The History of Gangs in Mexico part 2

Posted: 22/04/2011 in World

Drug-related violence has reached record levels in Mexico. Despite increased security operations ordered by Mexican President Felipe Calderon in December 2006, Mexico’s drug cartels continue to ply their illicit trade.
Today we present you the second part of the research for the mexican cartels and gungs

Gulf Cartel

The Gulf Cartel (Spanish: Cartel del Golfo) is a Mexican drug cartel based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The cartel is present in 13 states with important areas of operation in the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Alemán, Reynosa and Matamoros in the northern state of Tamaulipas; it also has important operations in the states of Nuevo León and in Michoacán.

The Gulf Cartel traffics cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border to major cities in the United States. The group is known for its violent methods and intimidation.

Aside from earning money from the sales of narcotics, the cartel also imposes «taxes» on anyone passing narcotics or aliens through Gulf Cartel territory. The cartel is also known to operate protection rackets, extorting money from local businesses and to kidnap for ransom money.


The Gulf Cartel was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s. Nepomuceno Guerra was a notorious Mexican bootlegger who smuggled whiskey into the United States in the 1930s along the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1970s, he became politically active and began smuggling more contraband into the United States, including marijuana and heroin produced in Mexico. His nephew, Juan García Abrego, was born in a ranch called «La Puerta» in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. He began slowly taking over day-to-day operations of what was now being called the Gulf Cartel.

García Abrego expanded the business to include the more lucrative cocaine trade throughout the 1980s and 1990s, all with the assistance of the political connections that his uncle had fostered. Juan García Abrego became so powerful that he was placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives in 1995. He was the first drug trafficker to ever be placed on that list. García Abrego was captured in 1996 and extradited to the United States. He is currently serving eleven life terms in a maximum security federal prison in Colorado, U.S.

Following Abrego’s 1996 arrest by Mexican authorities and subsequent deportation to the United States, he was replaced by Oscar Malherbe De León, until his arrest a short time later, causing several cartel lieutenants to fight for the leadership. The next in line was Sergio «El Checko» Gomez, however, his leadership was short lived when he was assassinated in April 1996 by Salvador «Chava» Gómez. After this, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén took control of the Gulf Cartel in July 1999 after assasinating Salvador Gómez.

In 1999, Cárdenas learned that a Gulf Cartel informant was being transported through Matamoros, Tamaulipas, by the FBI and DEA. Cárdenas and his men intercepted and surrounded the vehicle on a public street and demanded the informant be released to him.

The FBI and DEA agents refused to turn over their informant, and after a tense standoff they were released. As for Cárdenas, the damage had been done by taking on the U.S. government, which placed pressure on the Mexican government to apprehend Cárdenas. Cárdenas was arrested during a gun battle in Matamoros in March 2003[4] and sent to the Penal del Altiplano (formerly known as «La Palma»), a federal high security prison.

Since the arrest of Cárdenas Guillen, his two partners -Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez- took control of the cartel, with the militant wing —Los Zetas— taking a leadership role; the two groups worked together for a few years, but Los Zetas no longer taking orders from Gulf Cartel.
Since the extradition of Cárdenas Guillen to the U.S., Los Zetas gradually took more control from the Gulf cartel and eventually broke away, formed their own cartel and made an alliance with the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.

On September 17, 2008, United States Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced that 175 alleged Gulf cartel members were arrested in a crackdown on the cartel in the U.S. and in Italy. 
In February 2010, Los Zetas engaged in a violent turf war against is former employer/partner, the Gulf Cartel, in the border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas,[12][13] rendering some border towns into «ghost towns».

Alliances or agreements between drug cartels have been shown to be fragile, tense and temporary. In 2003, the Gulf Cartel joined in a temporary alliance with the remnants of the Arellano Félix Organization, also known as the Tijuana Cartel, based out of the state of Baja California. This was based primarily on prison negotiations between top leaders such as Benjamín Arellano Félix and Osiel Cárdenas. After a personal dispute between leaders, however, Osiel Cárdenas ordered Benjamín Arellano Félix beaten, and all alliances ceased at that point. It is reported that after the fallout, Cárdenas ordered the Zetas to Baja California to wipe out the Tijuana Cartel.

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.
On November 5, 2010 Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen was gunned down by the Mexican Army in the earlier hours of the day leaving Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez in charge of the Gulf Cartel.

