A message by the Guerreros Unidos in 2011

The resurfacing of Guerreros Unidos, a fragment of a larger transnational criminal organization whose leader was arrested in July, calls into question the claim that these smaller organizations should be easier for Mexican authorities to dismantle.

Redubbing itself Gurreros Unidos - La Nueva Empresa (United Warriors - the New Business), the criminal group made its presence felt again in Morelos state on the night of September 8, leaving a decapitated human head on a car alongside a written message.

The message reaffirmed the Guerreros Unidos' commitment to battling a rival group the Rojos, originally a hitman squad for the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) in Guerrero state, reports Notimex. (Full text of the Guerreros Unidos' banner here.)

The Guerreros Unidos were one of the several splinter gangs to emerge in 2011 from the remains of the BLO, itself a former wing of the Sinaloa Cartel. But when the group's leader, Cleotilde Toribio Renteria, alias "El Tilde," was arrested in Mexico City on July 9, the question was whether the Guerreros Unidos could survive the loss. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The emergence of yet another battle between splinter groups in a major metropolitan area raises the question of whether the Mexican governmet is successfully debilitating organized crime.  While the security forces have spent great effort, and have had some success, in capturing crime "kingpins," there seem to be an endless number of these middle level narcos.

El Tilde was a classic example. He reportedly had a long criminal career, originally working with the infamous BLO leader Edgar Valdez Villareal, alias "La Barbie," since 2005. But after La Barbie's split from the BLO and his subsequent arrest in 2010, El Tilde helped form various other BLO splinter groups in Guerrero state, including La Barredora and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. In 2011, El Tilde established Guerreros Unidos in the more northern portion of Guerrero, with some reach into Morelos.

The Guerreros Unidos is just one of the many upstart groups that are appearing all across Mexico. The Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios), Mano Con Ojos, and the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) are just a few examples. Southern Pulse says these "regional" organizations also often ally with larger, multinational organizations, such as the Zetas or the Sinaloa Cartel, thus providing another plane in which battles can occur. 

These splinter groups are now largely thought to be responsible for the upsurge of violence in Mexico which intensified between 2010 and 2011. Battles between La Barredora and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco helped give Acapulco some of the highest levels of criminal violence in Mexico last year. 

These splinter groups also present a much different challenge for the government. They are more local and pursue a more diversified range of criminal activities, from kidnapping to car theft. While these activities represent less rent, they also have lower barriers of entry. The result is a fluid, constantly shifting terrain in which small organizations battle each other for smaller pieces of the criminal pie. Violence is inevitable and the wider range of municipalities with spikes in homicides is a testament to this shift.

In essence, something fundamental about Mexico's security plan is not working. It seems as though authorities have mastered phase one of the strategy: lopping off the head of the big drug cartels. But there does not yet appear to be a clear strategy for phase two -- cleaning up the mess left behind.