Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels – Part 3

By Christopher Zoukis / BlogCritics.org

Most of the Sinaloa Cartel’s gangbangers were from MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha. In other words, they were rough boys from El Salvador and the Honduras. With a reputation for brutal violence, MS-13 gangs were the baddest of the bad asses. Only it turned out the Zetas were badder, making the MS-13 gangbangers look like three-year olds at a church picnic. Using heavy weapons and military tactics, the Zetas chopped MS-13 into bits and pieces.

The leader of the Zetas was Heriberto Lazcano, a twenty-eight year old former GAFE officer whose nickname was “The Executioner.” Lazcano intended to hang onto his territory.
The war was on.

Lazcano, realizing he needed more men, initiated a new recruiting strategy. He advertised. Banners hung from overpasses and bridges got right to the point: “We offer you a good salary, food, and attention for your family.” One advertisement stated: “Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel. We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children. Stop living in the slums and riding the bus.”

It worked. Soldiers and ex-soldiers flocked in droves to join up. Lazcano recruited heavily in Guatemala, home of the Kaibil commandos, who really were the baddest of the bad. The motto of the Kaibiles was: “If I retreat, kill me.” Recruiting wasn’t Lazcano’s only talent; he also had a head for business. Zetas troops earned money for the organization through extortion, shaking down anyone and everyone: marijuana growers, dealers, local businesses, restaurants, even car dealerships.

Somewhere in this period of time, Lazcano and his Zetas went from being enforcers for the Gulf Cartel to being their own cartel. The Zetas made their own deals and moved their own product.

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Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1

Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1


By    |   Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Mexican government, appalled at the atrocities committed by the cartels during the late 1980s, began an investigation of the Mexican Cartels. The investigation revealed what was common knowledge: The police were corrupt. It was like cancer, spreading everywhere. Pressured by the DEA, the Mexican government decided to clean house. The Mexican army arrested Guadalajara Cartel drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in 1989. Then they interrogated 300 members of the Culiacan police force. Seven officers were indicted for accepting bribes, while almost one-third of the rank and file police officers quit after being questioned.

Mexico would not extradite criminals to any nation where they could face the death penalty. Therefore, Gallardo was tried in a Mexican court. Sentenced to 40 years in prison, Gallardo continued to run his empire from behind bars, where he was allowed to use a cell phone. Still, because Gallardo was essentially out of the loop, his organization sank into the quicksand of rivalries and greed. Avaricious for money and territory, the Mexican Cartels eyed each other with suspicion and jealousy.

The Sinaloan Cartel didn’t like the hand they had been dealt. In effect, they had only two ways to move drugs into the U.S., through Tecate and Mexicali, neither of which led to lucrative markets, like southern California or Arizona. The Sinaloans took a look around and considered their options. To the east was Sonora, but the Sonoran Cartel had lots of men and lots of guns. The other option was Tijuana, controlled by the Arellano Felix brothers, whom the Sinaloans considered easier pickings. So they went to war with the Tijuana Cartel.


Benjamin Arellano Felix ran the Tijuana Cartel. His brother, Eduardo, ran the financial side of the business, taking care of the money laundering. Ramon, a younger brother, functioned as the Tijuana Cartel’s enforcer. The oldest brother, Francisco, paid off politicians and police officers. Francisco, who was an ostentatious cross-dresser, owned five houses and a discotheque called Frankie O’s. In his heyday, Francisco was greasing palms to the tune of six million dollars per month. The Tijuana Cartel was atypical in that many of their gang members were from affluent middle-class families. They dressed in expensive, stylish clothing, spoke English, and were educated. Most of them eschewed tattoos. They transported heavy weapons into Mexico and drugs into the U.S.

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