As we suggested a year ago – Mexico’s drug cartels and their shifting areas of operation, a 2012 update – it is increasingly difficult to track the areas of operation of the major drug trafficking groups in Mexico. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control recently added a new narcotrafficking group in Mexico, the Meza Flores family, to its list of Foreign Narcotics Kingpins. (This designation prohibits people in the USA from engaging in transactions with the named individuals or their organization, and freezes any assets the individuals or organization may have under U.S. jurisdiction).
According to the Treasury Department’s statement, the Meza Flores family began operations in about 2000 and is responsible for the distribution of considerable quantities of methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the USA. It is headed by Fausto Isidro Meza Flores (aka “Chapito Isidro”) and is based in the town of Guasave, in the state of Sinaloa. (Meza Flores was previously in the Juárez cartel before becoming a high ranking member of the now defunct Beltran Leyva cartel).
The Meza Flores group is a direct rival of the long-established and very powerful Sinaloa cartel. The Sinaloa cartel is headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, who has been on the run since escaping from the maximum security jail in Almoloya de Juárez, near Toluca, in 2001. According to Forbes Magazine, Guzman Loera is currently Mexico’s 10th richest individual, with assets of around one billion dollars.
Mexico’s “War on Drugs” in recent years has led to a fragmentation of the major cartels. Some experts claim that as many as 80 distinct groups are now involved in drug production and trafficking. Many of these groups are small and highly localized, but this fragmentation has increased the incidence of turf wars between rival groups. These turf wars have caused extreme levels of violence in some parts of the country. Once one side is firmly in control, the violence drops.
The current federal administration has said that some 70,000 people died in Mexico between 2006 and 2012 as a result of the activities of organized crime. Recent press reports such as Jalisco: La invasión de Los Templarios claim that one on-going boundary war is along the state boundary between Michoacán and Jalisco. This conflict is between the Michoacán-based Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios, LCT) and the Jalisco-based New Generation cartel (CJNG).
The LCT is comprised largely of former members of La Familia Michoacana (LFM), a group which is now almost defunct. Other members of LFM joined the Zetas, the Sinaloa cartel’s arch enemy. The CJNG started out as enforcers for the Sinaloa Cartel.
Violence linked to this particular turf war has occurred in numerous municipalities including Jilotlán de los Dolores, Pihuamo, Mazamitla, San José de Gracia, La Barca, Atotonilco, Ayotlán, Tizapán el Alto, Tuxcueca, Jocotepec and Chapala (all in Jalisco), as well as Briseñas, Yurécuaro, Sahuayo, Marcos Castellanos, La Piedad, Zamora, Cotija de La Paz, Tepalcatepec, Los Reyes, Peribán and Apatzingán (all in Michaocán).
This is not the only turf war currently underway in Mexico. For example, further north, another recent hot spot has erupted along the Durango-Coahuila border, especially in the La Laguna area centered on the city of Torreón.
- Using Google to map areas influenced by drug cartel activity (Nov 2012)
- Mexican attitudes on the drug war, violence and crime (Jul 2012)
- How much drugs money is laundered in Mexico each year? (Apr 2012)
- How does money laundering work, and what is being done about it? (Mar 2012)
- Mexico’s drug cartels and their shifting areas of operation, a 2012 update (Feb 2012)
- Geographic trends in Mexico’s drug violence (Feb 2011)
- The geography of drug trafficking in Mexico (Apr 2010)