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

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Mexico's War On Cartels Has Created 400 New Gangs That Are Taking On The Police And Cartels That Are Left

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat 

A bullet-riddled wall bearing the initials of the criminal group Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) at the entrance of the community of Aguililla, state of Michoacan, Mexico, April 23, 2021.

* Mexico's criminal landscape has shifted over the past decade, with hundreds of gangs and splinter groups emerging.

* Those groups partner with and fight against the few remaining major cartels that control much of the drug trade.

* That proliferation has been a challenge and asset for major cartels, but it has overwhelmed Mexican law enforcement. 

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Over the past 10 years, the makeup of Mexico's criminal landscape has shifted from a handful of big cartels and some splinter groups to more than 400 gangs operating all over the country, many of them with ties to the US.

A 2008 intelligence report by the Mexican army detailed the first fragmentation of what then was Mexico's ruling cartel: Arturo Beltran Leyva's split from "The Federation of Sinaloa," which was run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

Beltran Leyva founded his own cartel, naming it after himself, but by the end of 2009, Mexican Marines working with US agents had located Arturo Beltran, killing him in a raid in the resort city of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City.

The fragmentation has continued since then. Now more than 400 gangs operate in Mexico, according to the most recent report by Lantia Intelligence, a Mexican consulting agency specializing in criminal organizations and security analysis.

Police officers at a crime scene where gunmen killed at least 13 Mexican police officers in an ambush, in Coatepec Harinas, Mexico, March 19, 2021.

"Today most of these 400 criminal cells are coalitions more than independent groups," according to Eduardo Guerrero, director of Lantia, which maintains a database on gangs updated monthly.

Guerrero said the fragmentation was a direct consequence of the "war against cartels" that right-wing Mexican President Felipe Calderon escalated soon after taking office in 2006.

"The DEA advised Calderon to start a strategic fragmentation between cartels, but Mexico police forces were not prepared, and the narcos bought the police [at] every level," Guerrero said, referring to pervasive corruption.

American officials have also pointed to that US-supported strategy as a driver of violence in recent years.

The Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels "are the biggest players in Mexico today, with a lot of partners," Guerrero told Insider.

The Sinaloa Cartel has split into more than 37 "small and medium sized cells," according to the Lantia report obtained by Insider.

Forensic technicians at a crime scene where assailants left the bodies of a woman and a man, in Ciudad Juarez, September 22, 2021.

The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which was formed by a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, operates with more than 36 cells around the country.

Major criminal groups mostly have horizontal rather than hierarchical structures, Guerrero said. The Sinaloa Cartel in particular is believed to be more adaptable because it operates as a group of cooperating factions.

"But in some cases, especially with those small gangs, they do have a chain of command," Guerrero said.

Not all cells cooperate with the larger group to which they're linked. Cartel Nueva Plaza, a Jalisco cartel cell with strong ties to Asia and the US, is believed to have challenged the Jalisco cartel on its home turf in Guadalajara, spurring a wave of bloodshed there in 2018.

The Lantia report also describes once-powerful organizations like Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, Beltran Leyva, and Familia Michoacana as almost nonexistent, having fragmented into about 50 different groups with operations in 16 of Mexico's 32 states.

'Local alliances'

Mexican Federal Police outside the Puente Grande prison in Zapotlanejo in Jalisco state, August 9, 2013

The proliferation of small gangs and the presence of powerful criminal organizations have overwhelmed Mexican law enforcement, according to security experts.

"The criminal organizations in Mexico are extremely empowered by the fact that they think there is no threat to them by the Mexican state," said Manelich Castilla, who was the head of Mexico's Federal Police before it was folded into the country's new National Guard in 2019.

Castilla acknowledged that Mexico's law-enforcement authorities are actively participating in organized crime and that "there are no solid authorities, especially at a local level."

"The fentanyl business changed everything. Since it is so profitable and it moves in such small quantities, fentanyl made cartels much more empowered and rich, overwhelming all levels of authorities," he said. 

Castilla said the small gangs proliferating in Mexico are not a threat to established cartels but rather support their power.

"They work under their directions, not against them. The roughest threat is for Mexican local authorities. Cartels that might not have had a strong local presence in many cities now do, and this is totally overwhelming," he said. 

