InSight Crime, 1/3/2012
According to a recent presentation delivered at Mexico’s National Institute of Penal Science by Cuitláhuac Salinas, director of the Assistant Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations into Organized Crime (SIEDO), the mighty Sinaloa Cartel has lost territory to the notoriously violent Zetas drug gang. While the former allegedly operated in 23 of Mexico’s 32 sub national entities (31 states and the federal district in Mexico City) four years ago, now it is only in 16. The Zetas, meanwhile, have established themselves in 17…
Although analysts like to speak of drug cartels as hierarchical, homogenous groupswhich battle for control like warring armies, they are in fact comprised of smaller bands that make decisions mostly in response to local incentives. They frequently become involved in small-scale feuds that have nothing to do with orders from the top, so having an especially large, bottom-heavy network of these bands could draw unnecessary attention, inviting a crackdown from law enforcement officials.
Indeed, this could be the exact position that the Zetas are in right now. The group has long been known to focus on establishing direct control over territory and the criminal activities committed within it.
As Andrew Selee, director of the Washington, DC-based Mexico Institute told the Associated Press in October: “The Zetas have certainly gotten bigger since they split with the Gulf, but whether that will amount to a long-term ability to control and defend the territories where they have a presence is a little less clear. In reality, they’re much thinner, where Sinaloa is hierarchical and compact.”