Officials believe a woman could be the next head of the Gulf Cartel

Authorities in Mexico believe that the next leader of the Gulf Cartel could be a woman, an unusual development in the macho world of drug trafficking, but which might unite the badly splintered group.

According to security officials consulted by Mexico’s La Jornada, in the wake of the September 12 capture of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss,” a woman may be next in line to succeed as head of the Gulf Cartel. Sources in the military and the Attorney General’s Office told the newspaper that El Coss will likely be followed by one of the four siblings of jailed Gulf kingpin Osiel Cardenas Guillen, among them two women. While law enforcement officials have identified one of these Liliana Cardenas Guillen, the identity of the other sister is unknown.

Military officials told La Jornada that if one of the Cardenas Guillen sisters assumed leadership of the Gulf Cartel, it could serve to unite the group at a time when it is divided. After Osiel’s brother Antonio, known as “Tony Tormenta,” was killed in a firefight with police in November 2010, the Gulf Cartel split into two factions: the Rojos, loyal to the Cardenas Guillen family, and the Metros, who had been led by El Coss until his recent arrest.

InSight Crime Analysis

While it would be unusual for a Cardenas Guillen sister to directly manage the drug cartel, it would not be entirely unprecedented. The Tijuana Cartel has been headed for some time by Enedina Arellano Felix, who took over the group after her brothers were killed or arrested.  She now manages it with her son, Fernando Sanchez Arellano, alias "El Ingeniero." Another famous “drug queen,” Sandra Avila Beltran, is currently being tried in the United States on charges that she served as a key link between the Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s Norte del Valle Cartel.

However, if the Gulf Cartel’s last chance to unite and attempt to regain some of the territory it has lost to rivals in recent years lies with a female successor, there may be little chance of recovery. As InSight Crime has reported, powerful women in Mexico’s criminal underworld generally have difficulty commanding on their own, and have been forced to rely on men in their organizations to legitimize their positions.

Investigations

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

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...