The capture and abatement of drug cartel leaders has led to the fragmentation of groups and the emergence of criminal cells throughout the country. U.S. authorities and the PGR identify the current leadership
By: Doris Gómora, Dennis A. García y Marcos Muédano | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat
With the capture and abatement of drug cartel leaders in recent years, the structures of the drug cartels in Mexico has fragmented, giving way to a new map of organized crime with the formation of criminal cells that operate in a territorial way; but with the influence that they had in the large organizations, new groups also rose up like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) who managed to consolidate and expand their power to challenge the territories that are key to the business of the multinational drug trade.
This in-depth analysis of drug trafficking in the country is based on reports from the PGR, the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury, as well as interviews with experts.
With the arrests of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel; Servando Gómez “La Tuta”, leader of Los Caballeros Templarios; Vicente Carrillo Fuentes “El Viceroy”, leader of the Juárez Cartel; Miguel and Omar Treviño Morales, leaders of Los Zetas; and the abatement of Nazario Moreno “El Chayo”, who commanded La Familia Michoacana; as well as Ignacio Nacho Coronel and Arturo Beltrán Leyva “El Barbas”, a struggle for the territories worsened with the criminal cells who were operating as their armed wings.
The blows in recent years to drug cartels faded away the image of the great drug lords. Around 15 leaders whose names dominated the scene in the last decade, including dynasties, are now a thing of the past. New leaders emerged, though most only regional or underpowered, with fragmented crime cell organizations that defend a territory. Of the nine cartels operating in the country today, only the Sinaloa, with their old bosses, and the CJNG, maintain hegemony.
The most recent report from the PGR indicates that there are nine cartels operating in Mexico: Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation, Los Zetas, Gulf, Tijuana, Beltrán Leyva, Juárez, Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios.
The department found 45 criminal cells who besides working in drug trafficking, are also in the robbing of petroleum, kidnapping, extortion, and human trafficking.
The old rules imposed by the drug groups from the 1970’s have changed, to make way for the new generation of bosses who, unlike their predecessors, display their operating power even in social networks, where they also threaten their rivals and make their executions public as well as boasting about their luxuries life.
Their powers to corrupt, their ability to infiltrate police forces, their alliances with people in politics and business have not changed. They are the lifeline of their safety net. Their code, “plata o plomo” (silver or lead) also persists.
On the “atomization” of the big cartels, Gerardo Rodríguez, an expert on national security and terrorism, explains that when these criminal cells form, they have greater control over the territories since they know firsthand how the economic flow moves. They can also display their criminal activity better and their local protection networks.
“In the case of Mexico, the Bacrim model (emerging criminal groups) of Colombia, where small groups evolved to other profitable illicit businesses such as extorting economic sectors, merchandise theft, human trafficking, and kidnappings, is being copied,” detailed the member of the Collective of Security Analysis with Democracy (Casede).
The criminal cells, he adds, have territorial control, block by block, from the cities where they operate.
Rodríguez says that the government’s strategy in fighting organized crime is good, however, may fail if the criminal structures, which are structured in the form of a pyramid, are not completely destroyed. “After capturing the big bosses, they have to do the same with other leaders and attack their financial assets.”
Javier Oliva, an expert on national security and an academic of UNAM, believes that “the fragmentation was very predictable; there was already experience in other cases where when they captured leaders of a criminal organization, it tended to divide, which has led to a dispute over turfs. This atomizes the fight against organized crime when having less visible leaders and can result in an increased perception of criminalization”.
Source: El Universal