On January 20, 2007 and after the extradition of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen to the U.S., the Gulf Cartel’s leadership evolved into one with a decentralized structure, with two drug lords sharing control of the cartel: Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez (a.k.a: El Coss) who maintains close contacts with Colombian narcotics suppliers, and Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillen, who was killed by the Mexican military on November 5, 2010 in the city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville in Texas.
The decentralized structure of the cartel differentiates it from other cartels, in that power is shared equally among a set of gatekeepers (plaza heads), each of whom is responsible for running different trafficking routes. Each gatekeeper is also responsible for security and the collection of ‘taxes’ for each plaza they are responsible for.

According to the book «Drug Wars: Narco Warfare in the 21st Century» by Gary Fleming, there are many ways in which drugs enter the United States. Due to the Gulf Cartel’s large amount of territory, the cartels utilize every way possible to get drugs into the United States.

One avenue that they have implemented is to construct tunnels to get their product across the border. By constructing a tunnel, the cartel is able to get their product across the border with minimal to no detection. The advantages of having a tunnel are tremendous, not only can they charge for smuggling illegal aliens but they can also use this for human trafficking as carriers of cartels. Each human can carry up to half a million dollars worth of drugs.

Another venture the cartels utilize are the many bus routes across the United States. With each instance of human trafficking, they can have people carry the product with them on a bus and deliver it to its destination. Main hubs for these bus routes include but are not limited to Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and Dallas.

The buses are a vital asset to the cartels because they often go without detection from devices or X-ray machines. The major highways accessed are I35 and I25 which are central highways for the drug trade. The cartel also implements the use of the train system to ship large quantities of illegal drugs.

Apart from using these common ways, once the product is across the border, common cars and trucks are utilized for faster distribution in different cities. In an effort to use the seas, the cartel also implemented the use of narco submarines.

On July 21, 2009, the United States DEA announced coordinated actions against the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas drug trafficking organizations. Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillen, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and 15 of their top lieutenants, have been charged in U.S. federal courts with drug trafficking-related crimes,[19][24] while the U.S. State Department announced rewards totaling $50 million USD for information leading to their capture.


Juárez Cartel

The Juárez Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Juárez), also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The Juárez Cartel controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico.

Drug lords from contiguous Mexican states have forged alliances in recent years creating a cartel that sometimes is referred to as ‘The Golden Triangle Alliance’ or ‘La Alianza Triángulo de Oro’ because of its three-state area of influence: Chihuahua, south of the U.S. state of Texas, Durango and Sinaloa. The Juarez Cartel is a ruthless, dangerous drug trafficking organization that has been known to decapitate their rivals and mutilate their corpses and dump them in public to instill fear not only to the general public but to local law enforcement and their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel.


The cartel was founded in the 1970s by Rafael Aguilar Guajardo and handed down to Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1993 under the tutelage of his uncle. Amado brought his brothers in and later his son into the business. After Amado died in 1997 following complications from plastic surgery, a brief turf war erupted over the control of the cartel, where Amado’s brother —Vicente Carrillo Fuentes— emerged as leader after defeating the Muňoz Talavera brothers.

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who still remains in control of the cartel, then formed a partnership with Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, his brother Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, his nephew Vicente Carrillo Leyva, Ricardo Garcia Urquiza, and formed an alliance with other drug lords such as Ismael «Mayo» Zambada in Sinaloa and Baja California, the Beltrán Leyva brothers in Monterrey, and Joaquín «El Chapo» Guzmán in Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, according to sources in the FBI and the Mexican Attorney General’s office. He also kept in service several lieutenants formally under his brother, such as «El Chacky» Hernandez.

When Vicente took control of the cartel, the organization was in flux. The death of Amado created a large power vacuum in the Mexican underworld. The Carrillo Fuentes brothers became the most powerful organization during the 1990s while Vicente was able to avoid direct conflict and increase the strength of the Juárez Cartel. The relationship between the Carrillo Fuentes clan and the other members of the organization grew unstable towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s.

In 2001 after Joaquín Guzmán Loera ‘El Chapo’ escaped from prison, many Juárez Cartel members defected to Guzmán Loera’s Sinaloa Cartel. In 2004, Vicente’s brother was killed allegedly by order of Guzmán Loera. Carrillo Fuentes responded by assassinating Guzmán Loera’s brother in prison. This ignited a turf war between the two cartels, which was more or less put on hold from 2005-2006 because of the Sinaloa Cartel’s war with the Gulf cartel.

As recently as November 2005, the Juárez Cartel was the dominant player in the center of the country, controlling a large percentage of the cocaine traffic from Mexico into the United States. The death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1997, however, was the beginning of the decline of the Juárez cartel, as Carrillo relied on ties to Mexico’s top-ranking drug interdiction officer, division general Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.

