The Gulf Cartel has reportedly driven rival organization the Zetas out of the state of Quintana Roo and tourist hotspot Cancun, potentially leaving the resurgent cartel with control of a popular trafficking route along Mexico’s Caribbean coastline.
According to State Attorney General Gaspar Armando Garcia Torres, there are now only two criminal organizations present in Cancun and the coastal stretch known as the Riviera Maya: the Gulf Cartel and a local group called the Pelones. There is some evidence that these two organizations are working together: in December 2012, a “narco-manta” banner declared the Pelones had joined the Gulf Cartel.
Last year Quintana Roo ranked as the 11th-most violent out of Mexico’s 31 states. The wave of violence has continued throughout 2013, but according to Garcia, most of the killings involved the executions of Zetas holdouts who refused to submit to the Gulf Cartel.
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In recent months, information on Quintana Roo’s security dynamics has been somewhat muddled, and it is likely the situation remains more complex and volatile than Garcia is suggesting.
Just days before Garcia’s comments, Milenio reported that the region was being disputed by the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Zetas, who are allied with the Pelones in some areas, according to the newspaper.
Earlier this year, security analysis firm Stratfor claimed that the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas, and the Jalisco Cartel–New Generation (CJNG) have been disputing the region since 2012, and that the CJNG were allied with the Pelones.
Alliances in the drug world are often temporary and fragile. Additionally, local factions of large cartels often act autonomously, giving rise to such contradictory reporting and making the truth of the situation difficult to untangle.
However, if it is true that the Gulf Cartel is now effectively in control of the region, it would mark a significant victory in their long-running war with their former armed wing the Zetas, and provide further evidence the once declining cartel may be experiencing a revival in some areas.