Main Drug Cartels and Groups in Mexico
Mexico is a country providing the greatest amounts of drugs to the United States. The drug market has changed, formerly only dedicated to the traffic of marijuana, cocaine and opium; it now has diversified into the production and distribution of synthetic drugs. These changes in the market and the desire to dominate more territories have unleashed a wave of uncontrolled violence.
During his administration, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon issued a massive operation against drug trafficking through the training and deployment of more than 30,000 elements of the Army and the Federal Police. In reaction to such maneuvers from the government, the cartels have begun an unparallel violence, killing hundreds of police men, rival assassins and soldiers. President Felipe Calderon explained that the violence lived by the country is caused by the reordering of the drug cartels after their structures have been greatly affected. President Calderon has made extradition processes one of his main weapons in combating organized crime, and during a year and a half he has sent to the United States 120 criminals with the support of this mechanism. Mexico has signed 24 extradition treaties worldwide, but it is with the government of the United States with which it carries out 90% of these issues.
The violence of organized crime has expanded uncontrollably during the last months. Edgar Guzmán, 22 years of age and son of “Chapo”, leader of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, was murdered in May 2008 at a shopping mall in his native Culiacan, his assassins fired more than 500 bullets. More than 1,100 persons have died in crimes related to drug trafficking from January to May 2008; more than 2,500 persons died in this types of events during all of 2007.
Even behind bard, drug traffickers continue manipulating their cartels, imparting orders to eliminate rivals and evidencing the lack of capacity from the State to disarticulate organized crime. One of the most notorious cases of the impunity enjoyed by those who are already in prison happened in January 2001, when Joaquín Guzmán Loera “El Chapo”, chief of the Sinaloa Cartel and one of the most important drug dealers in Mexico, escaped from a maximum security prison. Corruption is such among some government officials, that drug cartel leaders have freedom to act from within the prisons.
Mexican criminal band started by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra during the 1940’s. It has grown through the years and has positioned through close ties to politicians, especially in Tamaulipas, and police chiefs. Juan García Abrego was its leader until 1996, when a power struggle began, after which the cartel was left in the hands of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, who was arrested and held at maximum security prison of Almoloya in March 2003, but continued leading the Gulf Cartel until January 2007, when he was extradited to the United States.
On the 29 of April 2008, Carlos Landin Martinez was sentenced to life in prison by a North American court after being captured in McAllen, Texas and declared guilty of coordinating operations for the Gulf Cartel in Tamaulipas; he was responsible for collecting money from those who wanted to traffic drugs through the Reynosa border and impose punishments, including torture and execution, to those who lost shipments or money or refused to pay. Landin worked as commander for the judicial police in Tamaulipas.
Particularly, it has the most dangerous group of assassins, known as “Zetas”, who act as a commando for settling accounts and control zones of influence; it is composed by deserters of the Mexican Army’s Special Forces. The Zetas group came about at the end of the 1990’s, when elite military men deserted and were recruited to operate as a private army at the service of the Gulf Carte, directed by Osiel Cardenas, who is currently in prison. It is formed by a group of militaries who deserted from the Airmobile Special Forces Group (GAFE) and the Amphibian Group of Special Forces (GANFE) of the Mexican Army. These military groups were formed by the Government of Mexico. These Special Forces were trained to locate and apprehend drug dealers. Their elite training was directed by the School of the Americas in the United States; specialized in tactics, mission plans, air assaults and sophisticated communication methods. The Zetas name comes from the code used to refer to high ranking officials in the radio communications of the Preventive Federal Police. Initially at the service of the Gulf Cartel in order to capture the members of rival cartels and protect the drug transportation routes, it is believed that since the arrest of Osiel Cardenas, they handle their own drug trafficking cartels based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
Also known as the Arellano Felix Cartel, it is a Mexican criminal organization established in Tijuana, Baja California. The Tijuana Cartel is considered one of the largest and most violent groups currently operating in Mexico. This cartel began when the leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, was captured in 1989 and broke off into two different cartels. The Sinaloa Cartel lead by Joaquin Guzman Loera “El Chapo” and the Tijuana Cartel directed by Ramón Arellano Félix. Ramón was murdered during a confrontation with the police in Mazatlan, in February 2002, it is believed he arrived at this city in order to assassinate “El Mayo Zambada”, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. After his death, the leadership of the Tijuana Cartel was left in the hands of his siblings; three of them have been captured.
With the goal of increasing its production and distribution capacity, the Tijuana Cartel has established a relationship of cooperation and collaboration with the Gulf Cartel, although they continue working as independent criminal organizations.
