Mexico. The break-up of the drug cartels.

The formation of micro-cartels is superimposing itself on the traditional large drug cartels. The petrol trade, a new business for the drug cartels.

In recent years, the creation of micro-cartels is superimposing itself on the large drug cartels. This has happened due to pressure from law enforcement but even more because of the break-up and fragmentation present within the cartel governing groups. In this way these new cartels appeared whose names indicate immediately that they are “independent” and distance themselves from the historical cartels such as, for example, the recently-formed drug cartel CIDA (Independent Acapulco Cartel). The arrest of many of the bosses has sometimes led to fierce fighting for “succession”, often resulting in the cartels being split into two or more organisations. Up to a few years ago, the Los Zetas drug cartel waged a fierce war against the other cartels and became the emerging cartel of north-east Mexico; in recent times, one of the most violent cartels, in the so-called Terra Caliente region in the central west of the country, the CJNG cartel (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion) has come to the fore.

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The fragmentation of the drug cartels, a scenario many feel is somewhat Balkan, according to recent figures has seen the emergence of as many as thirteen cartels, without counting the multitude of micro-cartels. The thirteen major cartels are spread over geographical areas: North-west: the Sinaloa, Beltran Leyva, Los Mazateclos, El Chapo Trini/El Cadete cartels; South-west central: the Jalisco Nueva Generacion, I Cavalieri Templari, La Familia Michoacana, Guerreros Unidos, Los Rojos, Cartel Indipendente de Acapulco, Los Viagra cartels; North-east: the Los Zetas cartel. Central South-east: a myriad of groups that come under the name of Red Velazquez; other micro-cartels that do not belong to the above-mentioned groups.

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For a long time now, the drug merchants have formed large criminal industries backed by extremely efficient organisation. Trafficking in cocaine (imported from Colombia, Peru, Argentina) and the production (done in loco) of cannabis and synthetic drugs are the pillars of the illegal trade of the drug merchants who control the  entire Pacific and North American market, in particular, the sale of c.d. meth crystals, the synthetic drug whose chemical precursors are purchased by Asian mafia gangs. One kilo of meth costs an average of 300 dollars and is re-sold in the USA for 20,000 dollars a kilo. The most flourishing market is still made up of the close North American neighbours from whom the drug mafias, in turn, acquire arms and ammunition for their gangs. The incredible ease with which arms are purchased in the United States remains an unresolved problem in the fight against drug trafficking, with its tens of markets where arms can be bought. It is evident that the financial resources of the cartels are enormous: this enables them to pay bribes, to buy ever more lethal weapons, to maintain the massive logistics behind the traffic of drugs and occasionally to build mini-submarines to enter the waters of California undisturbed.

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Since 2013, in particular, a new “business sector” has appeared, the traffic in petrol where thousands of robberies have hit the pipelines of Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), the government department that manages the energy market. Among the gangs more active in this field is that of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. Some figures: In 2013, there were 1,700 robberies and this number increased to 2,500 in 2014 and to almost 4,000 in 2015. According to the estimates of the Mexican Association of Gas Station Owners, fuel stolen from Pemex amounts to 30% of the daily consumption of 200 million litres.  The government said it was losing $1 billion a year from such thefts. The cartels also steal petroleum products directly from Pemex facilities, by paying off and/or threatening Pemex staff and driving their tankers right up to the storage tanks.

Marco Leofrigio



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