After the organization collapsed, some elements of it were absorbed into the Sinaloa Cartel, a relatively young and aggressive organization that has gobbled up much of the Juárez Cartel’s former territory. The cartel has been able to either corrupt or intimidate high ranking officials in order to obtain information on law enforcement operatives and acquire protection from the police and judicial systems.

The Juárez cartel has been found in 21 Mexican states and its principal bases are Culiacán, Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez, Ojinaga, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and Cancún. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes remains the leader of the cartel.
Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Juárez. The fighting between them has left thousands dead in Chihuahua state.

The Juárez Cartel relies on two enforcement gangs to exercise control over both sides of the border: La Linea, a group of current and former Chihuahua police officers, is prevalent on the Mexican side, while the large street gang Barrio Azteca operates in Mexico and the U.S. in Texas cities such as El Paso, Dallas and Austin. as well as in New Mexico and Arizona. On April 9, 2010, the Associated Press reported that the Sinaloa Cartel had won the Juarez turf war. Nevertheless, the Juarez Cartel has continued open confrontations with the Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican police forces. On July 15, 2010, the Juarez Cartel raised their attacks to a new level by using a car bomb to target federal police officers.

Members of the cartel were implicated in the serial murder site in Ciudad Juárez that was discovered in 2004 and has been dubbed the House of Death.[13] The Juárez Cartel was featured battling the rival Tijuana Cartel in the 2000 motion picture Traffic. The Australian ABC documentary La Frontera (2010) described social impact of the cartel in the region.

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 Norteños (Spanish: Northerners), also Norte, are affiliated with Nuestra Familia (Our Family), are a coalition of traditionally Latino gangs in Northern California A member of these gangs is a Norteño (male) or Norteña (female); based on Spanish usage. Northern Californians who are not gang members, but feel a strong cultural affiliation with others in Northern California, may also refer to themselves as Norteños/Norteñas or simply «Northerners.» The traditional rivals of the Norteños are the Sureños («Southerners»). The statewide dividing line between Norteños and Sureños has roughly been accepted as the rural community of Delano, California. Norteños may refer to Northern California as Norte, Spanish for «north».


In 1968,  Mexican-American inmates of the California state prison system separated into two rival groups, Norteños (northerners) and Sureños (southerners), according to the locations of their hometowns (the north-south dividing line is near Delano, California).

Norteños affiliated with Nuestra Familia were prison enemies of the Southern Latinos who comprised La Eme, better known as the Mexican Mafia. While the Mexican Mafia had initially been created to protect Mexicans in prison, there was a perceived level of abuse by members of La Eme towards the imprisoned Latinos from rural farming areas of Northern California. The spark that led to the ongoing war between Norteños and members of the Mexican Mafia involved a situation in which a member of La Eme allegedly stole a pair of shoes from a Northerner. This event put into motion the longest-running gang war in the state of California.

Federal law enforcement agencies, long unable to infiltrate the group, began to step up their investigations in the late 1990s.In 2000 and 2001, 22 members were indicted on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges including several who were allegedly serving as high-ranking gang leaders while confined in Pelican Bay.Thirteen of the defendants pleaded guilty; the other cases are still ongoing. Two of the defendants face the death penalty for ordering murders related to the Drug trafficking. The largest of the federal investigations was Operation Black Widow.

In the aftermath of Operation Black Widow, the five highest ranking leaders of the Norteños were transferred to a federal supermaximum prison in Florence, Colorado. The written constitution of the Norteños stated that the leadership of the gang reside in Pelican Bay State Prison in California; the relocation of the gang’s leaders led to the confusion of its soldiers and a power struggle of prospective generals.

Three new generals came to power at Pelican Bay, yet two were demoted, leaving only David «DC» Cervantes as the highest ranking member of the gang in California. Cervantes’ rise marked the first time in decades that the Norteños had a single leader at the helm of their criminal organization. The remaining leadership of the organization in Pelican Bay consists of Daniel «Stork» Perez, Anthony «Chuco» Guillen and George «Puppet» Franco. While all Norteño soldiers and captains in California are expected to follow the orders of Cervantes, a small percentage of the gang remains loyal to the former generals and captains imprisoned in Colorado. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has complained that keeping the five remaining gang leaders located in the same prison continues to add to California gang violence, and that they should be scattered throughout different prisons. While the recognized leaders of the Norteños in Pelican Bay ask that members respect the former leaders, they have been effectively stripped of their authority.[6] The former leaders include James «Tibbs» Morado, Joseph «Pinky» Hernandez, Gerald «Cuete» Rubalcaba, Cornelio Tristan, and Tex Marin Hernandez.

