The History of Gangs in Mexico part 1

Posted: 15/04/2011 in World

Mexico’s gangs have flourished since the late 19th century, mostly in the north due to their proximity to towns along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But it was the American appetite for cocaine in the 1970s that gave Mexican drug cartels immense power to manufacture and transport drugs across the border. Today, gang violence in Mexico, as these cartels battle for territory and supremacy in the drug trade, has spilled over in the United States.


Early Mexico gangs were primarily situated in border towns where prostitution, drug use, bootlegging and extortion flourished. These gangs are not to be confused with Mexican-American street gangs, which had focused on territorial control in early postwar Los Angeles and other urban centers.


Mexican drug cartels extend their reach from Mexico to Central and South America. Columbia, the source of much of the cocaine exported to the U.S., is under control of South American gangs, but they must do business with the Mexican cartels to transport drugs north. The Northern Mexico gangs hold the most sway because the territory is the vital last link in trafficking. As a consequence the Arellano Felix gang of Tijuana, the Juarez organization in Ciudad Juarez, the West Coast-based Sinaloa consortium and the Reynosa-based Gulf Cartel are the most powerful.

Drug Trade

Millions of dollars in U.S. currency are taken into custody by U.S. and Mexican law enforcement.
Virtually all of organized crime in Mexico involves drug trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border by air or sea. Competition for drug routes and access to the product, primarily cocaine and marijuana, grew fierce by the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the early 1970s, the Mexican Mafia, a U.S. prison gang network based in California, began to engage in the trade, although their impact has not reached the heights of the major cartels.

Government Response

Seized weapons and drugs from a Mexican drug cartel
In 2007, Mexico’s police stepped up enforcement, crushing many gang cells responsible for 2,000 murders in 2006. However, increased enforcement also brought pitched battles between police and gang members into the public, such as on the streets of the beach resort town of Mazatlan.

Street gangs

Mexico’s street gangs are not unlike the U.S. urban gangs with the same goals of extortion, theft, robbery and drug sales. Yet the major difference is that many Mexican street gangs are at the bidding of the cartels to perform services, including intimidation and murder. The Mexican Mafia also utilizes low-level local gangs for these purposes.

Kidnap Gangs

Outgrowths of the drug cartels are Mexico’s kidnap gangs. More than 1,000 kidnappings were carried out in 2008, prompting an emerging cottage industry that provides security, bullet-proof vehicles and advance technology to thwart abductions. These kidnappings range from high-profile snatchings to opportunists seeking a quick cash infusion from the family of their victim.

A disturbing trend has developed over the past six years as competition has grown so deadly among drug gangs that violent battles against police, either who are cracking down on gangsters or themselves have become corrupt, leaving scores of lawmen dead. For the first time in modern Mexican gang history, these battles have extended into Texas, New Mexico and Arizona as gangs conduct raids against competitors and law enforcement.

The list of gangs in Mexico

18 street

18th Street gang is considered to be the largest transnational criminal gang in Los Angeles, California. It is estimated that there are thousands of members in Los Angeles County alone. There are approximately 200 separate individual autonomous gangs operating under the same label within separate barrios in the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, South Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles, Pico Union, Inglewood, Cudahy, and Orange County, according to the latest figures from the NDIC.

Their wide-ranging activities and elevated status has even caught the eye of the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who recently initiated wide-scale raids against known and suspected gang members netting hundreds of arrests across the country.

18th Street Gang Targets Wellington from Help Save Manassas on Vimeo.


18th Street gang members are required to abide by a strict set of rules. Failure to obey the word of a gang leader, or to show proper respect to a fellow gang member, may result in an 18-second beating, or even execution for more serious offenses.

According to the FBI, some factions of the 18th Street gang have developed a high level of sophistication and organization. The 18th Street gang is of Hispanic origin and was formed by Mexican-American youth who were not accepted in the existing Mexican-American gangs, Some African-Americans have joined also.
18th Street gang members often identify themselves with the number 18 on their jerseys and clothing.

