Al Qaeda is Scared and No Match to the Mexican Drug Cartels
Al Qaeda is Scared to the Mexican Drug Cartels
Al-Qaeda (// al-KY-də; Arabic: القاعدة al-qāʿidah, Arabic: [ælqɑːʕɪdɐ], translation: “The Base” and alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa’ida) is a global militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan, at some point between August 1988 and late 1989, with its origins being traceable to the Soviet War in Afghanistan. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad and a strict interpretation of sharia law. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, India and various other countries (see below). Al-Qaeda has carried out many attacks on non-Sunni Muslims, non-Muslims, and other targets it considers kafir.
Al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, including the September 11 attacks, 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the 2002 Bali bombings. The U.S. government responded to the September 11 attacks by launching the War on Terror. With the loss of key leaders, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s operations have devolved from actions that were controlled from the top-down, to actions by franchise associated groups, to actions of lone wolf operators.
Characteristic techniques employed by al-Qaeda include suicide attacks and simultaneous bombings of different targets. Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement, who have taken a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, or the much more numerous “al-Qaeda-linked” individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Sudan, but who have not taken any pledge. Al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new world-wide Islamic caliphate. Among the beliefs ascribed to Al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam. As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of civilians is religiously sanctioned, and they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of civilians and internecine fighting. Al-Qaeda also opposes man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.
Al-Qaeda is also responsible for instigating sectarian violence among Muslims. Al-Qaeda is intolerant of non-Sunni branches of Islam and denounces them by means of excommunications called “takfir“. Al-Qaeda leaders regard liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other sects as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Yazidi community bombings, the Sadr City bombings, the Ashoura Massacre and the April 2007 Baghdad bombings.
The birth of all Mexican drug cartels is traced to former Mexican Judicial Federal Police agent Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (“The Godfather”), who founded the Guadalajara Cartel in 1980 and controlled all illegal drug trade in Mexico and the trafficking corridors across the Mexico-USA border throughout the 1980s. He started off by smuggling marijuana and opium into the U.S.A., and was the first Mexican drug chief to link up with Colombia‘s cocaine cartels in the 1980s. Through his connections, Félix Gallardo became the point man for the Medellin cartel, which was run by Pablo Escobar. This was easily accomplished because Félix Gallardo had already established an infrastructure that stood ready to serve the Colombia-based traffickers.
There were no cartels at that time in Mexico. Félix Gallardo was the lord of Mexican drug smugglers. He oversaw all operations; there was just him, his cronies, and the politicians who sold him protection. However, the Guadalajara Cartel suffered a major blow in 1985 when the group’s co-founder Rafael Caro Quintero was captured, and later convicted, for the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. Félix Gallardo afterwards kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his family to Guadalajara. According to Peter Dale Scott, the Guadalajara Cartel prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS), under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset.
“The Godfather” then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop. In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Gallardo convened the nation’s top drug traffickers at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas or territories.
The Tijuana route would go to the Arellano Felix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez route would go to the Carrillo Fuentes family. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. The control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor—then becoming the Gulf Cartel—would be left undisturbed to its founder Juan García Abrego. Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, as he maintained important connections, but he would no longer control all details of the business.
Félix Gallardo was arrested on 8 April 1989.
In 1999, Gulf Cartel’s leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, hired a group of 31 corrupt former elite military soldiers to work for him. These former Airmobile Special Forces Group (GAFE), and Amphibian Group of Special Forces (GANFE) soldiers became known as Los Zetas and began operating as a private army for the Gulf Cartel. During the early 2000s the Zetas were instrumental in the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the drug trade in much of Mexico.
After the 2007 arrest and extradition of Gulf Cartel leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the Zetas seized the opportunity to strike out on their own. Under the leadership of Heriberto Lazcano, the Zetas, numbering approximately 300, gradually set up its own independent drug, arms and human-trafficking networks. In 2008, Los Zetas made a deal with ex-Sinaloa cartel commanders, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers and since then, became rivals of their former employer/partner, the Gulf Cartel.
