Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Fragmentation of the Drug Cartels

By Buggs for Borderland Beat

Tropa del Infierno, Los Metros and Los Viagras ... are a few examples of how large drug cartels have fragmented into increasingly violent and bloodthirsty cells.


The Fragmentation of the Large Cartels

With the war against organized crime that President Felipe Calderón undertook at the end of 2006, the radiography of national and transnational criminal organizations has undergone a change that has plunged some states of Mexico into an endless wave of violence, confrontations and executions. Together with the commission of the thousand of crimes that generate millions of dollars of illicit profits for the old and new criminal cartels, there is no end in sight.

In 2006, the criminal organizations that carried out their illegal activities in the country, that were in the business of the trafficking of drugs in to the US, was orderly regulated by major large cartels that at the time consisted of the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, Sinaloa/Pacífico, Tijuana/Arellano Félix, Juárez, Beltrán Leyva and Familia Michoacana, which had controlled some states in the north of the country, mainly those that are close to the northern border region. Alliances were broken and truces were violated, some as a result of greedy bosses attempting to expand their territory but at other times, it was personal. This conflict, along with the Calderon's war he was waging against particular cartels (almost all except perhaps Sinaloa) found a change that defined how cartels operate today.

The operations undertaken by the secretariats of the Armed-Navy of Mexico (Semar), and the National Defense (Sedena), as well as by the Federal Police (PF) generated arrests and deaths of the top leaders of major large cartels, heads of logistical support, chiefs of sicarios and financial operators. This break up in the structures of some criminal organizations, such as Los Zetas, Golfo, Familia Michoacana, Tijuana/Arellano Félix and Juárez, which came to the point of disappearing from the map of organized crime in Mexico. Suddenly, the fragmentation of these large cartels was not very organized, as many cells took on their own life and started operating independently, in attempts to forge a place in the narco hierarchy of the drug cartel business. Plaza bosses saw the opportunity to take over trafficking routes along the entire Mexico landscape and form alliance to cement their dominance.

In 2019, there is a substantial change in the large criminal organizations that were broken up, giving way to cells or splits that opened their way, and resulted in an uncontrolled increase in violence. No longer were their activities matters of organized crime, as the violence and crime was no longer very organized, as it was when old school top bosses kept the business of trafficking as organized as possible avoiding heating the plazas too much, as not to create too much attention from Mexican or US authorities.


With a low, but constant profile, the Gulf cartel or Cartel del Golfo (CDG) has managed to stay barely afloat within the drug trafficking map in Mexico. Due to their poor stability in the domains of its power and the internal disputes within the organization, the Gulf cartel has not managed to consolidate as an organized unit. For its part, the CDG suffered a fragmentation in its structure due to the arrest and death of its main leaders and lieutenants. It is said that numerous criminal cells help the CDG maintain operations in the north and south of the country, they are; Los Metro, Los Rojos, Los Fresita, Los Dragones, Cyclones, Los Pelones, Grupo Lacoste, Grupo Dragones, Grupo Bravo, Grupo Pumas, Grupo de Apoyo Ceros, M3, Los Sierra, and Los Talibanes. It is said that Los Metros have forged an alliance with the CJNG, that might prove helpful to the leader of the CJNG, Nemesio Oseguera Cervante, "El Mencho" for if or when he decides to make a move toward the gulf region. Golfos have tried to make a surge, but seem to be drown out by the many cells scattered all over the gulf coast that at times no one seems to know who they operate under.

There has been information of other smaller CDG cell groups called Grupo Sombra, Grupo Pantera, Comando del Diablo, Los Sierras (Sierra Division), Scorpiones, Grupo Operativo Z and Alcatraz de los R (small group, associated with the comando de diablo), but have made no progress in the fight for dominance in the region.

Their limited area of ​​influence is located in places like Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo and a part of San Luis Potosí. This organization, despite the alliances they had in more than a decade, is at the brink of disappearing from the map of organized crime.


