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Mar 13, 2013 | 10:02 GMT

4 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: More Gulf Cartel Infighting

Stratfor

Continued Gulf Cartel Fracturing

Rival groups of gunmen battled March 10 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, with the Mexican military eventually joining the fray. Reports in social media indicate the conflict resulted from infighting within the Gulf cartel. According to some reports, high-level Gulf cartel leader Mario "Pelon" Ramirez Trevino, also known as "X-20," sparked the conflict by ordering the murder of Miguel "El Gringo" Villareal, a Gulf cartel leader operating in Reynosa. Though Stratfor sources have corroborated that Ramirez's network is currently battling Villareal's network, it is unclear whether the March 10 gunfight was part of that conflict.

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Regardless, the March 10 confrontation highlights continued internal rivalries within the Gulf cartel. This infighting began after the death of former top leader Antonio "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillen in 2010, the same year Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel. These two setbacks and the longevity of Gulf infighting, which continues to this day, have prevented the Gulf cartel from acting as a cohesive criminal network.

The Gulf cartel still maintains a strong operational hold over Reynosa and Matamoros, giving it substantial revenues from drug and human trafficking. It also receives support from the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar. This support plus its steady income allows it to defend itself against Los Zetas in northeastern Mexico, and even to assault Los Zetas' interests in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state; Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state; and in cities in Coahuila state.

The Gulf cartel's internal rivalry primarily stems from a conflict between two factions known as Los Metros and Los Rojos. Ramirez Trevino reportedly leads Los Metros and Juan Reyes Mejia Gonzalez reportedly leads Los Rojos. Zeta incursions into Reynosa, and to a lesser extent in Matamoros, are another source of violence in the two cities.

Should the March 10 conflict in Reynosa mark an escalation of Gulf cartel infighting, the Gulf cartel's ability to take on Los Zetas and traffic illicit drugs will decline. This will make it increasingly reliant on support from outside groups like the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar. Reynosa and Matamoros also could see more violence, both from the Gulf infighting and from Los Zetas exploiting the opportunity to attack the Gulf cartel.

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion Progress in Michoacan

On March 8, the Mexican military detained approximately 34 members of a community police force created in February, in Buenavista, Michoacan state. As in some other areas of Mexico, this community police force is a volunteer force that had assumed law enforcement responsibilities separate from the Mexican government. The Buenavista arrests occurred after the community police took over the municipal police station March 4 and detained the municipal police chief, who the Mexican military freed. At least 30 of the detained community police belonged to Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, according to the Mexican military. If true, this suggests organized crime has emphasized infiltrating such volunteer police forces.

The alleged Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion role within the Buenavista community police suggests the group has made substantial inroads into Michoacan state at the expense of one of its principal rivals, the Knights Templar. Their rivalry has since led to intercartel violence in several states, including Jalisco, Michoacan, Colima, Guerrero and Guanajuato. In an escalation, the two groups recently have traded attacks in Jalisco, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion base of operations, and Michoacan, the Knights Templar base of operations.

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has struck in Michoacan even though it is defending its operations in Jalisco against an alliance of the Knights Templar, Los Coroneles and the Gulf cartel. The presence of Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion members in Buenavista's community police force suggest it has managed to establish a firm presence in at least some Michoacan state municipalities. And this suggests a likely increase in violence in Michoacan municipalities such as Buenavista as the Knights Templar retaliate against Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion members and anyone perceived as colluding with them.

Editor's Note: We now offer the daily Mexico Security Monitor, an additional custom intelligence service geared toward organizations with operations or interests in the region, designed to provide more detailed and in-depth coverage of the situation. To learn more about this new fee-based custom service, visit www.stratfor.com/msm.

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