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Leones

The Leones, who operate along the Eastern border with Honduras and El Salvador, were car thieves and cattle rustlers before entering the drug trade.

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Much of their business was via robberies of many Mendoza and Lorenzana cargoes traveling through Zacapa. Once considered one of the most powerful and violent families in Guatemala, the Leones have since gone underground. On March 25, 2008, Zeta gunmen killed 11 members of the Leon clan in Zacapa, including Juancho Leon (pictured), one of the group’s leaders.

But the reasons for this battle are not altogether clear. One theory is that the Mendozas and the Lorenzanas schemed to get rid of the Leones using the Zetas, an agreement dubbed the “Pacto de Peten.” Alternatively the massacre could have resulted from a broken Leones-Zetas alliance. In either case, the Leones' power is on the decline, and the Zetas are now thought to control their old turf.

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