Since Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco was taken down in the early 90’s, the world has not seen many (if any) female crime bosses on that level. Well, there was one wreaking havoc on the streets Mexico, holding her own in the male dominated world of Mexican cartels. Her name is Melissa Margarita Calderon Ojeda, better known as “La China.” Her reign as leader of her own cartel was recently ended, after she was arrested Saturday. Her boyfriend and second-in-command Pedro “El Chino” Gomez turned her in, along with another associate, in hopes of receiving lesser sentences. She stands accused of committing more than 180 murders.
La China, 30, dove into her life of crime in 2005 as a worker for the Damaso Cartel. This syndicate is said to be an affiliate of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel headed by the infamous, yet legendary, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. Her “ruthlessness and fierce temper” propelled her to the commander of the Damaso armed forces in 2008. Her calling card was leaving the dismembered bodies of her victims on their families’ doorsteps. While leading her troops in a territory war, La China took control of the city of La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur, and Cabo San Lucas, a popular tourist resort visiting by hundreds of thousands every year. Within the seven years of La China’s leadership, the state’s murder rate tripled. Her troops were loyal to her because she would reward good performance with bags of cocaine.
Things took a turn in June when La China was asked to step down and give up her position to seasoned assassin Abel Quintero, who had just come home from a prison bid. La China was pissed about it and defected, forming her own organization. She declared war on the Damaso Cartel for the territories she had already secured a foothold in. El Chino was named as her number two; Sergio ‘El Scar’ Beltran was named chief assassin; Rogelio ‘El Tyson’ Franco was given charge of logistics; and Pedro ‘El Peter’ Cisneros oversaw drug sales and the disposal of bodies. She controlled an army of 300 street-level dealers and soldiers, identified by red motorbikes that they rode.
As a result of La China’s war campaign, the 46 murders in the area in 2014 were equaled in the first two months of this year. La China’s cartel became law enforcement’s top priority. Worried that her vehicles were known by the cops, she ordered El Tyson to get her a pickup truck. He arranged for two friends of his parents to sell theirs to La China. However, when they showed up to sell it to her, the boss had them killed. She didn’t want to pay for it. El Peter then was called to do his job, and he disposed of the bodies at La China’s secret burial ground. El Tyson was enraged by the death of his innocent friends and threatened to go to the police. Wrong move. La China cut off his forearms before killing him and burying him with the others in an unmarked grave.
One of La China’s final moves was her attack of high-ranking Damaso member El Tocho. Her crew failed to kidnap him, but were able to get his girlfriend named Lourdes. La China tortured Lourdes, then had her murdered. Lourdes, and a prostitute murdered by chief assassin El Scar, was buried in the grave with the previous kills. These events shook her boyfriend and second-in-command, El Chino, so much that he left the cartel. he was captured quickly by police. During interrogation, El Chino told authorities what his girlfriend had become, describing her as “maniacal” and a “control freak.”
A week later, El Peter was caught by police after a high speed chase through La Paz. He confirmed El Chino’s story with his information. El Peter told authorities where the secret burial ground was, and the five bodies were recovered. La China was arrested Saturday without incident, as she tried to flee at Cabo San Lucas Airport. She was taken to jail in La Paz.
La China is currently being questioned in Mexico City. Next year, she will face trial for 150 murders.