Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mexico's Splintering Drug Gangs Pose New Security Risk

Mica Rosenberg and Rachel Uranga,
Few people had heard of the 'Hand with Eyes' before the drug gang dumped a severed head in a working class neighborhood outside Mexico City.

A crudely scrawled message at the crime scene in March said, "'The Hand with Eyes' takes its time but never forgets. Last chance to get the hell out of the Valle de Mexico."

The upstart gang formed just last year is already believed to be responsible for hundreds of murders, taking the kind of brutal bloodshed common in cities on the U.S. border closer to the Mexican capital, so far largely untouched by the mayhem.

Prosecutors say it is one of several new, hyper-violent groups splintering off from major drug cartels and earning a reputation for gratuitous violence.

"Before (the cartels) killed when it was necessary. Not like now. Now they kill as if it were sport," said Alfredo Castillo, a state prosecutor in the industrial town of Toluca, about an hour outside of the capital.

A breakaway group in Toluca formed from the largely dismantled Beltran Leyva cartel, the 'Hand with Eyes" -- or "Mano con ojos" in Spanish -- is fighting with a local rival, the 'Cartel del Centro' to control street-level drug dealing.

When President Felipe Calderon took office there were only around four major criminal organizations operating in Mexico.

Now, almost five years after he sent the military to try to crush the cartels, some security analysts say there are at least a dozen competing for survival.

They prove themselves with escalating acts of violence and earn extra cash by branching into parallel criminal enterprises like kidnapping and extortion.

"It seems like every day we hear of a new group. There are more than I can count," said a U.S. official in Mexico.

The changing cartel landscape is a liability for Calderon heading into presidential elections next year. He cannot run again and his ruling party is struggling to overcome poor approval ratings due in part to the violence.

Security will present a major challenge for the next president since the violence that has killed 42,000 people since late 2006 is unlikely to stop after the election.

In a victory for the government last week, police arrested the leader of the 'Hand with Eyes' gang, Oscar Garcia, one of more than 20 top capos to be killed or captured by Calderon's government. A former marine, Garcia admitted to killing 300 people and ordering the murders of 300 more.

Calderon and U.S. officials working with Mexico to help combat drug violence say they are systematically weakening the cartels by attacking the command structure.

But the strategy of going after top cartel brass may be backfiring as others step into the void and assume control.

"As you pull out the leadership of the organization it creates confusion, nobody knows who is in charge," said the U.S. official, asking not to be named.

The expansion of Mexico's drug trade -- which rakes in an estimated $40 billion per year -- can also fan internal rivalries and divisions. Poppy cultivation in Mexico jumped 500 percent between 2003 and 2009 while marijuana growing tripled, the U.S. government says.

"When an organization gets too big, the No. 2s also get very ambitious and they think they are not getting a fair share of profits so you start to get break-away groups," said Mexican security analyst Alberto Islas. "It's like a divorce."

Many trace Mexico's drug trade back to a single figure, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, a former policeman dubbed "The Godfather," who built a national cocaine smuggling network in the 1980s by linking up with Colombian traffickers.

After Gallardo's 1989 arrest, four major criminal organizations grew out of his empire. More splits followed.

The Beltran Leyva brothers, who worked for Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa cartel and Mexico's most wanted man, broke away and forged their own cartel in 2008.

One of the brothers was killed in a shootout with marines a year later, prompting a further split into at least three new gangs, including 'Mano con ojos.'

The smaller groups do not control major cross-border trafficking networks like their larger rivals so they often drum up extra cash with kidnappings, extortion rackets, people-smuggling, carjacking, audio and video piracy and oil and cargo theft, analysts say.

One of Mexico's most brutal gangs, the Zetas, was once the paramilitary wing of the Gulf cartel but now fights its former employer in Tamaulipas and the business city of Monterrey.