18th Street will use the symbols XVIII, 666, BEST= standing for Barrio Eighteen Street. 18th Street colors are black and blue. Blue is to represent Surenos/Southern California and black is to represent the original color for the gang.

The 18th Street gang is occasionally referred to as the «Children’s Army» because of its recruitment of elementary and middle-school aged youth.
In El Salvador it is common for members of the gang, to be tattooed on the face with a large «18». In many cases the tattoo covers the entire face.
18th street gang by blankok

18th Street is a well established gang that is involved in all areas of street-crime. Some members have even become involved in producing fraudulent Immigration and Customs Enforcement identification cards and food stamps. Several 18th Street gang members have evolved into a higher level of sophistication and organization than other gangs. They also have been linked to occurrences of murder, murder-for-hire, assaults, drug trafficking, extortion, vandalism, drug smuggling, prostitution, robbery, and weapons trafficking, as well as other crimes.

18th Street Gang has been implicated in the high-profile kidnapping and murder of the 16 year old brother of internationally renowned Honduran soccer player Wilson Palacios.

The majority of 18th Street cliques operating throughout Southern California and are the result of Los Angeles members migrating to other areas and establishing cliques under their leadership. Members originally from Los Angeles tend to be more respected than those in other areas.

18th Street cliques have been identified in 32 states and the District of Columbia in the United States, as well as foreign countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Canada. Some cliques are Tiny Locos, 54th,Little Locos, Hollywood Gangsters, Pico Gangsters, 106th block, Grand View, Hoover, Shato Park, Mac Arthur Park, Colombia Lil Sycos, Smile Drive, Shadow Park, Rancho Park, Cudahi, South Central, Baby Locas (A Females Clique) and the Malditos in Orange County.

Beltrán-Leyva Cartel

The Beltrán-Leyva Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de los Beltrán Leyva[1][2]) is a Mexican drug cartel and organized crime syndicate founded by the four Beltrán Leyva brothers: Marcos Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor.
The cartel is responsible for cocaine transportation and wholesaling, marijuana production and wholesaling, and heroin production and wholesaling, controls numerous drug trafficking corridors, and engages in human smuggling, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, murder and gun-running.The Beltrán Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, are now allies of Los Zetas.


Born in the Sinaloan countryside in the 1960s, the Beltrán Leyva brothers – Marcos Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor – worked closely with Joaquín «El Chapo» Guzmán, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, during decades of smuggling.

Sensing a void in the rival Gulf Cartel after Osiel Cárdenas’ arrest on March 14, 2003, the Sinaloa Cartel began to move into Gulf Cartel territory. Both gangs have been battling each other in northern Mexican cities since then, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people including civilians, police and journalists. About 90% of the deaths are of drug traffickers.

In 2004 and 2005, Arturo Beltrán Leyva led powerful groups of assassins to fight for trade routes in northeastern Mexico for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Through the use of corruption or intimidation, the Beltrán Leyva Cartel has been able to infiltrate Mexico’s political, judicial and police institutions to feed classified information about anti-drug operations,and has even infiltrated the Interpol office in Mexico.

The arrest of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva (a.k.a.: El Mochomo) on January 20, 2008,was a huge blow to the Sinaloa Cartel, as he allegedly oversaw large-scale drug-smuggling operations and was a key money launderer for the cartel. In apparent revenge for the arrest of his brother Alfredo, Arturo ordered the assassination of the commissioner of the Federal Police, Édgar Eusebio Millán Gómez, and other top federal officials in the Mexican capital.

One group of these hit men was captured in a Mexico City house with dozens of assault rifles, pistols, grenade launchers, 30 hand grenades, and bullet-proof jackets bearing the legend FEDA — the Spanish acronym for ‘Special Forces of Arturo’. Apparently, the Beltrán Leyva brothers blamed their boss Joaquin «Chapo» Guzmán for their brother’s arrest,and ordered the assassination of Guzmán’s son, 22 year-old Édgar Guzmán López, which was carried out in a shopping center parking lot by at least 15 gunmen using assault rifles and grenade launchers.