Norteño emblems and clothing are based on the color red. A typical Norteño outfit might include a red belt, red shoes, and red shoelaces. They will also favor sports team apparel that shows their affiliation through symbolism such as the Nebraska Cornhuskers football, UNLV, K-Swiss, and San Francisco 49ers.

Norteños may refer to each other by using the term «Ene», Spanish for the letter «N». Norteños use the number 14 in tattoos and graffiti because «N» is the fourteenth letter of the alphabet. It is sometimes written as «X4», or in Roman numerals as «XIV». Some Norteños will tattoo themselves with four dots. Norteño derogatorily refers to a Sureño as a «Scrap» or «Sur (Sewer) Rat», while a Sureño will likewise refer to a Norteño as a «Buster» or «Chap» (Chapete).

Norteños also lay claim to images of the Mexican-American labor movement, such as the sombrero, machete, and «Huelga bird», symbols of the United Farm Workers.


Mara Salvatrucha

Mara Salvatrucha (commonly abbreviated as MS, Mara, and MS-13) is a transnational criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to other parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Central Americans and active in urban and suburban areas.

Members of MS distinguish themselves by tattoos covering the body and also often the face, as well as the use of their own sign language. They are notorious for their use of violence and a subcultural moral code that predominantly consists of merciless revenge and cruel retributions.

This excessive cruelty of the distinguished members of the «Maras» or «Mareros» earned them a path to be recruited by the Sinaloa Cartel battling against Los Zetas in an ongoing drug war south of the United States border.  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.


The Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in Los Angeles, set up in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the city’s Pico-Union neighborhood who immigrated to the United States after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
Originally, the gang’s main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans.

Many Mara Salvatrucha gang members from the Los Angeles area have been deported after being arrested. As a result of these deportations, members of MS have recruited more members in their home countries. The Los Angeles Times contends that deportation policies have contributed to the size and influence of the gang both in the United States and in Central America.According to the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment, «The gang is estimated to have 30,000 to 50,000 members and associate members worldwide, 8,000 to 10,000 of whom reside in the United States.

In recent years the gang has expanded into the Washington, D.C. area, in particular the areas of Langley Park and Takoma Park near the Washington border have become centers of MS gang activity.

Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy in early 2008

MS-13 presence – darkness indicates strength

In 2004, the US FBI started the MS-13 National Gang Task Force. The FBI also began teaming with law enforcement in El Salvador,Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.
In 2005, the office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement started Operation Community Shield. By 2011, this operation had made >20,000 arrests, including >3,000 arrests of alleged MS-13 members.
In 2010, convictions of several MS-13 members was made in the Charlotte, NC area.


There is some dispute about the etymology of the name.
Some sources state the gang is named for La Mara, a street in San Salvador, and the Salvatrucha guerrillas who fought in the Salvadoran Civil War. Additionally, the word mara means gang in Caliche and is taken from marabunta, the name of a fierce type of ant. «Salvatrucha» may be a combination of the words Salvadoran and trucha, a Caliche word for being alert.

Illegal immigration and human smuggling

According to The Washington Times, MS «is thought to have established a major smuggling center» in Mexico. There were reports by the Minuteman Project that MS members were ordered to Arizona to target U.S. Border Patrol agents and Minuteman Projectvolunteers.

In 2005, Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez and the President of El Salvador raised alarm by claiming that Muslim terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda was meeting with Mara Salvatrucha and other Central American gangs to help them infiltrate the United States. FBI agents said that the U.S. intelligence community and governments of several Central American countries found there is no basis to believe that MS is connected to Al-Qaeda or other Islamic radicals, although Oscar did visit Central America to discuss the issue.

Robert Morales, a prosecutor for Guatemala, indicated to The Globe and Mail that some Central American gang members seek refugee status in Canada. Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police integrated gang task force, John Robin, said in an interview that «I think [gang members] have a feeling that police here won’t treat them in the harsh manner they get down there. Robin noted that Canadian authorities «want to avoid ending up like the U.S., which is dealing with the problem of Central American gangsters on a much bigger scale».

On the southern border of Mexico, the gang has unleashed violence against migrants.

