Jan 23, 2013 | 11:00 GMT

4 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Two Cartels Lose Senior Figures


A Sinaloa Federation Leader's Arrest

On Jan. 19, Mexican authorities detained senior Sinaloa Federation member Jose Angel "El Changel" Coronel Carrasco, who was responsible for overseeing operations in valuable and contested areas of Sinaloa operations. He was captured after a shootout with Mexican military troops in Sinaloa state's El Espinal rural community, near Culiacan. For several years Coronel Carrasco has held a prominent role in Sinaloa operations in western Mexican states, such as Jalisco, Sinaloa and Nayarit — all areas contested by the Sinaloa Federation's rivals, including Los Zetas and remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization. Since these areas are hotly contested, Coronel Carrasco's arrest may give rivals an advantage as they attempt to wrest control from the Sinaloa Federation.

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At the time of his arrest, Coronel Carrasco was handling Sinaloa operations in the mountains of Sinaloa state, including in the area highly concentrated with illicit drug production known as the Golden Triangle of Mexico, which encompasses the bordering regions of Chihuahua and Durango states. Coronel Carrasco reportedly oversaw some Sinaloa activities in Nayarit state as well

Although the loss of a leader within a cartel is not necessarily an operational hindrance, Coronel Carrasco's placement within the organization increases the likelihood of a significant setback for the Sinaloa Federation while under attack by rival cartels. If Coronel Carrasco indeed led operations in contested areas, his arrest may provide a brief advantage for the Sinaloa Federation's rivals. Such an advantage may prompt additional attacks against Sinaloa interests in Nayarit, Sinaloa and Jalisco states.

Rumored Death of a Gulf Cartel Leader

On Jan. 15, according to social media outlets, David "Metro-4" Salgado, a leader within  Los Metros faction of the Gulf cartel, was killed in a clash between rival gunmen. The clash occurred between Reynosa and Matamoros in Tamaulipas state. Although Mexican officials have not made any public statements confirming the death of Salgado, Stratfor sources have corroborated that Salgado was indeed killed during a shootout. The reasons behind the fatal shootout remain uncertain due to conflicting reports on the individuals involved in the shootout. According to social media, Salgado's death may have been part of an internal power grab by Mario Armando "El Pelon" Ramirez Trevino — another Gulf cartel leader and fellow Los Metros member also known as "X-20." His death also could have resulted from a Zetas incursion, another rumor circulating on social media. No sources indicate Salgado was killed as a result of military or law enforcement action. In either case, Salgado's death could indicate additional future violence in northern Tamaulipas state.

The Gulf cartel has suffered continual operational setbacks since its former enforcer group, Los Zetas, separated from the organization in 2010. The final quarter of 2012 was particularly difficult; the organization underwent a series of leadership arrests. As the Gulf cartel suffered leadership losses and faced the expanding Los Zetas, the succession of top Gulf cartel leadership led to an internal rivalry between factions known as Los Rojos and Los Metros.

Salgado's death would be yet another setback for the Gulf cartel. But it is significant that Salgado's death was not the result of a military or law enforcement operation and rather was sparked by conflicting criminal groups. If Los Zetas were involved in Salgado's death, successfully killing a Gulf cartel plaza boss would mean substantial gains further into eastern Tamaulipas state and other Gulf cartel-controlled areas. If Salgado were killed because of a power struggle, his death would indicate renewed internal fighting within the Gulf cartel. Such a rivalry would further weaken the Gulf cartel and give Los Zetas a new opportunity to push into Gulf territory.

Editor's Note: As an additional custom intelligence service geared toward organizations with operations or interests in the region, we now offer the daily Mexico Security Monitor, which provides more detailed and in-depth coverage of the situation. If you are interested in learning about this new fee-based custom service, please contact [email protected].

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