Los Zetas are said to be pretty much gone after the arrest or death of almost all of their leaders that left a vacuum in the structure that was not easy to fill. Now, like many other criminal organizations, Los Zetas have been divided into two rival cells: the Cártel del Noreste (CDN), a rebrand of los zetas with new players and the weaker Los Zetas de la Vieja Escuela, a dissident group that has a presence in Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Veracruz, Zacatecas, Campeche, Tabasco and Quintana Roo. In the case of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, there is the armed wing called La Tropa del Infierno.

The Zeta cells that once reigned with immense power and strength have not seen much advances, most have come and gone. Some of these cells are; Sangre Zeta, Grupo Operativo Zeta, Comando Zetas, El Círculo, El Extranjero, Unidad Zeta, Néctar Lima, Grupo Delta Zeta, Zetas Vieja Escuela, and Fuerzas Especiales Zetas.

Lately the so-called Northeast cartel or Cartel del Noreste (CDN) has made an impressive presence in Coahuila, Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Tabasco and Quintana Roo. They also have a presence in the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia

CDN was a remnants of Los Zetas, primarily formed by the Treviño Morales family, who two of the brothers, Miguel Ángel and Omar Treviño Morales, alias "El Z-40" and "El Z-42" were top bosses of the Zetas in the hay days (Both are currently incarcerated). It is said that the nephew of Z-40 and Z-42, Juan Gerardo Treviño, aka El Huevo leads CDN.

"Los Marucheros," is one of the the cells of the Cartel del Noreste that recruit women and children that are based out of the state of Tamaulipas. These type of cells tend to be the lowest rank of the criminal organizations, mostly working as "halcones, estakas" or lookouts.


The Dead Live on

The alliances between cells or factions of the big drug cartels have allowed some criminal organizations that were about to disappear in the last two years (2018-2019) have begun to resurface with a new economic structure, new sicario team and large scale weapons with the purpose of taking over their so-called “plazas” (states or municipalities) for their own to operate in illicit activities to generate high profit.

One of the clearest examples is the Tijuana/Arellano Félix Cartel, now called the New Generation Tijuana Cartel or Cártel Tijuana Nueva Generación (CTNG) name given due to their alliance with the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel or Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). It has been strengthened with a new structure of sicarios and weapons to fight against the Pacific cartel (Cártel del Pacífico) or Sinaloa cartel (CDS), the only cartel left left in the state of Baja California.

In the case of the Juarez Cartel or Cártel de Juárez/New Juarez Cartel or Nuevo Cártel de Juárez (NCDJ), together with its armed wing of La Linea, which, in turn, have under their control the street gangs of Los Mexicles and Los Aztecas (Barrio Azteca), they have begun to actively participate in the confrontations and trafficking of drugs to the United States. Many had given the Juarez cartel as dead, after a fierce battle with Sinaloa cartel and getting hit hard by the federal police/military, but looking at how thing have played out, Juarez, is alive and well.

This criminal organization was about to get completed taken out due to the war waged by the government of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa when he tried to rescue Ciudad Juárez from a wave of violence for three consecutive years (2009-2011), that was considered the most violent city in the world. It seem like Sinaloa flourished while cartels such as Juarez and Tijuana that were getting hit hard by the military were destined to die a silent expedited death.

A decade later, the so-called Nuevo Cártel de Juárez (NCDJ) controls the entire state of Chihuahua (including the prized Ciudad Juarez), mainly the municipalities adjacent to the state of Sonora, El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, United States.


La Familia Michoacana, on the verge of being taken completely out, merged into the Caballeros Templarios or Knights Templar, and dedicated themselves in the manufacture of synthetic drugs, drug trafficking, kidnapping, homicide, money laundering, human trafficking, among other crimes. After the death and detention of its leaders in 2016, La Nueva Familia Michoacana emerged with its armed wing of Los Troyanos, which expanded from Michoacán to the State of Mexico, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Colima, Nuevo León, Baja California and Coahuila, thanks to alliances with other criminal organizations.