Publicized crimes

On July 13, 2003, Brenda Paz, a 17-year-old female, former MS member turned informant was found stabbed on the banks of the Shenandoah River in Virginia. Paz was killed for informing the FBI about Mara Salvatrucha’s criminal activities. Two of her former friends were later convicted of the murder.
In 2004, the FBI created the MS National Gang Task Force. In 2005, the FBI helped create a National Gang Information Center and outlined a National Gang Strategy for Congress.

On December 23, 2004, one of the most widely publicized MS crimes in Central America occurred in Chamelecón, Honduras when an intercity bus was intercepted and sprayed with automatic gunfire, killing 28 civilian passengers, most of whom were women and children. MS organized the massacre as a protest against the Honduran government for proposing a restoration of the death penalty in Honduras. Six gunmen raked the bus with gunfire. As passengers screamed and ducked, another gunman climbed aboard and methodically executed passengers.

In February 2007, Juan Carlos Miranda Bueso and Darwin Alexis Ramírez were found guilty of several crimes including murder and attempted murder. Ebert Anibal Rivera was held over the attack and was arrested after having fled to Texas. Juan Bautista Jimenez, accused of masterminding the massacre, was killed in prison. According to the authorities, fellow MS-13 inmates hanged him. There was insufficient evidence to convict Óscar Fernando Mendoza and Wilson Geovany Gómez.

An MS suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed.

On May 13, 2006, Ernesto «Smokey» Miranda, an ex-high ranking soldier and one of the founders of Mara Salvatrucha, was murdered at his home in El Salvador a few hours after declining to attend a party for a gang member who had just been released from prison. He had begun studying law and working to keep children out of gangs.
In 2007, Julio Chavez allegedly murdered a man because he was wearing a red sweatshirt, and mistaken for a member of the Bloods gang.
On June 4, 2008, in Toronto, Ontario, police executed 22 search warrants, made 17 arrests and laid 63 charges following a five-month investigation.
On June 22, 2008, in San Francisco, California, a 21-year old MS gang member, Edwin Ramos, shot and killed a father, Anthony Bologna, 48, and his two sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, after their car briefly blocked Ramos from completing a left turn down a narrow street as they were returning home from a family barbecue.
On November 26, 2008, Jonathan Retana was convicted of the murder of Miguel Angel Deras, which the authorities linked to an MS initiation.

In 2008, the MS task force coordinated a series of arrests and crackdowns in the U.S. and Central America that involved more than 6,000 police officers in five countries. Seventy-three suspects were arrested in the U.S.; in all, more than 650 were taken into custody.
In February 2009, authorities in Colorado and California arrested 20 members of MS and seized 10 pounds of methamphetamine, 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds) of cocaine, a small amount ofheroin, 12 firearms and $3,300 in cash.
In June 2009, Edwin Ortiz, Jose Gomez Amaya and Alexander Aguilar were MS gang members from Long Island who had mistaken bystanders for rival gang members. As a result, two innocent civilians were shot. Edgar Villalobos, a laborer was killed.

On November 4, 2009, El Salvadoran leaders of the MS-13 gang allegedly put out a contract on the federal agent responsible for a crackdown on its New York factions, the Daily News has learned. The brazen plot to assassinate the unidentified Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was revealed in an arrest warrant for reputed gang member Walter (Duke) Torres. Torres tipped authorities to the plan after he and four other MS-13 members were stopped by NYPD detectives for hassling passersby on Northern Blvd. in Queens last month. He told cops he had information to pass on, and was debriefed Oct. 22 at Rikers Island, where he was being held on a warrant issued in Virginia, according to court papers.Torres said «the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador,» ICE agent Sean Sweeney wrote in an affidavit for a new warrant charging Torres with conspiracy. Torres, who belonged to an MS-13 «clique» in Virginia, said he was put in charge, and traveled to New York in August «for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot,» Sweeney wrote. Gang members were trying to get their hands on a high-powered assault rifle, like an M-16 to penetrate the agent’s bulletproof vest. Another MS-13 informant told authorities the agent was marked for death because the gang was «exceedingly angry» at him for arresting many members in the past three years, the affidavit states. The murder was supposed to be carried out by the Flushing clique, according to the informant. Federal prosecutors have indicted numerous MS-13 gang members on racketeering, extortion, prostitution, kidnapping, illegal immigration, money laundering, murder, people smuggling, arms trafficking, human trafficking and drug trafficking charges. The targeted special agent was the lead federal investigator on many of the federal cases.[35]

In 2010, Rene Mejia allegedly murdered a 2 year old baby and his mother.[28]

Charlotte, North Carolina cases

In the early 2000s, US authorities investigated MS-13 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Eventually the work led to charges against 26 MS-13 members, including 7 trial convictions in January 2010, 18 guilty pleas, and 11 multi-year prison sentences.
This also included the alleged first death-penalty conviction for an MS-13 member, Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, aka «Wizard» (age 25).

