“MX” for Borderland Beat
|María Antonieta Rodríguez Mata|
The names of some of Mexico’s most famous drug lords are well known by many: Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho”. Aside from their profession, they also have one thing in common – they are all men.
But those following the evolution of Mexico’s drug cartels over the years have noticed demographic changes: women rising to leadership positions along these powerful men. One of them was María Antonieta Rodríguez Mata (“La Generela”), a former Tamaulipas State Police officer and convicted Gulf Cartel kingpin.
On the last day of Women’s History Month, Borderland Beat will cover the life of Rodríguez Mata, a woman who led a sophisticated drug trafficking network from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, that extended to elsewhere in Mexico and into South and Central America. Roles of women like her are often overlooked in Mexico’s criminal landscape, but she surely won’t be the last.
Early life and personality
Rodríguez Mata was born in 1969 in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, to Antonio Rodriguez Zacarias and Rosalia Mata Espinoza. When she was one-year old her family moved to Reynosa, where she grew up. Rodríguez Mata is the youngest of six siblings. She was very close to her father, a local Pemex laborer, and identified mostly with the paternal figure in her household. From a very young age her parents noticed her high intellectual abilities. She stood out from most of her classmates academically and was recognized for her sharp reasoning.
Socially, Rodríguez Mata preferred the conventional; she usually takes on the dominant role in group settings. Her criminal psychologist said that her personality was formed in an environment where she received a lot of attention and recognition for her appearance and actions. In later years, she suffered from a degree of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a worry for being successful.
She studied at the Universidad Valle de Bravo, Campus Reynosa but suspended her studies when she was 22-years old to pursue a career in the Tamaulipas State Police. She was admitted into the agency in 1992. When Rodríguez Mata was in the Tamaulipas State Police, authorities suspected she also protected the criminal activities of the Gulf Cartel kingpin Osiel Cárdenas Guillén. Her career in the police was short-lived; she handed over her badge and left the state police in 1996. But the reason why she did shocked investigators in later years.
Organized crime career
According to investigators, she was hired into the Gulf Cartel by Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa (“El Caramuela”), a senior member of the cartel who had also served alongside her in the state police. El Caramuela was assigned to protect Cárdenas Guillén by state police chief Arturo Pedroza Aguirre, and was responsible for hiring several policemen to work in the cartel.
Rodríguez Mata rose through the ranks of the Gulf Cartel and became a high-ranking member in Reynosa. She served as the Gulf Cartel’s link to other criminal groups in the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic. According to her associates, she often met with criminal members out of her house in Las Fuentes neighborhood in Reynosa or traveled in person to meet business partners; she preferred to discuss and struck drug deals in person. In her meetings, she was reportedly accompanied by Mexican law enforcement agents.
Outside of her organized crime career, she also ran multiple businesses, including auto repair shops, restaurants, real estate leasing agencies, and a fish farming company. She posed as a legitimate business person with these money laundering fronts. She owned a house in Reynosa and in Monterrey, where she usually preferred to stay.
In the cartel, she was assigned to manage an international narcotics ring from Colombia, Guatemala to the U.S.-Mexico border with Texas. The drugs she supervised were transported via land and guarded by corrupt members of the Tamaulipas State Police, some whom she had previously worked with. Rodríguez Mata worked closely with Zetas member Rogelio González Pizaña (“El Kelín”), who served as her intermediary in Veracruz. Once in Tamaulipas, the drugs were smuggled via the Reynosa corridor and into McAllen, Texas, before being sent to Dallas and Houston for further distribution. Then drugs were then redistributed through different places of the U.S. interior, including to the states of California, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois and New York.
U.S. authorities first noticed her in 1999, shortly after two U.S. federal agents were threatened at gunpoint in Matamoros by Cárdenas Guillén’s henchmen. In 2000, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (S.D. Tex.) in Brownsville indicted Rodríguez Mata on six counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy and money laundering. According to the indictment, Rodríguez Mata was responsible for smuggling more than 100 lb (45 kg) of marijuana and more than 160 lb (73 kg) of cocaine between March and December of that year. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determined she made around US$200,000 in drug proceeds for these shipments.
Arrest, extradition and conviction
Rodríguez Mata lived comfortably in Mexico knowing she did not face criminal charges. But on February 2004, the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI) arrested her in Monterrey. The arrest was conducted as a result of a U.S. extradition request despite her not having outstanding charges in Mexico. Rodríguez Mata was transferred from Monterrey to Mexico City and imprisoned at the Reclusorio Preventivo Femenil Norte, a women’s prison, and placed under the jurisdiction of a penal judge.
In September 2007, the Mexican government authorized Rodríguez Mata’s extradition to the U.S. However, her defense issued several writs of amparo to prevent her transfer. In August 2007, she was extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking and money laundering charges in S.D. Tex. The Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) confirmed that she was flown in a non-commercial plane from the Toluca International Airport to the McAllen-Miller International Airport. U.S. officials were on-board; once in the U.S., she was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service. Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza stated that Rodríguez Mata’s extradition was a sign of collaboration between justice officials in the U.S. and Mexico. U.S. officials asked the presiding judge to hold Rodríguez Mata without bond. If convicted, she faced up to life imprisonment.
|Federal Bureau of Prisons data showing her release date|
In early 2008, Rodríguez Mata pleaded guilty to two counts of drug trafficking related to shipments from northern Mexico to New York. On 3 October 2008, Rodríguez Mata was sentenced to 102 months (8.5 years) in a U.S. federal prison for her leadership role in an international drug trafficking and money laundering organization. Her conviction included three years of mandatory supervision upon her release. Since Rodríguez Mata had already served several years in prison both in Mexican and U.S. custody, she was expected to be released in about four years.
If one searches in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, you’ll find a lady that matches her name and age in the search list. We can only assume at this point, but it seems like Rodríguez Mata was released from prison on 31 May 2013, after a little over four and a half years in custody. There are no public records of her deportation to Mexico, and it is uncertain if she held U.S. citizenship/residency. She faces no criminal charges in Mexico.
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