Among new groups to emerge in recent months are the Knights Templar, a group espousing pseudo-religious beliefs that split from "the Family" in Michoacan state after its leader was killed.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, a researcher at Washington's Brookings Institution, said the split made little difference to locals.

"Where the state presence is minimum, it doesn't matter if its a bigger group or a smaller group, their lives are still dominated by crime gangs," she said.


  1. The problem is they continue to capture when they should be executing. After capturing them they need to put them in total isolation and stop treating them like rock stars giving them TV interviews etc. then they need to get all the intel from them possible and then hang them on national TV! Mexico has willingly created this monster and everything they have done in the last 5 years is just feeding the problem making things worse. The only true answer to this is complete extermination of ALL narcos. They need to roll tanks into Sinaloa and crush all of the narco mansions and ranches and they need to crush all of the cemeteries that have narco shrines in them. The U.S. better wake up and build a huge secure fence the entire length of the border and do more to stop the psychopathic violence from spreading across to the U.S. side of the border.

  2. What the liberal media doesn't want to acknowledge is that with these new splintering in organize crime is due to Calderon being successful in fighting organize crime. Its a divide and conquer strategy. Look at organizations 5 years ago to today and you will see they don't have the same power nor organization they once did. Everyone is splitting or fighting within each other because of all the drug lords that have been arrested or killed from the Calderon Administration. Which means bad for business and they will kill each other off. But of coarse the liberal media doesn't mention that haha.

  3. You cannot fight an unlimited supply of foot soldiers, you need to go after their commanding officers, Calderon is so stupid you have to take down the larger cartels before they go after the smaller ones. sinoloa need to go first.

    Every 3 month a new cartel pops up,what good is Mexico having an army of 192,000 soldiers if they cant even take down 1 cartel or at least have full control of 1 city especially Nuevo León.

  4. Easy to complain and criticize. Hard to offer meaningful suggestions. I agree with the other comments about the death penalty, and really taking out an organization. Some other ideas are air superiority to end roadblocks. The lookouts at each end of the highway would be surprised when military aircraft come in from the middle. Media deletion of narco messages and giving credit to certain cartels for violence. Real surveillance of the same bridges that have bodies hung from them weekly. Nationalized police with frequent reassignments out of hometowns would be great. Shoot perpetrators instead of capturing them. Jail garb and no vest during interviews of perps. I do like that the bad guys are usually flanked by much taller police guards. During the interviews when the bad guy starts getting cocky, they should ask, how does your mother feel about you botchering bodies? What if someone did these things to your family?

  5. For idiots and conservatives, the death penalty is like tax cuts or guns: there is no ailment they will not cure; including foot fungus.

    Albeit slowly, this story shows that the government's long term strategy is working. Like in the US, the influence of interstate and crime groups is deliberately splintered to eventually make each splinter a more manageable (and more localized) problem.

    ...gees...and at the rock bottom price of just 40k slaughtered people so far.

  6. La mamo con ojos had 35 people in it according to compayito. And they distributed localy 2kilos of coke a week he said. That sounds like a street gang to me, not near a cartel in my eyes. I'm sure there's bangers in the u.s that do the same. A lot of splinter groups in my eyes seem overhyped and made to seem bigger them they are like CIDA, cartel del centro, and manos con ojos.

  7. @11:51am
    Bingo! These smaller splinter groups are street level distributors running a few narco teinditas.

  8. @August 22, 2011 4:47 AM

    You really have no idea what you are talking about.

    "You cannot fight an unlimited supply of foot soldiers, you need to go after their commanding officers, Calderon is so stupid you have to take down the larger cartels before they go after the smaller ones. sinoloa need to go first."

    Did you not read the part where the article said "more than 20 top capos to be killed or captured by Calderon's government." Which leads to fractions or splintering into smaller groups. These new cartels are now street level gangs which control local drug distribution and that's about it. Nothing more. Very powerful huh?

    "Every 3 month a new cartel pops up,what good is Mexico having an army of 192,000 soldiers if they cant even take down 1 cartel or at least have full control of 1 city especially Nuevo León."

