By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
In his self-aggrandizing address to the nation on Thursday, July 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said that the country’s fight against organized crime was “well in hand” and that there were only three cartels currently operating in Mexico.
That, it seems, is news to the cartels.
In fact, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and (DEA) and the U.S Department of Justice, there are at least 20 additional cartels operating in Mexico, each staking their own territories for illicit activities, and the three cartels the president mentioned in his address — the Jalisco, Pacific and Guanajuato cartels — have all expanded their operations and reach over the course of the last three years.
The president claimed that groups such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Pacific Cartel already existed when he came to power.
“I do not believe that new groups have been created in these two and a half years,” he said.
“There are just the Jalisco Cartel, the Pacific Cartel and the Guanajuato Cartel, the ones that already existed.”
AMLO went on to say that “there is governance” in Mexico, but a recent U.S. Defense Department report stated that criminal organizations control “ungoverned areas that account for about one-third of Mexico’s territory.”
Speaking during a press conference in March, U.S. General Glen D. Van Herck said that “narcotics, migration and human trafficking are all symptoms of transnational criminal organizations that are operating in ungoverned areas, about 30 to 35 percent of Mexico.”
In its annual drug assessment report for 2020, the DEA acknowledged that “the two largest organizations, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, show signs of expansion in Mexico.”
But in addition to the Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG, the DEA identified at least seven other Mexican criminal groups that have a significant drug trafficking impact on the United States: the Beltrán Leyva Organization, the Northeast Cartel/Los Zetas, the Guerreros Unidos, the Gulf Cartel, the Juárez Cartel/La Línea, the Familia Michoacana and Los Rojos.
Mexican security consultant Eduardo Guerrero told Reforma newspaper on Friday, July 2, that while no new “large” cartels have emerged in recent months, many local and regional criminal organizations and cells have emerged, such as “United Cartels,” which is financing smaller groups to prevent the expansion of the CJNG.
Other organizations that have emerged so far into AMLO’s six-year term are splinter groups of the Gulf Cartel, such as the Cyclones and Scorpions, which were allegedly responsible for the mass shootout in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, last month, leaving at least 15 civilians dead, he said.
“The two biggest cartels have established themselves, let’s say, as two organizations with a national presence,” Guerrero continued.
“They have expanded during the López Obrador administration and are no longer competing over states or regions. They are instead fighting over municipalities. That is why so many violent clashes have ignited in the last year.”
Alejandro Hope, another Mexican security analyst, told Reforma that in the last two and a half years, the process of splintering criminal groups has continued, which is why there is a multiplicity of armed groups, some of which are of a relative new nature.
“There are splinter groups from the Jalisco Cartel and there are splinter groups from the Gulf Cartel,” Hope said.
“Have new criminal groups emerged, new cells? Yes, all the time. It is a very dynamic process. There is a plurality of armed groups in the country that have supplanted the state in various parts of the territory. That is an unconcealable fact.”
And as for AMLO’s claim that the country’s fight against organized crime is “well in hand,” it seems to be well in the hands of the cartels.