The residual impact of Alfredo’s arrest not only undermined long-term Sinaloa alliances, but resurrected animosities between rival cartel leaders Joaquin «El Chapo» Guzmán and Arturo’s new allies, the Juárez Cartel, and provided the catalyst behind the bloodshed in Mexico’s most-violent city: Ciudad Juárez. The Beltrán Leyva brothers, and those loyalists who departed the Sinaloa Cartel with them, have allied with Los Zetas, causing an escalation of conflict in strongholds shared uneasily by «old» Sinaloa leaders.
In February 2010, the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel and los Zetas engaged in a violent turf war against the new alliance integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel in the border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, rendering some border towns «ghost towns».

Official reports from early 2010 mention a current infighting for the control of the cartel and its territory. One faction is led by liuetenants Édgar Valdez Villarreal and Gerardo Alvarez-Vazquez, while the other is led by Héctor Beltrán Leyva and his lieutenant Sergio Villarreal Barragán. On April 2010 Héctor Beltrán Leyva created a cartel cell or branch in Morelos state named Cartel del Pacífico Sur (English: South Pacific Cartel) best known for having employed a 12-year-old gunman and executioner.

Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel‎‎; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel.

The cartel’s assets include:

Dominance over drug and other illegal activities at airports in Mexico, Monterrey, Toluca, Cancún, and Acapulco;

Hotels and restaurants, constructed to launder money, in Cancún, Acapulco, Cozumel, and other resorts;
A working agreement with Los Zetas.
Supply corridors for moving marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine from the Andes to the Arctic;
Capability to extort, launder money, run guns, smuggle humans, promote prostitution, and carry out kidnappings;

Operations in Mexico City, Chiapas, Guerrero Mexico State, Morelos, Nuevo León, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Tamaulipas, as well as in the United States and Canada;
Access to some high-ranking public figures and Army personnel whom they have bribed or intimidated.

The Beltrán Leyva brothers’ Colombian cocaine supplier, Ever Villafane Martínez, was arrested in Morelos in August 2008. Since then, the organization has pursued a relationship with Víctor and Darío Espinoza Valencia of Colombia’s Norte del Valle cartel

The United States is offering a US$5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Héctor Beltrán Leyva, who now leads the drug cartel.

Alfredo Beltrán Leyva was captured on January 20, 2008, Arturo was killed by Mexican Marines in a shoot-out on December 16, 2009. Carlos Beltrán Leyva was captured by the Mexican Federal Police on December 30, 2009, in Culiacán, Sinaloa after showing authorities a fake driver’s license. On April 22, 2010, a cartel lieutenant Gerardo Alvarez-Vazquez was captured on the outskirts of Mexico city; the U.S. had been offering a $2 million U.S. bounty for his arrest. Hector’s rival, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, was arrested on August 30, 2010 outside Mexico City. On September 12, 2010 Sergio Villarreal Barragán was arrested in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City. Héctor Beltrán Leyva, is still at large and considered to be the leader of what remains of the cartel.

Colima Cartel

The Colima Cartel was a Mexican drug trafficking and methamphetamine producing cartel operating out of Guadalajara, Jalisco. It was formerly founded and led by José de Jesús Amezcua Contreras while and supported by his brothers Adán and Luis.

The Colima Cartel is believed to obtain large quantities of the precursor ephedrine through contacts in Thailand and India, and then it is distributed to different methamphetamine labs in Mexico and the United States.
The Colima cartel has become a branch of the Sinaloa Cartel as are the Milenio Cartel, Guadalajara Cartel and Sonora Cartels.


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) traces the foundations of the Colima Cartel to 1988. It is considered one of the greatest organizations dedicated to the production and distribution of synthetic drugs, they are referred to as the «Methamphetamines Kings». What separated the Colima Cartel from other trafficking operations was their control of the methamphetamine trade, instead of receiving a percentage of goods smuggled for Colombian cartels. The cartel was able to pact with the previous motorcycle gangs and independent traffickers who once dominated the methamphetamine trade in U.S.A.The cartel was created in 1988 and originally it only operated by trafficking cocaine for the Colombian cartels, but later turned into trafficking and processing of methamphetamines.
By 1992 the Colima Cartel, through operations as a business, was able to establish amphetamine contacts in Switzerland, India, Germany and the Czech Republic. The DEA has reported the Colima Cartel recruited relatives to operate at the first two tiers of their organization, «insulating the structure.» Relatives and close friends compromised the first two tiers who then recruited low level, non related individuals to operate the methamphetamine elaboration process and the smuggling into the United States.

