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By JESSICA GUERRERO

MORELIA, Michoacán — The ever-expanding scope of the Mexican cartels around the world in the last two decades has proven the great adaptability that these organizations possess and their success to develop a highly functional and complex operational business structure.

Up until now, the North American market has been the most profitable for Mexican cartels, representing an average annual income of between $19 and $29 billion, mainly from operations in the United States and Canada.

However, the Mexican cartels’ ambition to expand their market share even further and to increase their profits has motivated them to bet on venturing into foreign territories in search of new routes and to diversify their commercial partners across the globe.

Since the start of Mexico’s war on drugs back in 2006, the formation of alliances and links between the Mexican cartels and criminal organizations in Europe, particularly in the south of that continent with the Italian mafia, have kept them in the crosshairs of U.S. authorities.

These business partnerships between Mexican drug lords and the aforementioned criminal groups in Europe led to a close collaboration for the trans-Atlantic distribution and sale of drugs which, up until then, had been dominated by the Colombian mafia.

But in recent years, the Sinaloa Cartel, known for forging business relationships with a range of existing criminal organizations, has built an emporium of comparable dimensions with some of the largest corporations in the world by generating an estimated annual income of $3 billion just from the control of the drug markets in Mexico and the United States, where it is believed to currently control at least 60 percent of the total market.

Almost on a par with the Sinaloa Cartel, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG) has emerged at an unprecedented speed and has quickly extended its criminal tenticles throughout Mexico, becoming one of the most dominant criminal groups in the country.

The CJNG’s assets are currently estimated to have a net worth of more than $20 billion. And according to the U.S. Department of Justice, it is one of the most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world today.

The Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG are both endlessly hungry for territory and have maintained a continuous internal struggle for regional control within Mexico of such magnitude that it is now estimated that these two groups are responsible for at least 34 percent of all murders committed in country during the first half of 2021, particularly in northwestern and western states.

And as both cartels look to globalize their operatins, the power struggles between them have also expanded beyond Mexico’s borders.

In the United States, the two groups are at odds for territorial  drug sales and distribution.

Likewise, this phenomenon is seen on the southern border of Mexico with Guatemala, as well as in some South American countries such as Peru, where both criminal groups are fighting over maritime routes in this region for the cocaine shipments to the United States.

According to reports from the Guatemalan Navy, the CJNG operates in the north of this country, in the Petén, Huehuetenango, Quiché and Alta Verapaz regions, adjacent to the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas. Meanwhile, the Sinaloa Cartel has influence in southern Guatemala on the Pacific Ocean coast, made up of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu, Escuintla and Santa Rosa.

Meanwhile, in the central region of Guatemala, there is a presence of both organizations, which is considered “a disputed area or an undefined area, with very little influence (of any specific cartel) yet.”

In Peru, the Navy forces of that country have reported that the Sinaloa Cartel and the CJNG, as well as Colombian, Brazilian and European organizations, last year kept control of the main sea and river routes that are utilized to ship drugs.

According to Peruvian authorities, these criminal groups have also associated themselves with local family gangs from the cocaine production areas to increase their profit margins.

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