She’s a scholar, a proficient accountant and after her son’s 2014 arrest, she is now the first and only female cartel boss in Mexico, according to DEA officials.
While the Tijuana cartel has flirted with financial ruin due to seizures of property by the Mexican government and numerous murders and arrests of leadership, the cartel has continued to function under Enedina Felix Arellano — otherwise known as “La Jefa,” or “the boss.”
“This is not an Equal Opportunity Employer,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA. “This is a male dominated field of work. There have been very few women to break that glass ceiling. The few who do have to be just as vicious and skilled as the men.”
While the feat is novel, it’s no surprise the cartel “queenpin” assumed leadership of the organization. The Felix Arrellano family easily falls under the characterization of a crime family.
Brothers Benjamin and Ramon Felix Arrellano laid the foundation for what is now the Tijuana cartel in the 1980s. After various arrests and murders, Enedina is the last one standing.
“She is an educated lady who took care of all of the administrative managements of money for her brothers,” said Robert Castillo, former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for the El Paso DEA office. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard about her, but three of her brothers were captured and one was killed. (Before she assumed leadership of the cartel) they used to call her ‘La Jefa.'”
With Enedina in charge, Vigil said she has taken a business-like approach to the family operation, calling her “calculating and cold,” yet capable of resorting to violence “when necessary.”
“Enedina was the logical heir with the arrests and deaths of her brothers because she was also well versed on operations from them,” Vigil said. “She also assumed full interaction and coordination with Colombian sources for cocaine in Colombia.”
Enedina’s role is novel to the Mexican cartel-game, and it seems as if the female drug lord is finally normalizing cartel operations as she forms alliances with other crime groups and moves away from the violent tactics of her predecessors according to Vigil.