In early 2010 the Zetas made public their split from the Gulf Cartel and began a bloody war with Gulf Cartel over control of Northeast Mexico’s drug trade routes. This war has resulted in the deaths of thousands of cartel members and suspected members. Furthermore, due to alliance structures, the Gulf Cartel- Los Zetas conflict drew in other cartels, namely the Sinaloa Cartel which fought the Zetas in 2010 and 2011.
The Zetas involved themselves in more than drug trafficking and have also been connected to human trafficking, pipeline trafficked oil theft, extortion, and trading pirated CDs. Their criminal network is said to reach far from Mexico including into Central America, the U.S.A and Europe.
The Sinaloa Cartel began to contest the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the coveted southwest Texas corridor following the arrest of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas in March 2003. The “Federation” was the result of a 2006 accord between several groups located in the Pacific state of Sinaloa. The cartel is led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s most-wanted drug trafficker and whose estimated net worth of US$1 billion makes him the 1140th richest man in the world and the 55th most powerful, according to his Forbes magazine profile. In February 2010, new alliances were formed against Los Zetas and Beltran Leyva Cartel.
The Sinaloa Cartel fought the Juarez Cartel in a long and bloody battle for control over drug trafficking routes in and around the northern city of Ciudad Juarez. The battle eventually resulted in defeat for the Juarez Cartel but not before taking the lives of between 5-12,000 people in drug related violence. During the war for the turf in Ciudad Juarez the Sinaloa Cartel used several gangs (e.g. Los Mexicles, the Artistas Asesinos and Gente Nueva) to attack the Juarez Cartel. The Juarez Cartel similarly used gangs such as the La Linea and the Aztecas to fight the Sinaloa Cartel.
As of May 2010, numerous reports by Mexican and US media claimed that Sinaloa had infiltrated the Mexican federal government and military, and colluded with it to destroy the other cartels. The Colima, Sonora and Milenio Cartels are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel.
The Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo), based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, has been one of Mexico’s two dominant cartels in recent years. In the late 1990s, it hired a private mercenary army (an enforcer group now called Los Zetas), which in 2006 stepped up as a partner but, in February 2010, their partnership was dissolved and both groups engaged in widespread violence across several border cities of Tamaulipas state, turning several border towns into “ghost towns”.
The Gulf Cartel (CDG) was strong at the beginning of 2011, holding off several Zetas incursions into its territory. However, as the year progressed, internal divisions led to intra-cartel battles in Matamoros and Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. The infighting resulted in several arrests and deaths in Mexico and in the United States. The CDG has since broken apart, and it appears that one faction, known as Los Metros, has overpowered its rival Los Rojos faction and is now asserting its control over CDG operations.
The infighting has weakened the CDG, but the group seems to have maintained control of its primary plazas, or smuggling corridors, into the United States. The Mexican federal government has made notable successes in capturing the leadership of the Gulf Cartel. Osiel Cardenas Guillen, his brothers Antonio Cardenas Guillen, Mario Cardenas Guillen, and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez have all been captured and incarcerated during Felipe Calderon‘s administration.
La Familia Cartel
La Familia Michoacana was a major Mexican drug cartel based in Michoacán between at least 2006 and 2011. It was formerly allied to the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, but split off and became an independent organization.
In 2009-2010, a counter-narcotics offensive by Mexican and U.S. government agencies produced the arrest of at least 345 suspected La Familia members in the U.S., and the death of one of the cartel’s founders, Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno González, on December 9, 2010. The cartel then divided into the Knights Templar Cartel and a José de Jesús Méndez Vargas-led faction, which kept the name La Familia. Following the cartel’s fragmentation in late 2010 and early 2011, the La Familia Cartel under Méndez Vargas fought the Knights Templar Cartel but on June 21, 2011 Méndez Vargas was arrested by Mexican authorities and in mid-2011 the Attorney General in Mexico (PGR) stated that La Familia Cartel had been “exterminated,” leaving only the splinter group, the Knights Templar Cartel.
The Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization, was once among Mexico’s most powerful. It is based in Tijuana, one of the most strategically important border towns in Mexico, and continues to export drugs even after being weakened by an internal war in 2009. Due to infighting, arrests and the deaths of some of its top members, the Tijuana Cartel is a fraction of what it was in the 1990s and early 2000s, when it was considered one of the most potent and violent criminal organizations in Mexico by the police. After the arrest or assassination of various members of the Arellano Felix clan, the cartel is currently headed by Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, a nephew of the Arellano Felix brothers.
The Knights Templar drug cartel (Spanish: Caballeros Templarios) was created in Michoacán in March 2011 after the death of the charismatic leader of La Familia Michoacana cartel, Nazario Moreno González. The Cartel is headed by Enrique Plancarte Solís and Servando Gómez Martínez who formed the Knights Templar due to differences with José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, who had assumed leadership of La Familia Michoacana.
After the emergence of the Knights Templar, sizable battles flared up during the spring and summer months between the Knights Templar and La Familia. The organization has grown from a splinter group to a dominant force over La Familia, and at the end of 2011, following the arrest of José de Jesús “El Chango” Méndez Vargas, leader of La Familia, the cartel appeared to have taken over the bulk of La Familia’s operations in Mexico and the U.S. In 2011 the Knights Templar appeared to have aligned with the Sinaloa Federation in an effort to root out the remnants of La Familia and to prevent Los Zetas from gaining a more substantial foothold in the Michoacán region of central Mexico.
Alliances or agreements between drug cartels have been shown to be fragile, tense and temporary. Mexican drug cartels have increased their co-operation with U.S. street and prison gangs to expand their distribution networks within the U.S.
Beltrán Leyva Cartel
The Beltrán Leyva Cartel was a Mexican drug cartel and organized crime syndicate founded by the four Beltrán Leyva brothers: Marcos Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor. In 2004 and 2005, Arturo Beltrán Leyva led powerful groups of assassins to fight for trade routes in northeastern Mexico for the Sinaloa Cartel. Through the use of corruption or intimidation, the Beltrán Leyva Cartel was able to infiltrate Mexico’s political, judicial and police institutions to feed classified information about anti-drug operations, and even infiltrated the Interpol office in Mexico.
Following the December, 2009 death of the cartel’s leader Arturo Beltrán Leyva by Mexican Marines the cartel entered into an internal power struggle between Arturo’s brother, Héctor Beltrán Leyva, and Arturo’s top enforcer Edgar Valdez Villarreal. Meanwhile the cartel continued to dissolve with factions such as the South Pacific Cartel, La Mano Con Ojos, Independent Cartel of Acapulco, and La Barredora forming and the latter two cartels starting yet another intra-Beltrán Leyva Cartel conflict.
The Mexican Federal Police considers the cartel to have been disbanded, and the last cartel leader, Héctor Beltrán Leyva, apparently has been inactive and remains a fugitive; the U.S.A. is offering a US$5 million bounty for information leading to his arrest, while the Mexican government is offering a US$2.1 million bounty.
The Juárez Cartel controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Ciudad Juárez. La Línea is a group of Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt Juárez and Chihuahua state police officers who work as the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes heads the Juárez Cartel.
In 2011, the Juárez Cartel continues to weaken, however, still controls the three main points of entry into El Paso, Texas. The Juárez Cartel is only a shadow of the organization it was a decade ago, and its weakness and inability to effectively fight against Sinaloa’s advances in Juarez contributed to the lower death toll in Juarez in 2011.
On September 1, 2013, Mexican authorities arrested the alleged leader Juárez Cartel leader Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, alias Betty la Fea (Ugly Betty) in the western state of Nayarit without any resistance.