In 2005, in Los Angeles, according to a Jury in a later sentencing phase, Umana murdered Jose Herrera and Gustavo Porras (July 27) and participated and aided and abetted the killing of Andy Abarca (Septmeber 28). He later came to Charlotte, North Carolina, according to witnesses, as a veteran member of MS-13, in order to reorganize the Charlotte cell of the gang.

According to witnesses at his later trial, on December 8, 2007, while in the Las Jarochitas, a family-run restaurant in Greensboro, North Carolina, Umana shot Ruben Garcia Salinas fatally in the chest and Manuel Garcia Salinas in the head. Witnesses testified that the shootings took place after the Garcia Salinas brothers had “disrespected” Umana’s gang signs by calling them “fake.” Firing three more shots in the restaurant, according to trial testimony, Umana injured another individual with his gunfire. Trial testimony and evidence showed that Umana later fled back to Charlotte with MS-13 assistance. Umana was arrested five days later in possession of the murder weapon. Additional evidence and testimony from the trial revealed that while Umana was incarcerated while awaiting trial, he coordinated attempts to kill witnesses and informants.

Umana was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 23, 2008. During trial, Umana attempted to bring a knife with him to the courtroom, which was discovered by U.S. Marshals prior to Umana being transported to the courthouse. Thousands of hours were spent on the case over several years. International work was also involved.

The case was investigated by the Charlotte Safe Streets Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Chief Criminal Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro from the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast and Adam Morris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina were also members of the government’s trial team.[36]

Charges included:

  • Murder in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13, two counts
  • Murder resulting from the use of a gun in a violent crime, two counts
  • Conspiracy to participate in racketeering
  • Witness tampering or intimidation, two counts
  • Possession of a firearm by an illegal alien
  • Extortion

The jury convicted him on April 19, 2010 of all charges, and additionally found him responsible for the 2005 murders during the sentencing phase. On April 28, a 12-person federal jury in Charlotte voted unanimously to impose the death penalty. On July 27, 2010, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., of Charlotte, NC, formally imposed the federal death penalty sentence. Also commenting on the decision in the government press release were Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins of the Western District of North Carolina, Owen D Harris, Special Agent in charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI, and Rodney Monreo, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief.
The case was automatically appealed under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Gang markings and hand signs

An MS gang sign and tattoos.

Many Mara Salvatrucha members cover themselves in tattoos. Common markings include «MS», «Salvatrucha», the «Devil Horns», the name of their clique, and other symbols. A December 2007 CNN internet news article stated that the gang was moving away from the tattoos in an attempt to commit crimes without being noticed.

Members of Mara Salvatrucha, like members of most modern American gangs, utilize a system of hand signs for purposes of identification and communication. One of the most commonly displayed is the «devil’s head» which forms an ‘M’ when displayed upside down. This hand sign is similar to the same symbol commonly seen displayed by heavy metal musicians and their fans. Founders of Mara Salvatrucha borrowed the hand sign after attending concerts of heavy metal bands.

In film

  • The gang appears briefly in the film Training Day (2001).
  • Principal characters of the feature movie Sin Nombre (2009) are members of MS in Chiapas, Mexico and many of the traditions and practices of MS are depicted accurately (killings, tattoos, initiation, exploitation of migrants, etc.).

Mexican Mafia

The Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme (Spanish for the letter M) is a Mexican-American criminal organization, and is one of the oldest and most powerful prison gangs in the United States

Mexican Mafia/La Eme
Mexican Mafia tattoo.jpg
Gang’s name tattooed on gang member’s abdomen.
In Deuel Vocational Institution,California, United States
Founded by Luis «Huero Buff» Flores
Years active 1957–present
Territory US federal prison system andCalifornia,Arizona,Texas
Ethnicity Latino (mainly Mexican-American)
Criminal activities Murder, money laundering, weapon trafficking, drug trafficking,Kidnapping, pandering,racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling
Allies Sureños,West Side Longo,Varrio Hawaiian Gardens Lokitos Malditos Villians 18th Street gang,Mara Salvatrucha, Mexican Drug Cartels,[citation needed]
Rivals Nuestra Familia, Black Guerrilla Family, Arizona’s New Mexican Mafia, Texas Syndicate,[1] black street gangs, Norteños 



The Mexican Mafia was formed in 1957 by Chicano street gang members incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison located in Tracy, California.  The founder of the gang was Luis «Huero Buff» Flores, who was previously a member of the Hawaiian Gardensgang.  According to Tony Rafael. By the time that Luis Flores got his brainstorm idea about creating La Mafia Mexicana, as it was first called, gang warfare between Hispanic neighborhoods had become an established fact.

