El Salvador's defense minister has labeled the country's principal drug trafficking organization a "baby cartel," but what does the term mean and does the group fit into that definition?
According to Salvadoran Defense Minister David Munguia Payes, the Texis Cartel "is not a real cartel" like Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, or former Colombian powerhouse the Medellin Cartel, but instead a "baby cartel" similar to those seen in Guatemala, reported La Prensa Grafica.
Earlier in the year, Munguia Payes said there was no evidence that cartels existed in the country, and that El Salvador was not a primary route for drug traffickers. The minister qualified these statements on September 19, saying that he never denied the existence of Salvadoran drug trafficking groups, but that they were only "cells" that worked with other, larger organizations.
InSight Crime Analysis
The term "baby cartel" was coined by former Colombian police chief Oscar Naranjo to describe the "fourth generation" drug trafficking groups now known as the BACRIM, which are involved in large scale resale and distribution of drugs, but without control over the whole production and trafficking chain.
There is little to indicate that El Salvador's Texis Cartel is seriously involved in organizing its drug own shipments either at the source, mainly Colombia, or at the destination, the United States. Instead, evidence of the Cartel's activities suggest they operate as a "free agent" transport group involved in moving drugs into Guatemala for anyone who pays. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supports this, stating that El Salvador's drug trafficking groups "are only transportistas [transporters]," without territorial control. With such a limited role, the Texis Cartel does not even meet the criteria laid out by Naranjo to be a "baby cartel," much less a "real cartel."
SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel Profile
However, the Texis Cartel should not be treated lightly. It is a structure deeply embedded in both the legal and illegal worlds in El Salvador, with sophisticated money laundering structures and an alleged network of political connections that, until a series of recent arrests, had kept it functioning with near total impunity. Within this context, while Munguia Payes may be semantically correct to downplay the Texis Cartel, it should be noted that his comments also likely have a political edge, devaluing the significance of an organization whose shady connections have the potential to make the authorities very uncomfortable.