working with state security forces. The group famously recruited Mexican military deserters to form a special armed unit known as the Zetas in the late 90s. The Zetas would later break away from the Gulf Cartel and form their own group, which waged war against their former bosses causing Tamaulipas to consistently rank as one of the most violent states in Mexico. The Zetas’ use of military-grade weapons detonated an arms race amongst Mexico’s criminal groups, and are widely perceived to have upped the ante in terms of the quantity and nature of the violence used by organized crime that persists today.
In recent years, the Gulf Cartel has been plagued by continued infighting between numerous groups like the Metros, the Rojos, and the Scorpions after the arrests and murders of numerous top leaders in the past decade. The city of Reynosa has been ground zero for much of the recent conflict.
In June, gunmen attacked around the city in an onslaught that left at least 18 dead. Shootouts have become commonplace as groups have waged battles for control of the profitable trafficking plaza which is the final frontier between Mexico and the U.S. After the recent spate of violence, three of the principal Gulf Cartel splinter groups allegedly formed a truce in late July after unfurling banners around the city signed by the aforementioned factions that said “long live peace,” along with a picture of a dove.
But the man at the center of the July jailhouse breakout—Hernández Campos aka El Calamardo—would not survive the supposed peace. His body was discovered on the side of the road in the nearby town of Díaz Ordaz earlier this month.
The underworld source claimed that Hernández Campos had turned on the Morfín brothers after his liberation, and was executed by the same UNOPES forces that had helped him escape.