Every year Mexican cartels expand their control over the global drug trade, yet organized crime becomes more divided with crime bosses quickly rising and falling. Adding to the confusion, the alliances and rivalries among the groups that impact security can shift overnight. Now, in 2015 there are dozens of individual Mexican crime groups, each with their own niche of organized crime activities.
We have therefore had to change the way we think and write about Mexican organized crime. This radical change is now apparent in our popular cartel map.
Despite the numerous different groups that exist in Mexico, we can attribute the behavior and overall evolution of virtually all of them to three geographic areas of the country: crime groups led from Tamaulipas state, Sinaloa state, and crime groups led from the Tierra Caliente region in Mexico's southwest.
Sinaloa-based organized crime had dominated Mexico's geography for many years following the breakdown of the Guadalajara cartel. But in the early 2000s, a second major regional camp of criminals had emerged in contest to Sinaloa — Tamaulipas-based organized crime. The expansion of Tamaulipas-based crime groups is thanks to the efforts of crime bosses in the Gulf cartel — then Los Zetas. In 2012, crime groups led by both the Sinaloa and Tamaulipas regions suffered several key losses, weakening the hold each had over organized crime elsewhere in the country. This weakening led to the emergence of Tierra Caliente-based crime groups as a third dominate camp of regionally based organized crime.
Whether examining organized crime in Ciudad Juarez or Acapulco, the broader direction of the gangs in each will be dictated by the overall trends in their regional camps. By taking a step back and viewing organized crime from a regional view, we can avoid the murky waters of organized crime in Mexico. We know that shifting balances of power in each region tends to bring far more insecurity than any conflict between groups in opposing regions. We know that geographic reach of specific crime groups largely expand or contract in the same direction as its regional camp.
So, in taking a step back from the numerous criminal brand names in Mexico, we can have a more accurate view how organized crime can affect security in the future.