X20's capture leaves a power vacuum in fragmented cartel

Three men will fight to control Mexico's Gulf Cartel following the capture of leader "X20" last week, according to US sources, although whether any of them are capable of uniting the divided mafia remains to be seen.

Mexico's El Universal newspaper cited US agencies as naming Luis Alberto Trinidad Ceron, alias "El Guicho," Juan Francisco Carrizales, "El 98," and Juan Alberto de la Cruz Alvarez, alias "El Juanillo" or "El Fernandillo," as the three potential successors to Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, alias "X20," detained August 17 in the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

According to El Universal, Trinidad was the lieutenant of Michael Villarreal, alias "El Gringo," a US citizen who led the Metros -- one of two warring factions of the Gulf Cartel -- until he was killed on March 12. He is also responsible for the trafficking of weapons and explosives to the border town of Laredo, it said.

Francisco Carrizales is in charge of kidnapping, especially of migrants, said the paper, while De La Cruz Alvarez is responsible for arranging "safe houses" on the Texan side of Laredo where kidnapped migrants are held and killed. It did not state whether the latter two were part of the Metros or their rival faction the Rojos.

The US authorities believe all three have carried out drug trafficking operations and understand the way the Gulf Cartel operates, said El Universal.

InSight Crime Analysis

Like several of its rival organizations, the once powerful Gulf Cartel has disintegrated from its days as a tight-knit hierarchical organization into a chaotic set of warring factions in which betrayal has become commonplace.

SEE ALSO: Gulf Cartel Profile

 The death of one of the cartel's principal figures in 2010 created a bitter and at times violent rift between a faction known as the Rojos, loyal to jailed former leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen and his family, and the Metros, loyal to long-time member Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias "El Coss," who successfully dominated the organization until his capture in September 2012. X20, also from the Metros side, later gained control after fierce battles in Reynosa. The rivalry has seen members setting each other up for capture or to be killed, even reportedly within the two groups themselves. 

Little is known about the three men apparently named by the United States, but with few genuine criminal heavyweights ready to step in and assume command, it seems unlikely that any one person can replace X20 and maintain centralized control of the Gulf Cartel's increasingly fragmented criminal structures.

Investigations

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

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...

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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: 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.

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...