    Calderon has only sent in a fraction of the army, why he hasn't sent every soldier into the fight, beats the shit out of me. FYI Nuevo Leon is not a city, its a state. A big one at that.

  9. Cartel de Sinaloa
    Cartel del Golfo
    Los Zetas
    La Familia Michoacana
    Los Caballeros templarios
    Los Arellano Felix
    Cartel Independiente de Acapulco
    Beltran Leyva
    New Generation Jalisco Cartel
    Cartel del Centro
    Cartel de la Calle
    Milenio Cartel
    Juarez Cartel
    Cartel de la Sierra
    La Barbies Crew?

    Did I forget any???

  10. Surprising how small they made Mano Con Ojos, wonder if it's true. El JJ said he was moving 60 a month in Mexico City.

  11. @ 7:29

    I must be one of those idiots you are talking about then when it comes to the death penalty.

    Look it is not about fixing all ailments...I just see the DP as a way to rid the system of Why would you want to keep housing these monsters when all they do is run the joint from the inside and take up resources???

    once again..the DP is not a is a flushing of the toilet.

    spend the money on something else worthwhile like helping the poor instead of housing shit.

    thats all there is to it.

  12. @ DC...
    Mexico congress has been considering bring back the DP for two years. There is a driving movement gaining strength in its support. If the violence increases in severity it has a chance. However they make it clear it will be for crimes such as the mass kidnappings and the tamps 72 as well as others such as those in charge of ordering killings etc.

    I say it should include those in positions of fiduciary that betray the trust and work in collusion with cartels and gangs. Like politicians!

    i AGREE DP SHOULD not be considered a deterrent, it is punitive. period. and prevention. I remember the Ted Bundy case. Remember he escaped and went on to kill the girls in the dorm and the child he kidnapped from school.
    He can no longer kill.

    But there are big flaws in capital punishment in our country. when ä race representing 12% of the populus represents 52 percent of death row...there is a problem of fairness and parity.
    DNA is another issue, if we are willing to kill a person for crimes we ought to foot the cost of him proving his innocence. Death row consists of mostly non white poor inmates.

    WHy is it an attractive white woman, who oviously is guilty of killing her baby, not only gets freedom, but tax payers pay for her high cost, high powered private defense? There is an outrages answer to that, but the point being is you are white, attractive and lawyered well, you have a great chance of getting away with murder.

    Because of these issues I cannot support the death penalty though I do support it in theory.

  13. The picture posted in this story is an important one, though of another story. Acapulco had 30+ murders last week just through saturday afternoon, they call it black week.

    Aca is very violent. I posted a story on forum about this picutre and another. This picture depicts men in aca that were on this bridge which is in front of Sea World. Men drove up and litered the street with AK 47 shells but hit their target, the men lying dead in the photo.

    That action was in full view of many tourists.

    Second on the same day a truck load of armed men with a dismembered body of a man. they stopped and placed the head on a bench then taunted the shocked citizens who saw this, with the dismembered arms and legs terrorizing them. they went on to hang and place the parts in several places about Aca and enjoyed terrorizing the people. It seems that terror is as important than anything else in Aca.

    BTW: Cabo San Lucas is in an assassins war. they have had unusual violence the past 2 months as two groups battle it out...

    @ J...I am translating a great piece about the loose lips of those narcos caught and it pretty much is bullshit and why. its very interesting, you probably already read it, I should be finished by Wed.

  14. La limpia mazatleca
    la barredora
    el comando del diablo


  16. @4:52

    Nah, DC.

    A comment without an elbow, is like "uno de tripa" without the grilled onions: it just isn't the way its supposed to be. He, he...

