Report Highlights Complexity of Mexico’s Criminal Networks

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A new report reveals the tangled web of illicit networks operating in Mexico’s Baja California Sur state, a reflection of how the country’s criminal landscape has evolved from a few monolithic organizations to a diverse mix of sometimes competing cells.

Mexican authorities have identified four criminal groups operating in Baja California Sur following the end of a war among drug traffickers in the capital city of La Paz, investigative newspaper Zeta reported.

Luis Antonio Montoya Beltran, alias “Don Carlos,” leads the group that came to control La Paz. Known as the “Mayitos,” this criminal cell works for Sinaloa Cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and also controls the port of Cabo San Lucas, among other local towns.

Guadalupe Acosta Lopez, alias “El Javier,” leads a second group nicknamed the “Damasao,” which was reportedly expelled from La Paz by the Mayitos. This cell works for Sinaloa Cartel heavyweight Damaso Lopez Serrano, alias “El Mini Lic.”

The remaining two groups in Baja California Sur are “Los Lalitos” and “Los Luisillos,” which are run by Eduardo Villavicencio Arce, alias “El Lalo,” and Luis Alberto Echeverria Valdes, alias “El Luisillo,” respectively. These two rival groups operate from the municipality of Mulege, where they allegedly control the trafficking of methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine. Intelligence reports have not officially confirmed which criminal group these cells work for, but evidence suggests they may be affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel.

There have also been indications the Knights Templar, Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), and Beltran Leyva Organization have a presence in this zone as well.

Following the war in La Paz, Zeta details how these four groups underwent a complex process of reconfiguration and realignment, changing not only their modus operandi but also their areas of operations. According to Zeta, the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG may have an alliance in La Paz and Los Cabos — two key points for drug shipments destined for the United States — with El Mayo allegedly forming a pact with CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The dizzying array of names, towns, strategic alliances, and rivalries presented in the Zeta report is a testament to the complexity of Mexico’s modern-day criminal landscape. Sustained security crackdowns and the death or capture of many drug capos have resulted in numerous local criminal cells where there were once a handful of monolithic drug trafficking organizations. The ongoing fragmentation of Mexico’s underworld calls into question whether all-encompassing terms such as “the Sinaloa Cartel” are in fact an accurate descriptor of the country’s criminal syndicates. 

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

As the case of Baja California Sur demonstrates, such language oversimplifies and betrays the true nature of how Mexico’s criminal networks operate. A closer examination of the state reveals that, on the ground level, a disparate array of criminal groups, all of which ostensibly belong to the Sinaloa Cartel, are engaged in a constantly shifting dance of cooperation and conflict.

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