Rivalries were then set in stone; gangs like White Fence, San Fer, Avenues, Clanton, Varrio Nuevo Estrada, and Hoyo Maravilla were already into their second decade and firmly established as self sustaining entities… Given such deep street rivalries, it was a marvel that Luis Flores ever got so far as to suggest that inmates who were enemies on the streets should abandon their animosity when they hit the prisons. But he did and it worked.

Luis Flores initially recruited violent members to the gang, in an attempt to create a highly-feared organization which could control the black market activities of the Deuel prison facilities.[9] According to Eme turncoat Ramon «Mundo» Mendoza,

«The goal in the beginning was to terrorize the prison system and enjoy prison comforts while doing time.«

According to Luis Flores,

«It was a kid’s trip then, just a bunch of homeboys from East L.A. If I felt like killing somebody, I would, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t. We were just having fun then. The power was intoxicating.»

State Prison System

Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy in early 2008

According to Chris Blatchford,

«By 1961, administrators at DVI, alarmed by the escalating violence, had transferred a number of the charter Eme members to San Quentin, hoping to discourage their violent behavior by intermingling them with hardened adult convicts. It didn’t work. For example, the story goes that Cheyenne Cadena arrived on the lower yard and was met by a six-foot-five, 300-pound black inmate who planted a kiss on his face and announced this scrawny teenager would now be his ‘bitch.’ Chy returned a short time later, walked up to the unsuspecting predator, and stabbed him to death with a jailhouse knife, or shank. There were more than a thousand inmates on the yard. No witnesses stepped forward, and only one dead man entertained the idea that Cadena was anyone’s bitch.»

A string of other slayings soon followed as Eme members sought to establish a reputation among the inmates of San Quentin. According to Blatchford,

The Eme quest for complete control alienated many other Mexican-American inmates who were fed up with Mexican Mafia bullies stabbing, killing, and stealing their watches, rings, cigarettes and anything else of value. Some of them secretly founded a new prison gang called La Nuestra Familia (NF) or «Our Family.» It was first established in the mid-1960s at the California Training Facility in Soledad. Some of the early members were from the Los Angeles area, but NF soon drew inmates primarily from rural communities in northern California. The Mexican Mafia saw NF as lame and inferior, just a bunch of farmers, or farmeros. However, in 1968 at San Quentin, a full scale riot broke out after a Mexican Mafia soldier, or soldado, stole shoes from an NF sympathizer. Nineteen inmates were stabbed, and one Eme associate ended up dead. The battle became known as the «Shoe War» and it established the Nuestra Familia as a major Eme rival.

Criminal activities

The Mexican Mafia is an organization involved in extortion, drug trafficking, and murder, both inside and outside the prison system. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mexican Mafia had arranged for contract killings to be carried out by the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang. Both the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood are mutual enemies of the African-American gang Black Guerilla Family.

The first prison gang street execution in Los Angeles was committed by the Mexican Mafia in 1971. Responsible for the murder was a gang member named Joe «Pegleg» Morgan. Morgan was well respected within the ranks of the Mexican Mafia and became a high ranking member. His connections with cocaine and heroin suppliers in Mexico helped pave the foundation for the Mexican Mafia’s narcotics distribution throughout California.

During the 1970s, while under the control of Rodolfo Cadena, the Mexican Mafia often took control over various community groups. The gang was able to filter money from alcohol and drug prevention programs to finance their criminal activities.  The Mexican Mafia and the Italian-American Los Angeles crime family collaborated in skimming money from Get Going, a taxpayer-funded drug treatment program. By 1977, Get Going founder Ellen Delia was determined to expose the infiltration of her beloved program. Shortly before an appointment with the California State Secretary of Health and Welfare Services, Delia was murdered. Her collection of evidence on Italian and Mexican Mafia infiltration of the Get Going program was never recovered.