    I consider death an "elegant solution" that is dispensed by "imperfect" justice (by elegant I mean "perfect," or not able to have recourse; once consummated there's no going back). Isn't the nature of a system engineered by humans to be fallible; manipulable? We shouldn't accept rules of evidence that are "good enough" when considering a sanction without room for mistakes; the elegant sanction. (I can feel people's brains saying, "this is gonna cost us tax money," but there are far more stupid ways to spend our money than paying whatever it takes to maintain our humanity.)

    Y pues... "o todos coludos o todos rabones; cabrones."

    You can't have an "elegant" solution for the poor and another for the rich (or educated). Just because a jury says so, doesn't make it right; mistakes have been made. No?

    In my opinion, Americans are easily persuadable to support this penalty because of our perceived distance from any situation where we feel a risk to our flesh; this allows us to exceed our ability to empathize with those that are caught in that web. We can always come up with an "on the one hand, and on the other hand" argument when really we just don't give a shit. The typical limits of our effort (when thinking about someone dieing at the hands of our own government) is to think and say: "Quien le manda al pendejo...por buey." We never think about how "I" sanctioned the killing because I neglected my responsibilities as a human being.

    I reject this lethargic compartmentalization of my psyche; its probably because and I am a proud liberal, pro-life, atheist that doesn't accept anyone or anything as superior to me (BTW, I'm not superior to anyone either).

    I AM GOD.

    I have the power of life and death. I'm the one that has the power to stand in the way of someone dieing in my name. I OPPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR ANYONE.

    I respect life; I couldn't flush anyone. "Call me crazy." (J.Huntsman)

    ...whatever, nevermind...

    BTW... I think I would allow myself to enjoy vengeance for a wrong done to me; but by the time I pull the trigger I would have accepted the consequences of my actions. I would probably turn myself in... probably...

  17. La limpia mazatleca = Beltran Leyva

    la barredora,el comando del diablo=Beltran Leyva

  18. Don't expect Mexicans to act like Germans,Showboat politics,no death penalty no right to carry for the public, weak,unenforced BS laws,The public dosen't stand a chance.

  19. @3:47

    What's your point? The U.S. consumes almost 50% of the WORLDS drugs. So you can't seriously believe these drugs sell themselves once they cross the border. Of course not, there has to be several distributors.

    Gangs In The United States

    Hells Angels
    Mara Salvatrucha
    American Mafia
    Aryan Brotherhood
    Texas Syndicate
    Ku Klux Klan

    And DOZENS of others I wont bother to mention. But if you're curious, go here for the full list.

  20. @9:44

    Umm what's my point. How about the title of the article " How Mexican splintering drug gangs pose new secretary risk" So I was naming cartels and the some splinter gangs... What's your point? Clearly you don't understand the concept.

  21. Texcoco Mex said

    @ August 22, 2011 2:34 PM Calderon has only sent in a fraction of the army, why he hasn't sent every soldier into the fight, beats the shit out of me.

    Calderon wants to do it but congress won't let him.

    @Buela If what you said about DP is truth then I hope we get it.

  22. A death penalty will have little success. These guys operate with the possibility of death everyday for one. Most are on amphetamine or cocaine and think they are invincible. Last, the Mexican government uses the death penalty on a day by day, hour by hour basis. They kill a lot of people as they are judge, jury, and executioner. They don't send it to court. And the cost of a death penalty case would be so high, they couldn't do it. I would guess ours cost are between 5 and 15 million each.

  23. What do the statistics say about what percentage of people arrested in mexico are convicted? 5%? That's some deterrent. Even if everyone convicted is sent to death, you're looking at a 1 in 20 chance. You've got a better chance of getting blasted by a rival cartel. Mexico can't even put people away, much less keep them in prison. How efficient you think death row is gonna run?

  24. La Barredora/Comando del Diablo are Sinaloa.

  25. @ 12:34 august 23

    You may/may not be aware that there is a detainment which is separate than arrest. we we read of these "arrests" often they are simply detainments and a tiny percentage of those go on to be booked and arrested and charged. I am uncertain if this calculation is of both however, it is apx 3% go to trial and are convicted.

    also there are huge judicial changes that have occurred in Mx whcih has until next year to implement. Federal proscecutors have been trained in the US as the changes incurring are modeled after the US system. Lets hope there will be positive changem but until there is control of corruption incarceration and judicial systems will suffer.