On November 10, 1997, Adán Amezcua was arrested in his hometown of Colima on weapons charges.
Its leader, Luis Ignacio Amezcua Contreras, was arrested in Guadalajara on June 1, 1998 and is being held in the maximum security prison of Almoloya, sentenced to 49 years in prison. On June 1, 1998, Luis and Jesús Amezcua were arrested in Guadalajara, Jalisco, by agents from the Mexican counter-narcotics agency, the Fiscalía Especial para Atención a los Delitos contra la Salud (FEADS). He is being held in the maximum security prison of Almoloya, sentenced to 49 years in prison.

The Colima Cartel at the time of the arrests of Luis and Jesús was believed to be «the most prominent methamphetamine trafficking organization operating … as well as the leading supplier of chemicals to other methamphetamine trafficking organizations» Within nine days of their arrest, the New York Times reported two of the three charges Luis and Jesús Amezcua Contreras were facing were dropped.

Judge José Nieves Luna Castro dropped from each, one count of criminal association and money laundering, saying they had been charged under statutes that were not in effect at the time of their alleged crimes, leaving one remaining charge for each of the brothers.

May 2001, Adán Amezcua was arrested on money laundering charges.
In May 2002, a federal court blocked the scheduled extradition of José de Jesús Amezcua to the United States to face drug trafficking charges because the U.S. extradition request did not comply with Mexico’s requirement that extradited criminals not face the possibility of capital punishment or a life sentence. In the year 2005, authorities arrested 1,785 collaborators of this cartel. Despite this, the Colima Cartel continues operating in the states of Baja California, Nuevo León, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán and Mexico City.

On October, 2008, authorities of the U.S. Department of Treasury, achieved on the basis of financial information and arrests of drug traffickers, identified that the Amezcua Contreras Organization has two leaders who are still at large: Patricia Amezcua Contreras, (sister of Adan, Jesus and Luis) who is responsible for the overall operations, and Telesforo Baltazar Tirado Escamilla, who with his company Collins Group directs traffic of pseudoephedrine. They are helped by their sons and lieutenants Rolando and Luis Alfonso Tirado Diaz.

La Familia Michoacana (drug cartel)

La Familia Michoacana (English: The Michoacan Family) or La Familia (English: The Family) is a Mexican drug cartel and an organized crime syndicate based in the Mexican state of Michoacán. Formerly allied to the Gulf Cartel—as part of Los Zetas—it has split off as its own organization since 2006.
The cartel’s recently deceased leader, Nazario Moreno González, known as El Más Loco (English: The Craziest One), preached his organization’s divine right to eliminate enemies. He carried a «bible» of his own sayings and insisted that his army of traffickers and hitmen avoid using the narcotics they sell. Nazario Moreno’s partners are José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Servando Gómez Martínez and Dionicio Loya Plancarte, each of whom has a bounty of $2 million for his capture.

On July 2009 and on November 2010, La Familia Michoacana offered to retreat and even disband their cartel, «With the condition that both the Federal Government, and State and Federal Police commit to safeguarding the security of the state of Michoacán.»However, President Felipe Calderón’s government refuses to strike a deal with the cartel and rejected their calls for dialogue.


Mexican analysts believe that La Familia formed in the 1980s with the stated purpose of bringing order to Michoacán, emphasizing help and protection for the poor. In its initial incarnation, La Familia formed as a group of vigilantes, spurred to power to counter interloping kidnappers and drug dealers, who were their stated enemies. Since then, La Familia has capitalized on its reputation, building its myth, power and reach to transition into a criminal gang itself.