Larger cartels might also be empowered by having local alliances in cities where they operate. A Sinaloa Cartel operative in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, said the cartel didn't feel a threat from gangs or small organized groups

Cartel gunmen on a street during clashes with police after the detention of a son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in Culiacan, October 17, 2019.

"They will never be a threat. We are the ones paying their bills, asking them to support our organizations, and what they get in return more than money is the support of a strong organization like the Sinaloa," the operative told Insider, speaking anonymously to avoid retaliation.

The operative said that these local gangs "look for us to have a brand behind them. Otherwise they are on their own."

Criminal organizations have gained "a lot of power" and co-opted officials at many levels in recent years, but they aren't able to threaten the power of the Mexican state, Castilla said.

"It is a lie to believe that some of these organizations overpower the capacity of the Mexican state. They don't have the infrastructure or the training as Mexican law enforcement does," Castilla told Insider.

The issue, Castilla said, is the approach that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has taken to fighting organized crime.

López Obrador, elected in 2018, has been criticized for adopting a non-confrontational security strategy, which he has referred to as "hugs not guns."

López Obrador "is trying to pacify the country with other ways than confrontation, and this has been very much used by criminals to get stronger," Castilla said

Business Insider


  1. Wonder if there any much more powerful and dangerous crime groups around the glob than Mexican Cartels

  2. "they can't challenge the power of the Mexican State," buddy they don't have too, O.C. is already ensconced in every level of Mexican government. Everyone of those Morena mayors made a pact with the devil in order to get elected, the best thing Mexico can do at this point is be honest with itself and seek to negotiate for the best deals from the larger groups.

    1. O.C. stands for Orange County, what that have to do with the article you fool

    2. Your grammar is as bad as your understanding of crime and history fool.

    3. @1:20 O.C = organized crime you fool lmao... not everything revolves around you commifornians.

    4. Aka gun owner, when a comment is made, and you abbrivate, letters don't expect everyone to know what you mean OSFLT, I abbreviated hope you know what it means bet you will be the fool now😂

    5. You all are fools for not being able to see a joke…….

    6. Juan Gonzalez
      I don't see no joke, and I am not laughing, can you at point at who made a joke by putting in time slot.

  3. Amlo well done. U a great man president of the people, sorry of the Cartels

    1. AMLO inherited this epidemic from past bad policies and deals with cartels. Added with foreign influence. Yes,INFLUENCE of American policies and financial gains for Mexican government.
      Look around and see what this war on drugs has contributed? Can assure nothing positive for both countries.

    2. Yes being a new president, he is enpt at curtailing violence. Everyday there are murders.
      Being new president does nada.

    3. AMLO took office in December 2018
      Can we really say he's new in office?
      People need to stop trying to defend him and accept the fact that if he hasn't made any positive changes when it comes to cartels now, he won't ever.
      All he does is try to talk his way out of the situation when they ask him about the cartel problem.
      Not to long ago he stood in front of a Camara and said Mexico didn't have a cartel problem.
      When general cienfuegos came back to Mexico after the US released him from custody, guess who was talking in his defense? Yup, AMLO..
      He was blabbing about how he is innocent and they have no proof of him doing nothing anything wrong..
      The US sent him enough evidence to give him at least 100 life sentences 😆.. belive me, I believed in AMLO for about a year until I noticed he's full of SH!t..

    4. 10:42 well said, no lies in this matter, there's a Almo cheerleader in here, that will come in attacking you in many ways, that he had barracks built for the military.
      Yes that was a good prime example, of the trick him and his puppets did on the General Cienfuegos issue, they were upset he was arrested in USA, without advanced notice, they played the Trump government well, by saying they will put him through Mexican Court, with a lot of evidence from DEA, and he was let free in Mexico after a week, puppet Almo, stated no evidence.
      Furthermore this was the time, it was putting limited access to DEA in Mexico, but wait what about the millions in yearly aid given to fight the war on drugs?

  4. Golfos gone? don't think so . . read the news

  5. Gulf cartel is almost none existent? Criminal groups pose no threat to the mexican state? Someone tell this castilla asshole to wear a diaper on his face to stop the bullshit coming out of his mouth.


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