January 3, 1997 — Baja California state prosecutor Hodín Armando Gutiérrez Rico is shot more than 100 times outside his home and then run over by a van. Tijuana paper Frontera reports that this is "just one in a string of unsolved murders of law enforcement authorities over the past year. It was the eighth killing in 11 months of prosecutors or police commanders involved in drug-related investigations." Government reports state there were 800 murders in Tijuana in 1996, 75 percent of them executions between drug traffickers.
A former commander of the federal police, Rodolfo García Gaxiola, is believed to have ordered the Gutiérrez assassination. "Gutiérrez had moved to arrest…Rodolfo García Gaxiola," according to the Los Angeles Times, "in the killing of [police chief Benítez], but a Mazatlán judge canceled the arrest warrant in October." States Frontera, "Witness testimony placed the federal commander García at the scene of Benítez' assassination."
March 5, 1997 — Alejandro Hodoyán, a witness to cartel violence, disappears. "His mother watched helplessly as her eldest son was kidnapped at gunpoint in broad daylight in downtown Tijuana five years ago," notes the Los Angeles Times. "She had been driving him to San Diego, where Hodoyán was to enter the U.S. federal witness-protection program."
September 18, 1997 — In a press release issued by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Ramón Arellano Félix is named as the 451st person added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and "has been charged in a sealed indictment in U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, with Conspiracy to Import Cocaine and Marijuana."
October 1997 — Mexico's federal attorney general's office freezes the assets of Aero Postal de Mexico after seizing a shipment of cocaine from one of its planes. The Arizona Daily Star reports that "Mexican federal officials suspect the cargo-carrying company of transporting drugs for the Tijuana-based cartel of the Arellano Félix family, an unidentified official told Reforma. Aero Postal's owner, Jesús Villegas Covallos, became one of the principal allies of the organization in the transfer of drugs outside Mexico."
1998 — According to USBorderPatrol.com, in an effort to consolidate power, the Arellano Félix cartel of Tijuana and the Sonora cartel (aka the Caro-Quintero cartel) of Juárez form the "Federation."
September 17, 1998 — Ramón Arellano Félix orders a hit that results in the mass murder of 18 people near Ensenada. The Los Angeles Times reports that the hit was punishment for "rival, upstart drug traffickers who failed to pay the Arellano Félixes for transit rights through the Baja corridor." Eighteen men, women, and children are lined up and executed one by one.
February 27, 2000 — Tijuana's police chief, Alfredo de la Torre Márquez, is murdered. The New York Times reports that "gunmen in cars ambushed and killed [the police chief] as he drove on a highway. Dozens of bullets hit him." Governor Alejandro González Alcocer of Baja California claims the violence and drug traffic are out of control because many federales are on the cartel's payroll. "The drugs are coming in by land, sea and air," González tells the New York Times. Attempts to combat trafficking are compromised, he says, stating, "We worry that if we try to coordinate operations with [the federales], our plans will be communicated to the traffickers."
March 12, 2000 — Mexican soldiers apprehend Jesús Labra Avilés (aka "El Chuy"), the Arellano Félixes' "financial mastermind," according to Frontline, at pbs.org, "as he watched his son play football in Tijuana." A few days later, Labra's lawyer, Gustavo Gálvez Reyes, is found tortured and slain.
May 4, 2000 — The Arellano Félix cartel's top lieutenant, Ismael Higuera Guerrero (aka "El Mayel"), is arrested during a raid on his beachfront home in Ensenada. The Frontline website notes, "Following his arrest, federal prosecutors in San Diego unsealed an indictment against Higuera, accusing him of drug trafficking and money laundering.… [He] also faces a homicide charge in a Baja California state court for his role in the 1994 slaying of Tijuana's [police chief] Federico Benítez López. He has also been linked to the slayings of the three anti-drug agents in Tijuana…as well as the murder of Tijuana's police chief, Alfredo de la Torre Márquez."
May 11, 2000 — The U.S. Department of Justice sends out a news release unsealing a ten-count indictment charging Benjamín Arellano Félix and his brother Ramón. A $2 million reward is offered for information leading to the arrest of Ramón.
February 10, 2002 — Ramón Arellano Félix is killed in a gun battle with police in Mazatlán, Sinaloa.
March 11, 2002 — The U.S. Department of the State announces, "On March 10, the Government of Mexico arrested Benjamín Arellano-Felix…[who] was named on the Department of Treasury's drug kingpin list" and adds that this "is the most significant arrest ever of a wanted drug trafficker in Mexico. It also advances the bilateral Mexico-U.S. effort to dismantle a violent and powerful transborder criminal organization." With Ramón dead and Francisco Rafael and Benjamín in custody, the youngest brother, Francisco Javier, becomes leader of the cartel. Analyzing the situation, Strategic Forecasting, Inc., at stratfor.com, suggests "that a shake-up in the administration is what was needed to make the family business more lucrative." Mexico refuses to extradite Benjamín to the United States.
June 22, 2004 — Editor and reporter for Tijuana's "muckraking" tabloid Zeta, Francisco Ortíz Franco, is gunned down two blocks from state police headquarters. He had been writing about the drug trade and the Arellano Félix cartel's turf battles. The assassination takes place outside his doctor's office in downtown Tijuana. He has two children with him.
Joel Simon and Carlos Lauría, on the Committee to Protect Journalists website (cpj.org), describe the incident: "[Ortíz] buckled 11-year-old Héctor Daniel and 9-year-old Andrea into the backseat, walked around the car, and got in. Before he could start the engine, a black Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled alongside, and a man wearing a black wool ski mask jumped out. The gunman fired four times from a .380-caliber handgun through the driver's side window, hitting Ortíz Franco in the chest, head, and neck and killing him instantly, according to the editor's widow, who has reviewed the case file. The killer climbed back into the Jeep Cherokee and sped away. The murder took mere seconds."