La Familia emerged to the foreground in the 1990s as the Gulf Cartel’s paramilitary group designed to seize control of the illegal drug trade in Michoacán state from rival drug cartels. Trained with Los Zetas,[11] in 2006 the group splintered off into an independent drug trafficking operation. La Familia has a strong rivalry with both Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, but strong ties with the Sinaloa Cartel of Joaquin Guzman. La Familia Michoacana is one of the strongest and fastest growing cartel in Mexico.

References to religion

La Familia cartel is sometimes described as quasi-religious since its leaders, Moreno González and Méndez Vargas, refer to their assassinations and beheadings as «divine justice»[13] and that they may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem religious movement, which is noted for its concern for justice issues.

La Familia’s boss and spiritual leader Nazario Moreno González, (a.k.a.: El Más Loco or The Craziest One) has published his own ‘bible’, and a copy seized by Mexican federal agents reveals an ideology that mixes evangelical-style self help with insurgent peasant slogans. Moreno González, who was killed on 9 December 2010, seems to have based most of his doctrine on a work by Christian writer John Eldredge, using their own understanding of the idea in Eldredge’s message that every man must have «a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live.». The Mexican justice department stated in a report that Gonzalez Moreno has made Eldredge’s book Salvaje de Corazón (Wild at Heart) required reading for La Familia gang members and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education (CONAFE) to circulate Eldredge’s writings throughout the Michoacán countryside.

La Familia cartel emphasize religion and family values during recruitment and has placed banners in areas of operations claiming that it does not tolerate substance abuse or exploitation of women and children. According to Mexico Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, it recruits members from drug rehabilitation clinics by helping addicts recover and then forcing them into service for the drug cartel or be killed. Advancement within the organisation depends as much on regular attendance at prayer meetings as on target practice. The cartel gives loans to farmers, businesses, schools and churches, and it advertises its benevolence in local newspapers in order to gain social support.

On July 16, 2009, a man by the name of Servando Gómez Martínez (La Tuta) identified himself as the ‘chief of operations’ of the cartel when he contacted a local radio station. In his radio message, Gómez stated: «La Familia was created to look after the interests of our people and our family. We are a necessary evil,» and when asked what La Familia really wanted, Gómez replied, «The only thing we want is peace and tranquility.» President Felipe Calderón’s government refuses to strike a deal with the cartel and rejected their calls for dialogue.

On April 20, 2009, about 400 Federal Police agents raided a christening party for a baby born to a cartel member. Among the 44 detained was Rafael Cedeño Hernández (El Cede), the gang’s second in command and in charge of indoctrinating the new recruits in the cartel’s religious values, morals and ethics.

Current alliances

Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel‎‎; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana, these last three now known as Carteles Unidos.


La Familia has been known to be unusually violent. Its members use murder and torture to quash rivals, while building a social base in the Mexican state of Michoacán. It is the fastest-growing cartel in the country’s drug war and is a religious cult-like group that celebrates family values.In one incident in Uruapan in 2006, the cartel members tossed five decapitated heads onto the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra night club along with a message that read: «The Family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.

The cartel has moved from smuggling and selling drugs and turned itself into a much more ambitious criminal organization which acts as a parallel state in much of Michoacán. It extorts «taxes» from businesses, pays for community projects, controls petty crime, and settles some local disputes. Despite its short history, it has emerged as Mexico’s largest supplier of methamphetamines to the United States, with supply channels running deep into the Midwestern United States, and has increasingly become involved in the distribution of cocaine, marijuana, and other narcotics.

Michael Braun, former DEA chief of operations, states that it operates «superlabs» in Mexico capable of producing up to 100 pounds of meth in eight hours. However, according to DEA officials, it claims to oppose the sale of drugs to Mexicans. It also sells pirated DVDs, smuggles people to the United States, and runs a debt-collecting service by kidnapping defaulters. Because often times they use fake and sometimes original uniforms of several police agencies, most of their kidnap victims are stopped under false pretenses of routine inspections or report of stolen vehicles, and then taken hostage.

La Familia has also bought some local politicians. 20 municipal officials have been murdered in Michoacán, including two mayors. Having established its authority, it then names local police chiefs. On May 2009, the Mexican Federal Police detained 10 mayors of Michoacán and 20 other local officials suspected of being associated with the cartel.

On July 11, 2009, a cartel lieutenant— Arnoldo Rueda Medina —was arrested; La Familia members attacked the Federal Police station in Morelia to try to gain freedom for Rueda shortly after his arrest. During the attacks, two soldiers and three federal policemen were killed. When that failed, cartel members attacked Federal Police installations in at least a half-dozen Michoacán cities in retribution.

Three days later, on July 14, 2009, the cartel tortured and murdered twelve Mexican Federal Police agents and dumped their bodies along the side of a mountain highway along with a written message: «So that you come for another. We will be waiting for you here.» The federal agents were investigating crime in Michoacán state; President Calderón, responded to the violence by dispatching additional 1,000 Federal Police officers to the area.

The infusion, which more than tripled the number of Federal Police officers patrolling Michoacán, angered Michoacán Governor Leonel Godoy Rangel, who called it ‘an occupation’ and said he had not been consulted. Days later, 10 municipal police officers were arrested in connection with the slayings of the 12 federal agents.
The governor’s half-brother Julio César Godoy Toscano, who was just elected July 5, 2009, to the lower house of Congress, was accused to be a top-ranking member of La Familia Michoacana drug cartel and of providing political protection for the cartel.

Based on these charges, on 14 December 2010, Godoy Toscano was impeached from the lower house of Congress and therefore no longer enjoys immunity (Spanish: fuero).
President Calderón stated that the country’s drug cartels had grown so powerful that they now posed a threat to the future of Mexican democracy. His strategy of direct confrontation and law enforcement is not popular with some segments of Mexican society, where battling violent drug gangs has brought out several human rights charges against the Mexican military.

On October 22, 2009, U.S. federal authorities announced the results of a four-year investigation into the operations of La Familia Michoacana in the United States dubbed Project Coronado. It was the largest U.S. raid ever against Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S. In 19 different states, 303 individuals were taken into custody in a coordinated effort by local, state, and federal law enforcement over a two-day period. Seized during the arresting phase was over 62 kilograms (140 lb) of cocaine, 330 kilograms (730 lb) of methamphetamine, 440 kilograms (970 lb) of marijuana, 144 weapons, 109 vehicles, and two clandestine drug laboratories.

Since the start of «Project Coronado», the investigation has led to the arrest of more than 1,186 people and the seizure of approximately $33 million. Overall, almost 2 metric tons (2.2 short tons) of cocaine, 1,240 kilograms (2,700 lb) of methamphetamine, 13 kilograms (29 lb) of heroin, 7,430 kilograms (16,400 lb) of marijuana, 389 weapons, 269 vehicles, and the two drug labs were seized.

«Multi-agency investigations such as Project Coronado are the key to disrupting the operations of complex criminal organizations like La Familia. Together—with the strong collaboration of our international, federal, state, and local partners—we have dealt a substantial blow to a group that has polluted our neighborhoods with illicit drugs and has terrorized Mexico with unimaginable violence», said FBI Director Mueller.

The investigative efforts in Project Coronado were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprising agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Coronado through OCDETF.

Guadalajara Cartel

The Guadalajara Cartel was a Mexican drug cartel which was formed in the 1980s by Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States. Among the first of the Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with the Colombian cocaine mafias, the Guadalajara cartel prospered from the cocaine trade.

After the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Félix Gallardo kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his family Guadalajara city. «The Godfather» then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop.

In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Félix Gallardo «The Godfather» convened the nation’s top drug narcos at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas or territories. The Tijuana route would go to the Arellano Felix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez route would go to the Carrillo Fuentes family. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. The control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor – then becoming the Gulf Cartel- would be left undisturbed to Juan García Abrego.

Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, he had the contacts so he was still the top man, but he would no longer control all details of the business; he was arrested on April 8, 1989.

According to Peter Dale Scott, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad, under its chief Miguel Nassar Haro, a CIA asset.

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 2

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 3

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 4

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