HomeNewsAnalysisSinaloa Cartel Ally Seizes Control of Key North Mexico Region

Sinaloa Cartel Ally Seizes Control of Key North Mexico Region


Allies of the Sinaloa Cartel are in the process of clearing out rivals in a key region in northern Mexico, setting the stage for further gains for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's organization as their weakened rivals the Zetas lose ground.

In Durango state, the Sinaloa Cartel-linked group known as Los Cabrera has taken control of Gomez Palacio and Lerdo -- two bordering cities in the metropolitan area known as La Laguna --, according to reports in Proceso. The group also has made inroads into the third of La Lagunas's cities, Torreon, which borders Gomez Palacio on the other side of the state line with Coahuila.

The advances of Los Cabrera come at the expense of Los Dannys, a local group, also known as the Cartel of the West, that has dominated Gomez Palacio and Lerdo, and the Zetas, who had controlled Torreon for most of the past five years. Los Dannys, an extremely violent group suspected of multiple attacks against local media, have suffered a string of arrests in recent months, including of their foremost leader, which has left them vulnerable to the incursion of Los Cabrera.

The Zetas, meanwhile, already beset by years of infighting, arrests, and attrition in their battles with rivals, had reduced their presence in Torreon even before last month's arrest of Miguel Angel Treviño, alias "Z40," opening another door for the Sinaloa Cartel's local agents.

InSight Crime Analysis

Gomez Palacio, Torreon, and Lerdo collectively make up one of Mexico's ten largest metropolises -- La Laguna. The area is an important transit hub, with major border crossings in Juarez, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo between five and nine hours away.

For several years, La Laguna has marked a dividing line in the nation's most enduring conflict, with the Zetas controlling Torreon along with the rest of Coahuila, and the Sinaloa Cartel wielding more influence across the border in Durango. As a consequence, the region, which was unusually calm for a northern city five years ago, has grown into one of Mexico's most chaotic. According to the local non-governmental organization Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Publica y la Justicia Penal, in 2012 Lerdo, Torreon, and Gomez Palacio were the second, fifth, and twenty-fifth most violent cities in Mexico, respectively. [Read the full report here pdf]

A change of hands in control of the local underworld often spells a wave of violence, but in the case of La Laguna, the opposite may be true. The retreat of the Zetas removes a long-term driver of violence, and it may allow Los Cabrera to consolidate their control over the whole area.

Furthermore, both the Zetas and Los Dannys had a reputation for provocative acts of violence, while a government official cited by Proceso described Los Cabrera as operating with a lower profile. The ascension of a less aggressive gang could mean a return to the calm for which La Laguna was previously known, though such a result depends on Los Cabrera maintaining control of the territory and their network of alliances.

The Zetas' reduced role in Torreon could also prove a harbinger for the gang's future, as the Zetas' two foremost leaders have been removed from the scene in the past year (previous boss Heriberto Lazcano, alias "Z3," was killed in a shootout with Mexican Marines in October). Following Treviño's arrest, the group posted messages around the country saying that a succession plan had been implemented and that the group was in good hands. It is difficult to know if that claim is true, but surrendering a strategically important city that it had held amid a rising tide of violence for five years is an uncharacteristic step backwards from a persistently aggressive gang.

La Laguna also demonstrates the degree to which local groups, and not just famous gangsters like Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, play a major role in Mexico's criminal underworld. Though largely unheard of, Los Dannys were the authors of several notorious incidents, and they proved capable of warding off any attempts by the Zetas to move into Gomez Palacio. When they faded, local dominance passed into the hands of another local gang, Los Cabrera. In other words, two of the most important recent protagonists in one of the most violent cities in Mexico are virtually unknown to the wider public.

The domination of such smaller groups is often an indicator of instability in a given region, from Acapulco to Juarez. Furthermore, while Los Cabrera currently serve as local representatives of the Sinaloa Cartel, that does not mean that they will remain on good terms indefinitely. The Sinaloa Cartel's recent history is littered with examples of allies and affiliates breaking away. Such was the case with the Beltran Leyva Organization, and with Gente Nueva, among many others. Should history repeat itself in La Laguna, any promise of a peace dividend may be short-lived.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

MEXICO / 14 OCT 2016

Drug capos in Mexico are gettting buried in luxurious mausoleums replete with wireless internet, air conditioning and gold-plated caskets, proof…

COLOMBIA / 25 FEB 2013

Spanish police have dismantled an alleged network of Colombian hitmen in a case that highlights the foothold that Colombian criminal…


Mexico’s failure to gather quality data on homicides is preventing the country from developing effective policies to tackle rising violence,…

About InSight Crime


Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.


Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.


Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.


InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.


With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.