• Connect with us on Linkedin

Could Central American Gangs Usurp Role of Mexico's Cartels?

  • Written by
  • Wednesday, 14 November 2012
An alleged Texis Cartel member arrested in October 2012 An alleged Texis Cartel member arrested in October 2012

Costa Rica's attorney general has warned that with the decline of Mexico's powerful cartels, Central American gangs could rise and take control of criminal operations in the region -- an extreme but not implausible scenario.

Linkedin
Google +

In a recent interview with El Universal, Costa Rican Attorney General Jorge Chavarria warned that Central America’s criminal groups could grow stronger and supplant their Mexican counterparts in the region if the Mexican cartels lose power.

“At the moment, the dominant groups are clearly Mexican. But if we look 10 years ahead, what will happen if in Mexico, the fight [against crime] has a positive effect from the point of view of the Mexican state?" Chavarria said. "That is how we have to look at it in order to see how we can avoid the consolidation of Central American organizations that could replace the Mexicans.”

The main candidates to step into the role of Mexican cartels are gangs in the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. El Universal highlighted the Salvadoran Texis Cartel and Guatemalan groups the Mendozas and the Charros as among the most powerful.

Chavarria said that no Costa Rican cartels have been detected so far, but that authorities must work to pre-empt their emergence, adding, “What is very risky for us is that someone starts to develop a leadership and establish a Central American organization in the face of a vacuum [in criminal structures] as [could happen] in Mexico and Colombia.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The decline of Mexican cartels may already be underway. Last month, US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield announced that Mexico’s larger drug trafficking organizations were “on the verge of collapse,” thanks to sustained pressure on their operations in the region. The majority of Mexico’s large gangs, from the Beltran Leyva Organization and Gulf Cartel to the Juarez and Tijuana Cartels are now shadows of their former selves, as analyst Alejandro Hope has set out.

Brownfield acknowledged that the crackdown on Mexico’s groups means a greater risk for Central America and the Caribbean.

As El Universal points out, Mexican groups such as the Sinaloa Cartel and Zetas currently use Central American gangs as operatives to launder money, infiltrate local police and traffic drugs. If these roles reversed, Central American cartels would have to increase their presence in Mexico. This would be more difficult than it was for Mexicans to move south, as the Mexican state has far stronger institutions that the Northern Triangle. Mexican groups were able to take advantage of largely ungoverned spaces in the isthmus -- such as the north Guatemalan province of Peten -- to conduct their operations.

If Central American gangs increase their stake in the trade, they could also bypass Mexico as a transit point and traffic drugs through the Caribbean, a favored route in the 1980s. Both US officials and Caribbean leaders have suggested that the shift back to Caribbean routes may already be happening thanks to sustained pressure on drug trafficking through Central America. If drugs arrived in the United States by sea, Central American traffickers would be able to increasingly cut Mexican cartels out of the supply chain.

As Chavarria noted, these scenarios are not likely to take place in the immediate future. While Mexican monolithic criminal groups may be disintegrating, any shift of power south will take time. However, Central America's gangs, having spent years as subordinates to the Mexicans, could be well positioned to rise and take control of organized crime in the region.

Linkedin
Google +

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

Most Read

El Salvador Tax Probe Tightens Noose Around Texis Cartel Leader

El Salvador Tax Probe Tightens Noose Around Texis Cartel Leader

As part of a tax evasion investigation, El Salvador prosecutors have seized documents and searched properties belonging to Texis Cartel leader "El Chepe Diablo" and two key business partners, in a sign that the elusive...

Read more

The Narco of Narcos: Fugitive Mexican Drug Lord Rafael Caro Quintero

The Narco of Narcos: Fugitive Mexican Drug Lord Rafael Caro Quintero

The release of Rafael Caro Quintero from a Mexican prison in August 2013 was a blow to US-Mexico relations, the reputation of the Mexican justice system, and the drug war.

Read more

Mexico Cartel Had Stake in 7 Tn Colombia Cocaine Load

Mexico Cartel Had Stake in 7 Tn Colombia Cocaine Load

More details have emerged on the transport and seizure of a record seven tons of cocaine at the Colombian port of Cartagena, revealing that the shipment, bound for Europe, also involved Mexican cartels.

Read more