In August 2006, Francisco Javier Arellano Felix was captured by the Coast Guard of the United States while he was on a fishing vacation. He was declared guilty and sentenced to life in prison by a California court.
On the 26 of April 2008, there was one of this cartel’s bloodiest events, when drug dealers confronted each other in a shooting through the streets of Tijuana, 13 persons died. In January of that same year, eight persons died during a confrontation in a safety house where the Tijuana Cartel had many rivals kidnapped, hit men from within the house shot for three hours against police men and soldiers who were trying to capture them.
The Juarez Cartel is the organization with greatest presence in Mexico. It maintains its influence over 21 states. This cartel began under the leadership of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, nicknamed “The Lord of the Skies” for his innovative system to transport cocaine, a complete Boeing 727 fleet. He died in 1997 during a plastic surgery he was undergoing with the goal of not being identified by authorities. Carrillo Fuentes was the most powerful drug dealer of his era and got to amass 25,000 million dollars. It is known that under his leadership, the Juarez Cartel was earning 200 million dollars per week, 10% of which was handed over to authorities as bribes.
One of its main operators was General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, named by Mexico and supported by the United States as the greatest leader in the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico; a few months after it was discovered he was a close accomplice of this cartel.
The Sinaloa Cartel, directed by Joaquin Guzman Loera “El Chapo”, keeps its influence over 17 states. It is also known as the Guzman Loera Organization of the Pacific Cartel. It is mainly involved in the traffic and distribution of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana and Asian heroin.
This organization began in the 1990’s and operated in the region fo the Northern Pacific and since the daring escape of “El Chapo” from the maximum security prison of Puente Grande in January 2001, it has widened it frame of action towards the center and south of the country, confronting with the crime groups who had those areas as their natural areas of influence.
The bloody confrontations with the main chiefs of the Arellano Felix Cartels and the Carrillo Fuentes family have left a blood trail throughout the country, linked to judicial events of great transcendence in Mexico, such as the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas, the execution of Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes and the murder of the Coordinator of Regional Security for the Federal Police, the leader of the operations against those crime groups, Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez; executed in May 2008 in reprisal for the drug confiscations and the imprisonment of 13 hit men.
On the 27 of May 2008, the Sinaloa Cartel murdered seven agents of Mexico’s Federal Police in a confrontation while the agents where going through a search warrant in the cartel’s safety house. The answer of the Public Safety Office was to reinforce its presence with 200 more agents, increase the caliber of the weapons used by police men and the level of armor on their police cars.
This cartel of the Amezcua Contreras brothers has influence over 7 states in Mexico. It is considered one of the greatest organizations dedicated to the production and distribution of synthetic drugs, they are referred to as the “Methamphetamines Kings”. It was created in 1988, originally it only operated by trafficking of the Colombian cartels, but soon turned into an important criminal organization for the international trafficking and processing of amphetamines. Its leader Luis Ignacio Amezcua Contreras was arrested in Guadalajara on the 1st of June 1998 and held in the maximum security prison of Almoloya, sentenced to 49 years in prison. Despite this, the Colima Cartel continues operating the states of Baja California, Nuevo Leon, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Mexico City.
In the year 2005, authorities arrested 1,785 collaborators of this cartel.
This cartel is also known as “Los Valencia” and its leader is Luis Valencia Valencia, substituting for Armando Valencia Cornelio who was arrested in August 2003. It is a group that separated from the Juarez Cartel in 1999. It is present in six states: Michoacan, Colima, Jalisco, Mexico City, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas; it is based in Michoacan, where it produces marijuana and poppy.
This cartel was commanded by Pedro Diaz Parada “The Oaxaca Boss”, who was arrested in January 2007. It has influence over seven states: Chihuahua, Durango, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca.
This criminal organization mainly traffics in marijuana and cocaine. It is considered the most important marijuana producer in the Isthmus area. Pedro Diaz Parada began his days in the drug trafficking world by sowing marijuana in San Pedro Totolapa, Oaxaca, during the 1970’s. He extended his activity to cocaine trafficking by using speed boats and light aircrafts. He was arrested and sentenced in 1985 to 33 years in prison. When he heard his sentence from Judge Villafuerte Gallegos, Diaz Parada told him “I will go and you will die”. He was held in the prison of Santa María Ixcotel, Oaxaca, from where he escaped a few days later. In September 1987, Judge Villafuerte Gallegos was murdered near his home in Cuernavaca, where he had been moved in order to protect him from the threats of Diaz Parada.
Artículo Producido por el Equipo Editorial Explorando México.
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