US authorities pursue the leader of Barrio Azteca

A series of reports highlights growing ties between US gangs and Mexican drug cartels, and the corruption north of the border that helps facilitate drug trafficking -- dynamics that echo what is seen in Mexico.

In El Universal, Jose Luis Pardo and Alejandra S. Inzunza, members of the journalist collective Dromomanos, documented Mexican criminal organizations' relationship with both gangs and law enforcement in the United States.

They reported how US gangs associated with Mexican cartels -- primarily the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas -- flourish in Texas border counties. In the outskirts of one county, Zapata, the local sheriff told the reporters that nearly everyone in the neighborhood was involved in criminal activity and that the zone was a hotspot for drug stash houses.

Groups like Tango Blast and Texas Syndicate, as well as transnational gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Texas-born prison gang Barrio Azteca, serve as muscle, couriers and local drug vendors for the Mexican groups, Texas officials told the reporters. 

Mexican cartels also rely heavily on corruption in the US border region, paying off sheriffs, border agents and customs officials. Sometimes these ties go much deeper than a bribe. One notable example was that of the Panama Unit, an anti-drug police unit in Hidalgo, Texas, which became involved in guarding and stealing drug loads. Cases of drug-related official corruption have emerged in most Texas border counties, according to Pardo and Inzunza.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Official reports published this year by California and Texas discussed the increasingly close relationship between gangs in these states and Mexican cartels. In the most recent US National Gang Report, 23 percent of police surveyed said gangs with ties to Mexican organized crime were present in their jurisdiction.

Mexican groups have long maintained a relationship with US gangs, but in the past this was largely limited to drug sales. Now, the gangs carry out more sophisticated criminal activities on behalf of cartels, allowing the larger groups to reduce their operational risks in US territory. In return, the gangs receive discounts on the drugs they buy.

This is a dynamic also seen within Mexico, where some 43 gangs -- including groups like Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos, as well as lesser-known gangs -- are now affiliated with the major cartels. This outsourcing of labor is largely a product of a fragmenting criminal landscape, in which the major syndicates no longer enjoy the hegemony they once had. 

SEE ALSO: Barrio Azteca Profile

Payoffs to officials is a common phenomenon on the Mexican as well as the US side of the border, with Mexican government officials at various levels, as well as in law enforcement, known to associate with drug groups.

Investigations

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

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...

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...

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...

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: 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...

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...

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...

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...

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.