In 1995, United States federal authorities indicted 22 members and associates of the Mexican Mafia, charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act with crimes which included extortion, murder and kidnapping. One of the arrested members, Benjamin «Topo» Peters, was allegedly the Mexican Mafia’s highest ranking member at the time, and was engaged in a power struggle with fellow member Ruben «Tupi» Hernandez.  Another indicted member was accused of having plotted the death of an anti-gang activist who served as a consultant for the film American Me. The indictments marked a two-year investigation by federal, local and state law enforcement officials.

In 2006, a 36-count federal indictment was brought against members of the Mexican Mafia. The arrests were made for alleged acts of violence, drug dealing, and extortion against smaller Latino street gangs. According to the federal indictment, Mexican Mafia members exert their influence in both federal and state prison systems through either violence or the threat of violence.

Members and associates of the gang remain fiercely loyal to the criminal organization both in and outside of prison, particularly in Southern California cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego. The gang asserts its influence over Chicano gangs throughout Southern California by threatening violence against their members should they ever become incarcerated. Gangs and drug dealers who refuse to pay a protection «tax» to the Mexican Mafia are often murdered or threatened with murder. High-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia who are locked in private cells for 23 hours of each day are still able to communicate with their associates, through methods which range from tapping in code on prison plumbing pipes to smuggled letters.


While the Mexican Mafia is a highly-organized criminal entity, it is believed that the gang presently is not presided over by a single leader.Prison membership of the gang is believed to consist of hundreds of members with authority to order murders, and at least thousands of associates who can carry out those orders.

Members of the Mexican Mafia are expected to engage in tests of their loyalty to the gang, which may include theft or murder. The penalty for refusing orders or failing to complete an assigned task is often death. According to the gang’s constitution, members may also be punished or murdered if they commit any of four major infractions. These include becoming aninformant, acts of homosexuality, acts of cowardice, and showing disrespect against fellow gang members. According to gang policy, a member of the Mexican Mafia may not be murdered without prior approval by a vote of three members, yet the murder of non-members requires no formal approval.

During the early 1960s at San Quentin Prison, Luis Flores and Rudy «Cheyenne» Cadena established a blood oath for members of the Mexican Mafia. Prior to the establishment of the oath, members of the Mexican Mafia were allowed to return to their street gangs after incarceration. The new oath stipulated that the only way for a member to leave the Mexican Mafia was to be killed. Flores and Cadena also established a set of gang commandments. These included policies such as: a new member must be sponsored by an existing member, unanimous approval from all existing members to join (no longer policy), prioritizing the gang over one’s family, denial of the existence of the Mexican Mafia to law enforcement or non-members, respect of other members, forgiving street conflicts which existed before incarceration. Execution of a member of the gang for policy violation must be committed by the gang member who sponsored him.

While mostly found in California, the Mexican Mafia has a membership which extends to other states including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Allies and rivals

The Mexican Mafia is the controlling organization for almost every Chicano gang in Southern California. All members of Chicano gangs in Southern California are obligated under the threat of death to carry out any and all orders from made Mexican Mafia members. The Mexican Mafia also holds a loose alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood, mainly due to their common rivals within the prison system.

The primary rivals of the Mexican Mafia are Nuestra Familia. The Mexican Mafia is also a rival of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which holds a loose alliance with Nuestra Familia.


Mexican Mafia symbols include images of a black hand. The gang’s primary symbol, which is often used in tattoos by members, is the national symbol of Mexico (eagle and a snake) atop a flaming circle over crossed knives.
Street gangs that are aligned with the Mexican Mafia often use the number 13 as a gang identifier, as the letter «M» is the 13th letter of the modern Latin-derived alphabet

In popular culture

The Mexican Mafia received mainstream notoriety after being featured in the 1992 movie American Me. The film was coproduced, directed and starred in by actor Edward James Olmos, who allegedly received death threats by members of the Mexican Mafia for what they considered an unflattering depiction of the gang. Three consultants for the film were murdered shortly after the film’s release. The Mexican Mafia was allegedly displeased with the portrayal of the murder of Rodolfo Cadena (who was the basis for Olmos’ character Santana) as being committed by his fellow gang members. Mexican Mafia Members were also allegedly offended by the portrayal of homosexually inspired sodomy committed by Olmos’ character in the film. Olmos subsequently applied for a concealed handgun permit, which was denied to him.

Joe Morgan, while serving a life sentence for murder at Pelican Bay State Prison, filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Olmos, Universal Studios and other producers of the film. Morgan claimed that one of the principal characters in the film was based on him without obtaining his permission.

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 1

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 3

The History of Gangs in Mexico part 4

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