One of its great alliances is with Las Moicas, which were considered in 2009 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a regional suppliers of methamphetamine and heroin in to California, specifically in the center and north of the state.

The Beltrán Leyva Cartel and the Gente Nueva is a clear example of cartel fragmentation after the arrest and death of Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo, Mario, Esaúl and Héctor Beltrán Leyva. This organization has risen to eight criminal cells that have continued with the activities of drug trafficking, human trafficking, executions, weapon smuggling, money laundering, kidnapping and collection of tax/fee (pago de piso) from the business community.

Los Rojos, have presence in the north and center of Guerrero, as well as in much of Morelos. Their origins were in the municipality of Chilapa, Guerrero, and its founder and leader Jesús Nava Romero, El Rojo, was lieutenant of Arturo Beltrán Leyva.

The Mazatlecos were created as an armed wing of the Beltrán Leyva Organization to deal with the sicarios of the Pacific Cartel. Over the years they rose from sicarios to become drug lords. They began operations in Mazatlan to exercise control in the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Nayarit. Thus they were responsible for the trafficking of drugs in huge quantities to the United States. From marijuana, cocaine, heroin and even methamphetamines; Its area of ​​influence is located in Sinaloa and Baja California Sur.

Los Ruelas Torres, whose leader is José Luis Ruelas Torres was also lieutenant of Los Beltrán Leyva before the arrest and death of the bosses (Beltran brothers), this organization began in the heroin trade to the United States, from Los Angeles to New York.

The Granados began their activities of trafficking drugs on the Costa Grande of Guerrero for the Beltrán Leyva Cartel; However, they began their criminal career at the hands of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and the Familia Michoacana.

Los Ardillos With more than 20 years operating in the Guerrero municipality of Quechultenango dedicate themselves entirely to the planting of poppy, the collection of tax/fees (pago de piso), piracy and kidnapping. They currently operate in the Mountain Regions and downtown Guerrero.

The Acapulco Independent Cartel or El Cártel Independiente de Acapulco (CIDA) is considered a local criminal organization, with its main area of ​​operations being some colonies in the port of Acapulco, Guerrero. Their illicit activities are drug trafficking, kidnapping, "pago de piso" and executions.

El 2 Mil. The name of this band comes from the nickname of Javier Hernández García, known as El Panchillo or El 2 Mil, who was part of the security of Los Beltrán Leyva, operated in Coahuila, Chihuahua, San Luis Potosí and Sonora. He was arrested and extradited to the US just recently.

Guerreros Unidos is another of the groups that emerged from the late Beltran Leyva Cartel. It was considered one of the most violent organizations that expanded through Guerrero, México State and Morelos, where they began a fierce fight against the Cártel del Pacífico Sur and La Mano con Ojos. Guerreros Unidos for the most part have ceased to exist.

Sinaloa cartel is one of the criminal organizations that has remained after the imprisonment of its main leaders, such as the case of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, El Chapo, who created several armed wings such as La Gente Nueva to defend the states where he has been embedded, mainly which is Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora.

However, in the last five years it has expanded into small cell groups where other criminal organizations predominate. A lot of these cells, as is with most of all cartels, have started to operate independently such as the Cartel del Tigre, Los Cabrera, Los Salazar, Los Paredes (Los Pesados ​​Apson) and Los Memos.


The Lebaron Massacre

A perfect example of cells operating independently and running amok like a chicken without a head,  is the massacre of the Mormon Lebaron family in a community of La Mora in Bavispe, Sonora (a Sinaloa cartel controlled region), on November 4, 2019. The cartels that get hit the hardest by the Mexican government and have their top bosses in key roles taken out, usually leave their network of cells in different plazas operating without rules and out of control. While armed to the teeth, they actively seek to engage rival cells without thinking of the repercussions. A rush in the power struggle emerges as other rival cells attempt to move in to neighboring plazas to take control. La Linea is scattered throughout Chihuahua state in different factions, having Ciudad Juarez as their center base of operations.

Days before the massacre, La Linea entered Agua Prieta, Sonora on the border of Douglas, Arizona. Their purpose was to heat up la plaza. This is deep in Sinaloa territory and the Agua Prieta plaza is heavily protected by Los Salazar and Los Paredes (Los Pesados ​​Apson), cells of Sinaloa cartel (CDS). There was a gunfight at night that resulted in a couple of fatalities, it was said to be the members of La Linea. Rumors immediately began circulating that people from Gente Nueva (armed wing of CDS) were on their way to reinforce the plaza.

It was reported that La Linea, while retreating out of Sonora state, for some reason decided to engage three SUVs that were occupied by the LeBaron family, all children and women. They killed nine people, some burned alive in a SUV (three women and six children, all of whom held dual US–Mexican citizenships). There has been a lot of controversy over who is responsible for the massacre, not much has come out from the Mexican government and at times they have released information that has turned out to be false. Word on the streets made thing even more confusing and has not been resolved, possible because of the corruption and/or fear. But one thing is for certain, some cell was responsible for the attack and this cell probably overstepped their authority. They have plenty of good reasons to be quiet about it, as someone made a grave mistake.

This attack created a heavy response from Mexican authorities and pressure from the US for Mexico to do more to tackle the cartel violence. Most top bosses do not tolerate any cell, be it their own or rival, to disrupt drug trafficking operations. The CDS also has traditionally avoided killing women and children. Word on the street was that the top boss of the "old guard" of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael "Mayo "Zambada, was not very happy.

Immediately after the massacre, the violence in Ciudad Juarez intensified. Los Mexicles (a gang under Sinaloa cartel) started heating up the plaza by burning buses and executing 9 members of La Linea in the Cereso (jail) in the city. It seem like some of these cells have now remain real low key and there is more presence of CDS in Sonora.


The New Cartel in Mexico

The economic structure, the organization, its hired sicarios and the power of high capacity weapons have extended the areas of influence of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) that went from being a local organization to the first drug cartel controlling a lot of the territories in Mexico and expanding out of the country. In the early stages some cells operating under the structure of Sinaloa Federation/Pacifico broke away to form the arm wing known as Matazetas to try to exterminate the Zetas. With the death and arrest of key capos in and around Guerrero, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, El Mencho saw an opportunity to expand his territory and started a power grab that continues today with the CJNG.

Today, their cells carry out crimes in Jalisco, Nayarit, Mexico City, State of Mexico, Michoacán, Veracruz, Yucatán, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Guanajuato, Oaxaca and San Luis Potosí. Outside Mexico: United States, Central America, Colombia, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Towards the center of the country, mainly in the states of Guanajuato, Querétaro and Puebla, where there is a fight for control of the theft of hydrocarbon and gas.

The fight between cartels is sustained by some local organizations, such as the so-called Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel and La Nueva Familia Michoacana; while in other states the confrontations are carried out from cells that originated from Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

The dispute over the so-called Huachicol (fuel) has increased violence in the states of Guanajuato and Puebla, where the organization (CJNG) headed by  El Mencho, focuses on the so-called Triángulo of Huachicol and Triángulo Rojo in Puebla.

The constant confrontations and executions in Guanajuato, are focusing on the municipalities of Valle de Santiago, Jaral del Progreso, Cortázar, Yuriria, Salamanca, Irapuato, Silao and León, which are within the so-called Huachicol Triangle, between the CJNG cells and their break away cell of Santa Rosa de Lima, commanded by José Antonio Yepes, El Marro.

According to the information disseminated by the Sixteenth Military Zone of the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena), the fight between the two organizations is for the theft of LP fuel and gas.

Violence has moved to the state of Querétaro in the corridor that makes up the municipalities of Palmillas, San Juan del Río, Pedro Escobedo and Corregidora, where the Tula-Salamanca pipeline runs.

In the so-called Red Triangle, which is made up of the municipalities of Acatzingo, Palmar de Bravo, Quecholac, Tecamachalco and Tepeaca, there are constant confrontations taking place between the CJNG cells against the sicarios of Roberto de los Santos de Jesús, aka El Bukanas, leader huachicolero at the service of Los Zetas.

The violence generated by the CJNG has spread to the state of Michoacán due to the dispute over the trafficking of narcotics, the production of synthetic drugs, and is a nasty war against La Nueva Familia Michoacana and Los Viagras.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cartel and Jalisco Nueva Generación, contest the state of Aguascaliente for control of a variety of crimes ranging from kidnapping, extortions, collection of money (cobro de piso), drug trafficking, executions and abductions (levantones).

While in San Luis Potosí there is a silent war between the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, La Nueva Familia Michoacana and CJNG.

In Morelos, the fight for the sale and distribution of the drug, kidnappings and "cobros de piso" result in constant confrontations with the criminal organizations of Los Rojos, Guerreros Unidos and recently with the CJNG.

In the case of the State of Mexico, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cártel and La Nueva Familia Michoacana cells have generated an increase in insecurity in the last decade in various Mexican municipalities.

For its part, Mexico City went from being an area of ​​cartel links, negotiations and alliances, but now has become a battleground between the local organizations of the Tláhuac Cartel, Los Rodolfos and Los Ojos fighting against the Unión Tepito and Los Molina.


Guerrero, a Nest of Fragmented Cartels.

Currently in the state of Guerrero there are two large drug cartels, the Cártel del Pacífico/Sinaloa cartel and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), the latter made alliances and a truce with the smaller denominated cartels to have control of planting, distribution of poppy and rubber opium, as well as trafficking cocaine and other illicit drugs.

The Pacific/Sinaloa Cartel has alliances with some local bands in various areas of the state.

The alliances that the Pacific/Sinaloa Cartel has woven with some local groups are directly responsible for the increase in violence in some areas of the states of Guerrero and Michoacán.

The example is the area of ​​the Costa Chica, where the following groups work for the so-called Sinaloa Cartel.

Don Luis, Grupo de Los Torralba, Grupo de Los Charchove, Grupo de Los Hermanos Carrillo Salmerón, Grupo de Sofía Mayo Ramírez, Sofi and La Reyna de la Costa Chica..

They also have a strong alliance with La Nueva Familia Michoacana with its armed wing known as autodefensas (self-defense groups) or policías comunitarias (community police), among which Los Arreola and Tepalcatepec Cartel, led by Juan José Farías, aka El Abuelo, stand out in the two states that, in turn, have an alliance with Los Caballeros Templarios, Los Viagras, and Sangre Nueva Guerrerense. The autodefensas typically like to come across as militias fighting all the cartels, but they do take sides, and help particular cartels fight off other cartels.

La Nueva Familia Michoacana also has among its allies the so-called Cártel de Cuajinicuilapa, Los Añorve, Cártel de Los Rodríguez; Los Ardillos, Los Rojos, Cártel de la Sierra, Los Jefes and Cártel del Fantasma. In addition they have under them Gente Tijuana, Los Capuchinos and Los Palacios Galeana.

For their part, the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) has an alliance with criminal groups in the regions of Costa Grande, Tierra Caliente and mountains of the State of Guerrero, such as:

Los Granados, Fuerzas Especiales Guardia Guerrerense, El Gavilán, Ejidos Nuevos de Guerrero, Los Jaguares, El Águila, El Charal, Los Cuernudos, Ayala Huato, El Comandante Beto, El Profe, Cerebro, Chamuco, Chito Cano and Aburto

They also maintain an alliance with the remnants of the Cártel de Los Beltrán Leyva, Gente Nueva, La Empresa, Mochomera, Fuerzas Especiales de Acapulco (FEDA), Los Teletubis, Ojitos Verdes, Los Amigos and Los Rusos.

Cártel Independiente de Acapulco (CIDA), La Ciudadanía de Acapulco, El Pueblo de Acapulco, Los Sierreños, Comando MC de Mario Cabrera, Los Leones, Los Tequileros and their remnants, Cártel del Sur, Cártel de la Sierra, Cártel Sierra Unida Revolucionaria (SUR) and Los Marín.

In Oaxaca the only cartels operating are the Cártel de Los Zetas or Vieja Escuela, Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and el Cártel del Golfo to some extent.

While in Chiapas the Cártel del Pacífico/Sinaloa dominates, while Los Zetas or Vieja Escuela, Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) dispute some municipalities.


The AMLO Strategy

In 2018, Mexico broke a new record of 32,000 homicides but in 2019, that record was broken yet with 36,000 homicides. The violence can be attributed to the out of control fragmented cartels, where cells of trigger happy young men that are heavily armed and are more than happy to challenge any rival cell and get in full blown shootouts with military and police forces. Their slaughter of their targets usually involves multiple groups of victims creating massive violence in almost every parts of Mexico, but places where cartels are in a heated battle have suffered the most, like Guanajuato, Michoacán and Guerrero.

The new president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been criticized for his soft approach to take the war to the cartels, not wanting to use the same strategy as former president Felipe Calderón. He is often criticised for his comment about his strategy to use "abrazos y no balasos" or "hugs and not bullets." He initially limited the role of the Mexican marines, that have been successful in the past taking out most of the top level cartel bosses. AMLO has expanded the roles of his Guardia Nacional (National Guard) to play more of a role to confront these out of control cells within the communities that have out of control violence. He has recently, on a limited basis, has allowed the Mexican marines to help with problematic regions. His weak stand to take on these cartels head on, has embolden break-away cells who are killing indiscriminately with total impunity.


Alliances with US Gangs

The Sinaloa cartel designated by US authorities as traffickers of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine has networks of alliances with gangs or criminal organizations in the US such as Latin King and Queen Nation, Border Brothers, Bloods, Eme, Crips, Ms-13, Sureños, Tango Blast and United Blood Nation.

The Tijuana Nueva Generación Cartel (CTNG) traffic in cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, They have links with Latin King and Queen Nation, Border Brothers, California Mexican Mafia, Florence 13, Logan Heights Gang and Sureños

The Cártel de Juárez or Nuevo Cártel de Juárez (NCDJ) traffic in cocaine and marijuana. They have links with 4 gangs or criminal organizations in the United States: Latin King and Queen Nation, Barrio Azteca, Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos and Los Carnales.

The Gulf Cartel traffic in cocaine and marijuana. They have links with 8 gangs or criminal organizations in the United States: Bloods, Crips, Emi, M5-13, Latino Gunmen Brothers, Mexican Revolutionary Party, United Race and Texas Syndicate.

The Cártel del Noreste or Zetas cartel trafficking cocaine, marijuana, synthetic drugs and human trafficking. They have links with 12 gangs or criminal organizations in the United States, including Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, Latin King, Queen Nation, Bandidos Motorcycle Club, Bloods, Crips, Eme, Emi, MS-13, Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, Sureños, Norteños and Texas Syndicate

While the remnants of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel or Gente Nueva traffic in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, they allied themselves with gangs Mexikanemi, Barrio Azteca, Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, MS13.

Guerreros Unidos traffics cocaine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamines have links with 8 gangs, Latin Kings, Queen Nation, Crips, Eme, Los Cholos, Murder Inc, Sureños, Tango Blast and MS-13.

The Nueva Familia Michoacana or Caballeros Templarios wove alliances with Latin King and Queen Nation, Crips, Eme, Los Cholos, Murder Inc, Sureños, Tango Blast and MS-13.

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