The Arellano Félix/Fernando Sanchez Organization, also known as the Tijuana cartel or FSO, is one of the two main TCOs operating in the Mexican state of Baja California. The FSO leadership was initially comprised of seven brothers and four sisters, who inherited the cartel from Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo after he was jailed in Mexico in 1989 for his complicity in the murder of a DEA agent. The cartel is responsible for the smuggling of multi-ton quantities of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine into the United States, and has a reputation for extreme violence.
Of the original seven Arellano Félix brothers, all have been captured or killed, with the most recent being the capture of Eduardo Arellano Félix in October 2008. Of the four sisters, two are quite active in the cartel’s affairs. One of the sister’s sons, Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano, has taken over cartel operations - the reason for the TCO's name change.
In April 2008, one of the bloodiest gun battles in Mexico’s drug war occurred in Tijuana between rival factions of the AFO. A fast-rising AFO lieutenant named Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental split from the organization and moved to Sinaloa state. He supposedly has the full support of the neighboring Sinaloa Federation, and the majority of recent DTO-related violence in Baja California has been a result of Garcia Simental’s attempts to wrest control of AFO territory from Sanchez Arellano.
In January 2010, Garcia Simental was arrested by Mexican federal police in the quiet seaside town of La Paz, and quickly transferred to Mexico City. His right-hand man, Raydel "El Muletas" López Uriarte, and his brother Manuel were also both arrested in February 2010. While an increase in violence in northern Baja was widely expected, it never really manifested - at least, not in the media. Tijuana still has an abnormally high murder rate, but the public shootouts and displays of beheaded corpses have mostly abated.
The reason for this is an arrangement between the FSO and the Sinaloa Federation. US government reports indicate that the FSO is in control of the Pacific Coast of Baja California, from Tijuana on down, and that the Federation controls northern Baja from Tijuana east to Mexicali. Both TCOs are engaged in trafficking operations in Tijuana, but according to US government sources the FSO is reportedly paying the Federation piso, or a passage fee, in order to do so peacefully. Sources in Tijuana, however, say that the opposite is true: the Federation pays the FSO piso to operate in Tijuana. Recent arrests of an Iraqi smuggling ring in San Diego doing business with the Federation through much-farther Mexicali/Calexico, rather than neighboring Tijuana/San Ysidro, give credence to this claim.
(Chart below by Strategic Forecasting)