Mexican Cartels

Map of Top Mexican Narcotrafficking Organizations

Highlighted, broadcasted, and displayed through our daily lives, the Mexican cartels have impacted the lives of millions across the globe. From film and television with shows like Narcos: Mexico and Queen of the South to the tunes of Narcocorridos music, to politics with the constant argument for tougher border security, one cannot get away from the Mexican cartels and the many tragedies that they have created.

Evolving over time, the rise of the Mexican cartels has led them to becoming the world’s largest narcotics traffickers. Dating back to the 1960s, the slow rise of the cartels beginning with trafficking marijuana to shifting to cocaine, only to make them as powerful as the Mexican government by the 1980s and 1990s. As many of the original cartel leaders would fall victim to the government’s efforts to tame the country’s drug trade, a power struggle ensued as many were either arrested or killed. This power struggle created the Mexican drug war.

The Mexican cartels have been infamous for their control over the world’s drug trade, while also advancing into other legal illegal activities in Mexico and beyond. It all began with the Guadalajara Cartel, which later splintered into multiple organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel, which grew to become the world’s largest drug trafficking organization.

The Juarez Cartel, once led by Amado Fuentes, became one of the top-tier organizations, but declined due to conflict with the Sinaloa Cartel. The Gulf Cartel has a long history of bootlegging and other illegal activities long before its entrance into narcotrafficking. The Tijuana Cartel has been mostly controlled by the Arellano Félix brothers since its founding in the 1980s. The CJNG is a newer cartel that has emerged as one of the fastest-growing organizations in recent years.

The Knights Templar Cartel and La Familia Michoacana are based in Michoacán and have been responsible for much violence in the region. While Los Zetas was once known for its brutality, with drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping. All of these Mexican cartels, and other cartels alike, have had a significant impact on the lifestyles of Mexico over the years.

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