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Mexico’s major drug cartels

Posted on

15 Jan 2014


A guide to Mexico’s most significant criminal organisations fighting each   other and the authorities

Servando Gomez Martinez of the Knights Templar in one of his YouTube videos Photo: YOUTUBE
 Since former president Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown against   Mexico’s cartels in December 2006, over 80,000 Mexicans have died.

There are seven major cartels, although allegiances shift and organisations   often break into smaller pieces following the killing or capture of leaders.   Since 2013, armed civilian vigilante groups have sprung up in several parts   of the country to confront them.

Knights Templar Leadership: Former school teacher Servando Gomez Martinez. Gomez was a   high-ranking member of the Familia Michoacana cartel, but left the   organisation following the death of leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez in   December 2010. He is known for uploading communiqués to Youtube and has   given interviews to the press, most recently to US-based Mundo Fox in   December 2013.

Area of Operations: The group is mostly active in the state of   Michoacán – particularly the city of Apatzingan – but also has a presence in   other central Mexican states.

Profile: Named after a medieval Christian military order, members of   the Knights Templar have repeatedly said they are fighting for “social   justice” and to protect Michoacán, and in early 2012 the Mexican army seized   120 Crusader-style helmets said to be used in Templar ceremonies. In March   2012, the group announced a ceasefire for Pope Benedict’s visit to Mexico.

The Knights Templar is known to be heavily involved in the production and   trafficking of methamphetamine, and also traffic cocaine and marijuana. They   also “tax” local farms and businesses.

Since 2012, the Knights Templar have repeatedly clashed with armed civilian   vigilante groups, who have managed to wrest   control of several towns from the cartel. The group is also battling   a smaller cartel, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, as well as the remnants   of the Familia Michoacana.

Sinaloa Cartel Leadership: Joaquín “Shorty” Guzmán, who has widely been considered   Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficker since his escape from prison in 2001.   US authorities currently have a $5 million bounty on his head.

In 2012, Forbes estimated his net worth as $1 billion, and ranked him as the   world’s 63rd most powerful man. In early 2012, the US Drug Enforcement   Agency (DEA) and Chicago Crime Commission named him Chicago’s Public Enemy   #1 because of his organisation’s role in supplying large quantities of drugs   to the city.

Area of Operations: The group is believed to operate in at least 17   Mexican states and is thought to operate distribution cells across the   United States. Additionally, the group operates across Central and South   America. US authorities also believe the cartel has distribution cells   across the UK and a presence in several other European countries.

Profile: The Sinaloa Cartel is considered the most powerful drug   trafficking organisation in the Americas, and the cartel’s bloody war for   Ciudad Juarez is thought to be largely responsible for the estimated 10,000   murders that occurred between 2008 and 2012, earning   the city the title of “murder capital of the world”.

The group is currently battling Los Zetas and several other organisations for   control of territory in Mexico and major trafficking routes to the US.

Los Zetas Leadership: Since the July   2013 capture of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, “Z-40”, the   organisation is thought to be under the country of his younger brother,   Omar, known as “Z-42”.

Area of Operations: In Mexico the group primarily operates on Mexico’s   Gulf Coast and Northeast, as well as in Central America, particularly   Guatemala. The DEA also believes that the organisation traffics cocaine to   Europe through West Africa.

Profile: The notoriously brutal Zetas were formed by deserters from an   elite unit of the Mexican army in the late 90s, and served as the military   wing of the Gulf Cartel until a violent split from that organisation in   2009. The group is thought to be responsible for numerous   infamous acts of violence, including the mass killing of 72 migrants   headed to the US in 2010, and the murder of an American immigration agent in   2011. Currently, their main rivals are the Sinaloa Cartel and their former   bosses in the Gulf Cartel.

In addition to trafficking drugs, Los Zetas are thought to be heavily involved   in extortion, migrant smuggling, human trafficking and a range of other   criminal activities.

Gulf Cartel Leadership: The organisation currently has no clear leader following the   arrestt of Mario Ramirez Trevino, “X-20”, in August 2013.

Area of Operations: The Gulf Cartel primarily operates in the northern   state of Tamaulipas, having lost significant territory to Los Zetas over the   last several years.

Profile: The Gulf Cartel traces its historical roots to criminal   syndicates that have operated since the 1930’s, and began trafficking drugs   in the late 1970s.

The group has been in steady decline since its bloody break-up with Los Zetas   in 2009, leading to intense fighting between the two groups across northern   and eastern Mexico. In November 2010, the organization’s then-leader,   Antonio “Tony the Storm” Ezequiel Cardenas was killed during an   intense battle with Mexican marines. Since then, the group has been   plagued by infighting between rival factions.

Beltran-Leyva Organisation Leadership: The group has been led by Hector Beltran Leyva since the death   of his brother Arturo at the hands of Mexican marines in December   2009.

Area of Operations: The group operates along Mexico’s Pacific coast as   well as in the northern state of Sinaloa.

Profile: The Beltran-Leyva Organisation was once a part of the Sinaloa   Cartel, but split from the organisation in 2008 after accusing “El Chapo”   Guzman of informing on a key figure in the cartel. Following the split from   the Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltran-Leyva Organisation was split in two as   Hector Beltran Leyva battled Edgar “the Barbie” Valdez until his capture in   August 2010. The organisation then allied with their former rivals, Los   Zetas, and declared war on the Sinaloa Cartel, which it has been fighting   since.

Juarez Cartel Leadership: The leadership of the organisation is unclear following the   September 2013 arrest of leader Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, who was known by   his alias, “Ugly   Betty”.

Area of Operations: The cartel is largely contained to the city of   Ciudad Juarez and several other parts of the northern state of Chihuahua.

Profile: The cartel was founded by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as the   “Lord of the Skies” for his large fleet of aircraft used to smuggle drugs.   He died under mysterious circumstances following a botched plastic surgery   in 1997.

Once one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organisations, the Juarez Cartel   was decimated by a bloody turf war over Ciudad Juarez with the Sinaloa   Cartel and is thought to have been largely defeated.

Tijuana Cartel Leadership: The group is currently under the leadership of Luis   Fernando Sanchez Arellano, who is thought to run the organisation alongside   his mother, Enedina Arellano Felix, who took over after a series of her   brothers.

Area of Operations: The group’s operations are based in the border city   of Tijuana and the surrounding state of Baja California.

Profile: Based in Mexico’s largest border city, the organisation was   extremely powerful in the 1990s and 2000s, but has since been weakened by   arrests, incursions by the Sinaloa Cartel and a vicious internal feud   between 2008 and 2010. Since 2009, the organisation is believed to have made   a truce with the Sinaloa Cartel and has since operated quietly.

In October 2013, Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, a former high-ranking member   of the organisation, was gunned down by assassins   disguised as clowns at a children’s party.

About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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