HomeNewsBriefUS Gangs Increase Links to Mexican Cartels
BRIEF

US Gangs Increase Links to Mexican Cartels

BARRIO AZTECA / 13 OCT 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

A series of reports highlights growing ties between US gangs and Mexican drug cartels, and the corruption north of the border that helps facilitate drug trafficking — dynamics that echo what is seen in Mexico.

In El Universal, Jose Luis Pardo and Alejandra S. Inzunza, members of the journalist collective Dromomanos, documented Mexican criminal organizations’ relationship with both gangs and law enforcement in the United States.

They reported how US gangs associated with Mexican cartels — primarily the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas — flourish in Texas border counties. In the outskirts of one county, Zapata, the local sheriff told the reporters that nearly everyone in the neighborhood was involved in criminal activity and that the zone was a hotspot for drug stash houses.

Groups like Tango Blast and Texas Syndicate, as well as transnational gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Texas-born prison gang Barrio Azteca, serve as muscle, couriers and local drug vendors for the Mexican groups, Texas officials told the reporters. 

Mexican cartels also rely heavily on corruption in the US border region, paying off sheriffs, border agents and customs officials. Sometimes these ties go much deeper than a bribe. One notable example was that of the Panama Unit, an anti-drug police unit in Hidalgo, Texas, which became involved in guarding and stealing drug loads. Cases of drug-related official corruption have emerged in most Texas border counties, according to Pardo and Inzunza.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Official reports published this year by California and Texas discussed the increasingly close relationship between gangs in these states and Mexican cartels. In the most recent US National Gang Report, 23 percent of police surveyed said gangs with ties to Mexican organized crime were present in their jurisdiction.

Mexican groups have long maintained a relationship with US gangs, but in the past this was largely limited to drug sales. Now, the gangs carry out more sophisticated criminal activities on behalf of cartels, allowing the larger groups to reduce their operational risks in US territory. In return, the gangs receive discounts on the drugs they buy.

This is a dynamic also seen within Mexico, where some 43 gangs — including groups like Los Rojos and Guerreros Unidos, as well as lesser-known gangs — are now affiliated with the major cartels. This outsourcing of labor is largely a product of a fragmenting criminal landscape, in which the major syndicates no longer enjoy the hegemony they once had. 

SEE ALSO: Barrio Azteca Profile

Payoffs to officials is a common phenomenon on the Mexican as well as the US side of the border, with Mexican government officials at various levels, as well as in law enforcement, known to associate with drug groups.

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.

Related Content

MEXICO / 3 JUL 2020

Oil thieves in Mexico have diversified yet again and are now sidestepping security forces by utilizing hoses buried just out…

EL AZUL / 2 MAR 2012

Janet Napolitano ruffled feathers by comparing Mexican capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to Osama bin Laden,…

INFOGRAPHICS / 10 JAN 2017

A recent opinion poll in Mexico reveals an embarrassing lack of public trust in security forces, exemplifying yet again how…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …