New Federation unites criminal gangs to subdue maverick cartel
The cartel warfare crippling Mexico will continue until the Zetas, a powerful offshoot of the Gulf Cartel, are subdued by other drug gangs or Mexican authorities, according to a new report.
The report, by Austin-based “global intelligence” firm STRATFOR, details the bloody battle between the Zetas and their onetime allies. Increasingly outflanked by the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel has reached out to other criminal groups and formed the “New Federation,” a unified front against the Zetas, according to STRATFOR.
“Fearing the might of Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel reached out to their longtime enemies, the Sinaloa Federation, and asked for their assistance in dealing with Los Zetas” wrote Scott Stewart, a STRATFOR analyst. “The leader of the Sinaloa Federation, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera, has no love for Los Zetas, who as the former military arm of the Gulf Cartel engaged in many brutal battles with Guzman’s forces. Together with another enemy of Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana, Guzman joined forces with the Gulf Cartel to form an organization known as the New Federation.”
As the Zetas and other groups targeted by the New Federation come under increasing pressure from the government and rival cartels, the violence across Mexico’s northern border may increase.
STRATFOR maintains a network of sources, including members of the Mexican news media, that help the company gather information. The firm sells general and customized intelligence reports to both individual and corporate clients.
The New Federation aims to destroy the Zetas and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, also known as the Juarez Cartel, according to the report. If the New Federation succeeds, and manages to marginalize the Arellano Felix Organization, also known as the Tijuana Cartel, it could dominate Mexican drug smuggling routes into the United States, according to the report.
Less competition between warring cartels would reduce the violence, Stewart said. But during the short term, the aggressive move by the New Federation will likely increase the bloodshed, he said.
“These cartel capos are really businessmen, and they make more money when it is peaceful and the dope is flowing,” Stewart said.
Allowing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and special operations units to operate inside Mexico would also put additional pressure on the cartels, but Mexico has limited U.S. involvement to protect its sovereignty, according to the report. STRATFOR’s analysis suggests powerful Mexicans tied to drugs have also helped limit U.S. involvement.
“We are talking … 40 billion dollars, and that is a lot of money,” Stewart said. “All that money is not being kept at El Chapo’s basement or under his bed.”
“Through financial institutions, it is being laundered in construction projects, resorts and all kinds of financial things, and a lot of people getting rich off the drug trade,” Stewart said.
Officials from the Procuraduría General de la República — the Mexican attorney general’s office — had no comment on the report. The Ministry of Public Safety, which contains an intelligence unit, didn’t return calls.
Last week, STRATFOR offered insight into the death of an American on Falcon Lake, which garnered widespread media attention.
The firm’s sources suggested David Hartley, 30, had been mistaken for Gulf Cartel spies by Zeta scouts. Hartley and his wife, Tiffany, drove from McAllen to Falcon Lake in a truck with Mexican license plates, and crossed into Mexican territory on Jet Skis.
While there, Tiffany told investigators, gunmen shot and killed her husband. She told investigators the gunmen approached in three boats, and that she was forced to flee.
STRATFOR blamed “Zetitas,” low-level Zetas, for Hartley’s death. The firm’s analysis suggested the perpetrators had been eliminated by higher-level Zetas, and that Hartley’s body has been destroyed.
Mexican authorities launched an extensive search, but found nothing.
STRATFOR also noted the beheading of State Police Comandante Rolando Armando Flores Villegas on Oct. 12 “was a specific message from Los Zetas to Mexican authorities to back off from the investigation.”
Mexican authorities have denied that report. To date, no suspects have been named for Flores Villegas’ murder.