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

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...

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: 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.

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: '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: 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...

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...