DEATH OF A US TOURIST: According to the Chihuahua State Prosecutor
After his family was informed by the Chihuahua State Prosecutor that Patrick Braxton-Andrews had been killed the day he left to go hiking from his hotel in Urique, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, State prosecutor Cesar Augusto Peniche Espejel pointed the finger of responsibility at a man around 30 years of age known as "el Chueco" (crooked, or bow-legged), whose name is Jose Noriel Portillo Gil.
The story that emerges from the state prosecutor's office suggests that the region surrounding Copper Canyon is divided by the Sinaloa cartel (Sinaloa state is South of Chihuahua) into distinct territories, each controlled by an armed operative of the cartel. Each operative maintains an extensive network of informants and associates. In some cases, Peniche's office stated, local police have been compromised by the cartel's agents. The region has been used for many decades as a strategic transit zone for drug shipments on route to various border crossings into the US. Competition between rival drug cartels over control of the area has sometimes led to periods of violence.
El Chueco is said to have dozens of persons under his control who watch over the region around Urique, including small communities such as Bahuichivo, San Rafeal, Cerocahui, (these can be found on Google Earth), Ciénega de Trejo, and Mesa de Arturo (these cannot). Blood samples were found in a cabin in Mesa de Arturo which match DNA from Patrick Braxton-Andrews. El Chueco is said to maintain contact with other cartel operatives in nearby municipalities such as Guazapares and Chinipas. This entire region is among the most remote regions in Mexico, very rugged terrain, difficult to access, without a lot of roads.
According to authorities El Chueco's organization attacked state police headquarters in Urique last year, leaving two officers wounded. In September 2017 state police found six bodies buried in a clandestine grave in Urique. And last year police found a stolen pickup belonging to Andrea Athié Corral, a student who was assassinated and thrown into a ravine next to the highway to Cuauhtémoc.
Whatever happened to Braxton-Andrews that Sunday his death has greatly complicated life for Noriel Portillo, aka El Chueco. Now that he has been fingered as the man responsible for Braxton-Andrews' death, El Chueco has become a national high-profile target. It is almost certainly just a matter time before he is apprehended by police or killed. He will be replaced by the cartel with someone less prone, perhaps, to unnecessary violence. It's bad for tourism and puts the cartel in a bad light. Chapo would not have approved.