Authorities said Ravelo assumed leadership after a series of killings along the border eight years ago. To get to the top, they said, Ravelo betrayed his predecessor, repeatedly stabbing him and then shooting him in the neck.
His ascent was helped, authorities said, by the 2008 arrests in El Paso of six Barrio Azteca leaders, all of whom were handed sentences of life in prison. Ravelo was indicted with the others in the sweeping federal racketeering case. In all, 26 gang members were convicted or pleaded guilty, except for Ravelo, who was never caught.
Authorities said he has slipped undetected between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, sometimes coming with bodyguards and an armored truck to recruit hit men or simply to visit family members on the U.S. side.
For the most part, however, authorities say Ravelo lies low, living modestly with his common-law wife and their children in the Ciudad Juarez hillsides. Investigators think his base of operations is a tattoo parlor, though they said he rarely frequented the shop now, especially after the consulate shootings.
U.S. authorities have no jurisdiction in Mexico, and must rely on officials there to find and arrest him.
"He knows he is looking at life in prison with no parole in this country," said Mikeska of the FBI. "He's not a dumb man. And he's not the kind of person who would come in and surrender. Instead he's saying, 'Come get me.' "
Carmen Coutino, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in El Paso, said the agency recently ran a three-day operation with more than 200 federal agents, arresting 54 gang members.
Ravelo's gang threatened to retaliate against El Paso police if it continued.
"The consulate shootings, that's one of the reasons we did this," Coutino said. "There was a lot of intelligence-gathering, a lot of new leads. We're trying to find out what else we don't know."