Police find cartel camp during search for missing rancher

by: Julian Resendiz
Posted: Dec 27, 2023 / 05:46 PM CST
Updated: Dec 27, 2023 / 05:46 PM CST

Criminal activity plagues western Chihuahua countryside, where La Linea, Sinaloa cartels vie for control


EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Police in Mexico looking for a rancher missing in western Chihuahua were unable to find him during a recent sweep near the mountain town of Madera. They did, however, find an abandoned camp they believe was being used by a drug cartel.

The search took place over a period of several hours on Dec. 20. It included dozens of state police officers, soldiers and members of the Mexican National Guard. They were intent on finding Armando Olivas Almanza, a 56-year-old rancher from Madera missing since Dec. 5.

Family members told police he left his residence in a grey Ford Lobo pickup towing a horse trailer to a nearby ranch called El Manzano. He was wearing work attire including jeans and boots.

Police and soldiers drove over farm roads and trails around communal farms in Largo, El Pinal, Las Amarillas, Moctezuma, Picacho Azul, El Colorado and Chihuahuita looking for clues of the missing man and his vehicle. It was near Picacho Azul the search party came upon the camp, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

State police photos show a gun parapet made of rocks, empty food cans, water bottles and a firepit still smoldering. The AG’s Office said the officers found evidence the camp was being used by members of an organized criminal group but declined to name the group.

This is the third cartel camp Chihuahua police find near Madera in the past few months months. In late October, police looking for the murderers of four loggers found a similar camp in El Maderal. That one still stored camouflage clothing, tactical vests and enough supplies to feed 30 people, the AG’s Office said.

Another cartel camp was located in June, following a bloody gun battle between elements of La Linea and the Sinaloa cartel.

Western Chihuahua has been the site of several shootouts between gangs associated with the Sinaloa cartel and La Linea in the past few years. Leaders from both cartels have been arrested but criminal activity, including illegal logging and hijacking of fuel trucks has continued, according to Mexican authorities.