Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Most Powerful Drug Cartels

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Most Powerful Drug Cartels

Article excerpt

Mexico declared a major victory Tuesday when it arrested the leader of the La Familia drug gang and 50 of its members, calling the group finished after the arrests. But the deadly drug war in Mexico is far from over. Many experts expect the remaining La Familia members to join allied groups and for its territory to be absorbed by other traffickers. Here's a look at Mexico's most powerful drug cartels:

Mexico declared a major victory Tuesday when it arrested the leader of the La Familia drug gang and 50 of its members, calling the group finished after the arrests. But the deadly drug war in Mexico is far from over. Many experts expect the remaining La Familia members to join allied groups and for its territory to be absorbed by other traffickers. Here's a look at Mexico's most powerful drug cartels:

#5 Sinaloa Federation

Sinaloa is considered Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organization, and its leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, is the most wanted man in Mexico. The group's domain stretches from the central west coast to the center north of the country (see map here), and it has steadily moved into the territory of other organizations. Its rivalry with the Juarez cartel has been the cause of much of the violence in border town Ciudad Juarez, which was the site of more than a quarter of the country's total drug-related casualties in 2010.

As many other trafficking organizations have fragmented in recent years, Sinaloa has gained influence, according to an April 2011 STRATFOR report on Mexico's drug war. Mr. Guzman gained influence himself as leaders of Sinaloa's allies and internal factions took hits from Mexican President Felipe Calderon's crackdown on the trafficking organizations.

A brother of the former leader of Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), a former ally of Sinaloa, accused Guzman of betraying BLO's leaders to the government to minimize challenges to his leadership, according to STRATFOR, the global intelligence firm.

Sinaloa's imperviousness to Calderon's efforts have led the Mexican government to focus on taking down the smaller, weaker organizations and hoping that Sinaloa would act to reduce violence on their own since it hinders trafficking efforts.

#4 Los Zetas

Los Zetas is a group of former Mexican Army special forces and used to be a part of the Gulf Cartel, but broke off in 2010 after years of feuding within the cartel. It controls almost the entire east coast of Mexico and their territory stretches into the interior of the country in some spots (see map here).

Los Zetas has taken a few hits since the beginning of 2011, losing territory and some of its leaders, but its operations so far seem unaffected. It remains in control of its strongholds in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo and in the port city of Veracruz, according to STRATFOR. However, as less experienced recruits step in to fill posts left vacant after the deaths of Los Zetas leaders, the cartel could struggle.

The cartel was responsible for the February attack on two US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents. …

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