Announced Zetas, Gulf Alliance Could Change Mexico’s Criminal Landscape

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Factions of the criminal organizations Zetas and Gulf Cartel announced the two criminal groups have formed an alliance, which, if true, would be a game changer in Mexico’s underworld by ending one of the country’s bloodiest criminal feuds.

In a joint statement circulated on November 11 (see below),  leaders of factions within the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas announced the criminal groups would stop fighting, declaring, “Those that kept the war going are either dead or in jail.”

The statement — signed by the head of the Gulf Cartel’s Los Rojos faction and the leader of the Zetas’ faction “Zetas Unidos” — claims the drug cartels agreed to the alliance because they want peace in Tamaulipas, for years the scene of brutal fighting between the two groups. As a result, the organizations will allegedly stop criminal activities that put at risk the general population such as kidnapping and extortion, and revert to “old school” ways, like drug trafficking.

In the statement, the leaders claim the two cartels are no longer fighting and are, “More united than ever.”

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InSight Crime Analysis

If the statement is the product of a true alliance forged between the two drug cartels, it would have major ramifications for Mexico’s organized crime landscape. For years, Tamaulipas has been a hub of violence between the Gulf Cartel and its former military wing, the Zetas, as they battled for trafficking routes in key border cities like Nuevo Laredo. The bloodbath led to sky-high murder rates within the city and throughout Tamaulipas. Despite the decline of both organizations due to the capture or killing of important leaders in recent years, fighting persists as factions of the criminal groups battle for control over their former territories. 

It is worth noting the reported alliance was signed between minority leaders of both cartels, and does not necessarily indicate other factions of the two criminal groups are willing to go along with the peace agreement. The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have decentralized operational structures that function closer to semi-independent franchises than traditional, hierarchical drug cartels. Some of the Zetas cells are held together together by name alone, as the Zetas brand gives them more strength than operating as an independent crime syndicate. This is increasingly becoming a pattern throughout Mexico as large, organized criminal groups give way to smaller groups with diverse revenue streams.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The current weakened status of the two cartels make their pronouncement that they will go back to “old school” tactics, i.e., drug trafficking, all the more surprising. With their limited geographical reach and decentralized command structure, it is hard to imagine the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel regaining their old influence and trafficking routes in northern Mexico or the United States. As a result, it remains doubtful they will renounce other profitable ventures like extortion or kidnapping.

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