The Mexican Army says that six different gangs are currently fighting for control of Jalisco, making the populous Pacific state a microcosm of the shifting alliances and ever-changing fronts of battles raging across the nation.

As Excelsior reported, General Genaro Fausto Lozano pointed to six gangs fighting for control of Jalisco: the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG, for its initials in Spanish), the Resistance, the Caballeros Templarios, the Familia Michoacana, and the Beltran Leyva Organization.

The absence of the Zetas from this list is striking. If Lozano is correct in excluding them, this would mark a sudden shift in the local landscape, but logic suggests it was simply an oversight by the military commander. Last fall, the Zetas were blamed for the massacre of dozens of youths, whose bodies were left inside a truck parked in the middle of Guadalajara. In October, an Excelsior reporter rode along with a military detachment as they searched for Zetas (and other gangs) along the Zacatecas-Jalisco border region. And last year, an article by two government officials, one of whom was Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire, detailed the incursion of the Zetas into the region as far back as 2010.

In any event, the collection of gangs mentioned by Lozano includes both recently emerging, primarily local groups (the Resistance and the CJNG) and the transnational gangs for which Mexico is notorious (principally the Sinaloa Cartel). The larger gangs often pair up with locals to fight a common enemy, but the patchwork of alliances does little to smooth over what is an increasingly chaotic situation.

Indeed, it is often exceedingly difficult to determine the composition of the alliances on a given day, or tell where the dividing lines are. The CJNG are said to be the local agents of the Sinaloa Cartel, because they have a common enemy (the Zetas) and because they are thought to be staffed by the former lieutenants of deceased Sinaloa capo Nacho Coronel.

But it’s not clear that the links between the two groups are particularly extensive or that they will prove enduring. It’s perhaps noteworthy that Coronel’s old subordinates regrouped under a new name, rather than incorporating themselves into the Sinaloa Cartel. It is also worth mentioning that the CJNG play for the Zetas stronghold of Veracruz comes without any conspicuous role from their supposed masters in the Sinaloa foothills. And on at least one occasion, a message left with a dead body and signed by the CJNG has taunted Sinaloa.

The nuances of the relationships among the other gangs operating in Jalisco are similarly unclear. The Resistance has been described as allied to the Zetas and to the Familia Michoacana, though other reports have depicted them as enemies of both these groups. This interplay among the Jalisco gangs demonstrates that, contrary to the widespread belief that all smaller groups are subsidiaries to one of the larger networks, the low-level gangs have been able to carve out an autonomous toehold.

The local gangs operating in Jalisco and elsewhere also demonstrate that the model of the transnational group, controlling every step of production and transportation, is less and less relevant to today's Mexico. Many of the gangs in Jalisco have no known connections to Colombia, nor do they control valuable plazas in the border region, nor do they have retail partners in the US. These groups, and others like them in Acapulco and elsewhere, either buy into another gang's smuggling network in order to ship drugs northward, or they extract their profits from the local population, whether through extortion, kidnapping, car-jacking, or retail drug sales.

In this sense, Jalisco reflects one of the most important criminal dynamics across Mexico. Around the country, such smaller groups have emerged from the splinters of larger gangs brought down by competition and government pursuit. The growth of these regional gangs and the relative weakening of the hegemonic gangs has typically been a force for bloodshed. The upsurge in killings in Mexico amid this process is well documented, and has affected Jalisco over the past two years in particular: according to the National System of Public Security, the number of murders in the state leaped from 570 to 882 from 2009 to 2010, and jumped to more than 1,100 in the first 11 months of last year.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...