    You are correct the death penalty would bring along with it a wide berth of opportunity for abuse. I am not sure how I feel about it. But for all intents the death penalty exists in Mx, one shot eliminates the need for arrest, proscecution, judgement, incarceration and proposed execution.

    and perhaps not having captial punishment is one reason why.

  26. I agree with the Death penalty for those that murder multiple people, however what good will the Death Penalty be if when a murderer gets caught, 9 times out of 10 he is released from Prison in 2 years ?.

    BTW to the Liberal pro-Life anti-death penalty person that posted above, have you ever had a family member murdered, and what would you do if you came home and saw your wife laying on the floor, raped and being beaten to death, would you stand and watch, call 911 or beg ?.

    Remember when you answer it only takes a few seconds to kill someone, but it takes around 15 minutes for the police to arrive.

    If your answer is to wait until the Police come, than say good bye to your wife, but if you pull a Gun and kill him, than Hug her and thank God she is alive.

    I'm no Gun nut and I wish I did not have to carry one, but I sincerly thank our Forefathers that had wisdom to allow us this freedom to save others and to defend ourselves and remeber it's always better to be judged by 12 people than to be carried by 6.

  27. @11:51
    If you saw "la mano con ojos interview" he said that he had about 35 man working for him, but he said that evwry one of those 35 had their own group!!!

  28. @5:59pm

    The above LIBERAL, PRO-LIFE, ATHEIST (at 7:38) that knows he is god, stated that "I think I would allow myself to enjoy vengeance for a wrong done to me; but, by the time I pull the trigger I would have accepted the consequences of my actions. I would probably turn myself in... probably..."

    Responding to your argument: Statistically, it is impossible that only those that have suffered the murder of a family member are the only ones that support the death penalty; after all, 69% (2010) of the our population support it. So, what you (and anyone that hasn't been a victim of violent crime but still supports the DP) probably intended to say is that you can foresee a instance where you would want to exact a vengeance, and therefore support a provision in the law where (under the scenario you mention) a killer would eventually be killed themselves.

    Well, you're in luck!! That's what the law is in all but 10 US states, right now!

    But, what I argue is that the above STATE SANCTIONED KILLING is what we should not accept, as a society. We are fallible, human and likely to get things wrong in MORE THAN ZERO cases. If killing someone is exact and final, shouldn't deciding who gets killed be just as precise? So...can we be precise? No, humans cannot be precise. So...then, if we cannot be precise and fair in how we decide who gets the DP, should we allow ourselves to use it at all??

    ...well, that depends on how pro-life you are...

    No. Dummy, anti-DP, gun owning liberals (like me) are not above wanting to exact vengeance on some SOB that's bludgeoned my wife to the floor; I am human, I am alive and I am capable of love and hate. I label myself "dummy" because I declare that if I were to allow myself the privilege of taking someone's life in vengeance, the only (intellectually honest) subsequent action (after pulling the trigger in a pre-meditated vengeance murder) would be to turn myself in at the nearest police station. ...after all, I am only a god and not above man's law.

    This is fun!!!


  29. Well that's the way it goes right? Whatever new surprises these splintered gangs throw at the Mexican government, the government has to roll with the punches and must adapt to everything these cartels throw at them, even if it means fighting off extremely violent and reckless street gangs who roam the streets like rabid rats.

    Mexico and the U.S. should also branch off by using military contractors, both Mexican and American, specially trained soldiers to specialize in fighting these gangs in the streets. Like the Los Angeles gang task forces that cleaned up the city. Afterwards, L.A. had a drop in gang homicides, even experiencing one of it's safest years in a decade.


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;