12 cartels at war for territory across Mexico; AMLO dismisses report as propaganda against his administration

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These are the findings of the study ‘Mexico: Organizations of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking’, prepared by the US Congressional Research Service.

In Mexico, there are seven “traditional organizations” dedicated to international drug trafficking, but there are also five smaller and more modern gangs that fight for territory.

The most traditional organizations are the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, Tijuana Cartel, Juárez Cartel (Carrillo Fuentes Organization), Beltrán Leyva Cartel, Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacana. 

They compete with more “modern” organizations, such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (which appeared in 2011), or regional ones, such as Los Rojos (a spin-off of the Beltrán Leyva), as well as Los Caballeros Templarios and Los Viagras.


These are the data presented in the study “Mexico: Organizations of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking”, prepared by the United States Congressional Research Service and which was extensively commented on by Ricardo Raphael and Sergio Aguayo at an Aristegui analysis table in alive.

According to a report cited by the firm Stratfor Worldview, there are 12 main cartels in Mexico.

The data on the map below was compiled by Latin America regional analyst James Bosworth from open sources and interviews with journalists. 

According to this map, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel dominates Baja California Sur, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima and Querétaro. The Sinaloa Cartel has Durango and Sinaloa.

However, the CJNG is in dispute with other organizations in Baja California, Sonora, Zacatecas, Michoacán, the State of Mexico, Morelos, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Quintana Roo and Tabasco.

Meanwhile, Chihuahua is a battle zone between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juárez Cartel, while the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel fight in San Luis Potosí, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Coahuila.

In addition, the map of the firm Stratfor Worldview presents the areas where the main cartels of Mexico operate (cover photo). 

The analysis

Many analysts argue that conflicts between rising dissident groups or cartel splinters are behind some of the country’s most violent areas, the study says.

Smaller groups, according to some analysts, may be less able to challenge the government or engage in transnational crime, including international drug trafficking. 

However, the splinter groups of large cartels continue to fight to retain the lucrative business of drug trafficking, since it remains one of the criminal businesses with the highest profits, the report says verbatim. 

The document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, which operates solely at the request and direction of Congress.

President’s Peace

This week, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that there are low homicides in areas that are dominated by a single cartel or strong gang. He gave the case of Sinaloa as an example. 

This he said in his morning conference:

There are places where a strong gang predominates and there are no clashes between groups and therefore there are no homicides. Shall I explain more? It’s interesting.

INTERLOCUTOR: In what states does this occur, President?

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: For example, in Sinaloa, Sinaloa is not among the states with the most homicides. We see it? Let’s see, homicides.

INTERLOCUTOR: In other words, is it an agreed peace, President?

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: There is only one band. Most of the homicides, 75 percent, have to do with clashes between gang groups. There are only a few, for example, this one from the State of Mexico that interferes a lot with the population due to extortion, dominating markets, to collect floor fees, but in general, the big gangs have to do with drug trafficking and do not get involved with citizens.

Here it is, look. Where is Sinaloa? Look, the average should be around here. There are others, let’s see if… That’s from January to April, that’s what I’m proposing. But I am going to give another example, Durango; however, Michoacan.

What’s happening here?

Here there is not a single group, here there are about 10 different ones, so the clashes here between the gangs are greater, to gradually understand the phenomenon.

INTERLOCUTOR: In what states does this occur, President?

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: For example, in Sinaloa, Sinaloa is not among the states with the most homicides. We see it? Let’s see, homicides.

Donde domina una banda, hay menos homicidios.- AMLO

INTERLOCUTOR: In other words, is it an agreed peace, President?

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: There is only one band. Most of the homicides, 75 percent, have to do with clashes between gang groups. There are only a few, for example, this one from the State of Mexico that interferes a lot with the population due to extortion, dominating markets, to collect floor fees, but in general, the big gangs have to do with drug trafficking.

Here it is, look. Where is Sinaloa? Look, the average should be around here. There are others, let’s see if… That’s from January to April, that’s what I’m proposing. But I am going to give another example, Durango; however, Michoacan.

What’s happening here?

Here there is not a single group, here there are about 10 different ones, so the clashes here between the gangs are greater, to gradually understand the phenomenon.

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