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Feature 090814 Bargent

Monday, September 8, 2014

Conspiracies, Plots and Forward-looking Mexican Drug Lords

By James Bargent

The leaders of some of Mexico's principal drug cartels recently staged a narco-summit to reconfigure the criminal landscape, according to reports in local media, which, if accurate, could mark the start of a new anti-Sinaloa Cartel criminal alliance.

The Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that it obtained US and Mexican intelligence documents which indicate that the Zetas, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), the Jalisco Cartel-New Generation (CJNG), and the Juarez Cartel met in June in Piedras Negras, a town on the US border in the state of Coahuila.

According to the documents, the summit was attended by Juarez Cartel chief Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias "El Viceroy," the head of the CJNG Nemesio Oseguera, alias "El Mencho," the ostensible head of the Zetas, Omar Treviño Morales, alias "Z42,″ and Fausto Isidro Meza, alias "Chapo Isidro," an up-and-coming power in the BLO and trusted lieutenant to cartel chief Hector Beltran Leyva, "El H."

According to Reforma, the purpose of the meeting was to form an alliance to redraw the map of drug trafficking in Mexico.

InSight Crime Analysis

The reports of the top-level narco-summit are based on one – as of yet unconfirmed –source, and thus they should be approached with caution, but if the meeting did take place it could mark the start of major changes in the world of Mexican organized crime.

The groups involved are some of the biggest names in drug trafficking, and together they have a presence in 20 of Mexico's 31 states, according to Reforma. However, they are also a mix of groups struggling to maintain their position in the face of a rapidly evolving underworld and the threat of the Sinaloa Cartel juggernaut.

At one point the Zetas were the main threat to the Sinaloans, but infighting and the loss of leaders have left a fragmented force of ever-more independent cells reduced to living off the proceeds of localized crimes such as extortion and kidnapping.

See also: Mexico News and Profiles

Similarly, the Juarez Cartel was a bitter enemy of the Sinaloans, but the long and vicious war for the Juarez border crossing left the group a defeated shadow of the powerful organization it once was.

In contrast, the BLO was once part of the same federation as the Sinaloa Cartel, but since 2008 the two have been engaged in a bitter war, which has taken a toll on the BLO's leadership.

Meanwhile, the CJNG is a relatively new organization that has grown in power rapidly but whose influence remains confined to a relatively small geographical area.

It is likely that a key aspect of any pact between these groups would be an alliance to take on their shared enemy, the Sinaloa Cartel. However, any agreement may also involve reconfiguring drug trafficking operations to reflect new realities.

None of the groups involved have the expansive territorial presence or hierarchical organizational control they once enjoyed, making the business of drug trafficking much more difficult. To adapt to this new decentralized, fragmented reality, it would make sense to adopt the model now used by Colombian drug trafficking groups, which underwent a similar process.

This would involve cooperating in a decentralized network that plays to the respective strengths of the different groups, such as drug trafficking contacts, production facilities, or control of movement corridors and border crossings.

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This commentary, "Reported Narco-Summit Could Herald Upheaval for Mexico Underworld," was first published in InSight Crime, on Sep. 1, 2014, and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization.  InSight Crime's objective is to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.  James Bargent is a journalist who has worked for InSight Crime since 2012.

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