The Gulf Cartel
El Cartel Del Golfo
The Gulf Cartel was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra and its origins date back to the 1970s. Guerra was a Mexican bootlegger who smuggled Whiskey in the United States in the 1930s along the Gulf of Mexico (Main Drug Cartels and Groups in Mexico). In the 1970s, Guerra became politically active It the Cartel grown through the years and has positioned itself through close ties to politicians, especially in Tamaulipas, and police chiefs (Main Drug Cartels and Groups in Mexico). Guerra’s nephew Juan Garcia Abrego, began to slowly take over the day to day operations of what was now call the Gulf Cartel. The Gulf Cartel started as a family business based in the Mexican towns of Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Alemain, Renosa, and Matamoros (Brophy).
The rise of the Gulf Cartel occurred during the 1980s. At this time the US began to heavily interdict the Caribean smuggling routes putting pressure on the South American drug cartels. In the early 1990s, the then current leader of the Gulf Cartel, Juan Garcia Abrego, cut a major deal with the Columbian Cartels. The deal was that the Columbians would forfeit half their cocaine shipment to the Gulf Cartel instead of paying cash; the Gulf Cartel would then assume the risk of selling and in turn would keep the profits themselves (Brophy).
The Gulf Cartel has no splinter groups but has joined forces with a group called Los Zetas. Los Zetas began as a group of 30 deserters from the Mexican Army and acted as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. The relationship between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas has played a major role in the escalation of violence along the Mexican US border. For both Mexican and US authorities, the Zetas are the most dangerous paramilitary group in Mexico because of their willingness to shoot and kill law enforcement officers (Brophy).
Mission Strategy / Overall Objectives:
The Gulf Cartel fought a four year turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel from 2004-2008 (National Drug Intelligence Center). The Gulf Cartel allied with Los Zetas which is a separate organization originally formed from deserters from the Mexican army. Won this war and with it control of the smuggling routes through northwestern Mexico and south Texas. This victory has effectively given the Gulf Cartel control of the South Texas high intensity drug traffic area (HIDTA) which then feeds the Houston HIDTA, North Texas HIDTA, and others further east and north (Drug Threat Overview).
Currently the Gulf Cartel is fighting to survive attacks by law enforcement both in Mexico and the U.S. During this battle the Cartel is also working on ways to expand its market penetration into the U.S. while easing its smuggling operation.
Current Targets / Tactics:
With the victory over the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel has changed its tactics to consolidation of power and moving their illegal goods more efficiently. The Gulf Cartel is not limited to drug smuggling and money laundering but also firearms smuggling, kidnapping, and other violent crimes (National Drug Intelligence Center).
Violence: The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas are serious players when it comes to using violence. The use of military grade weapons ranging from assault rifles to rocket propelled grenades, they carry out attacks and in engage in standoffs against rival cartels, police, and military forces (Brophy). The Gulf Cartel will kill anyone they cannot bribe or intimidate into cooperation.
The Cartel has its own intelligence operations, known as Los Halcones (the falcons), is directed primarily towards intelligence. Cartel personnel set up and run a network of informants and look-outs tasked with checking the passage of illegal shipments and reporting any potential threat. These informants - often bribed members of state institutions - are also responsible for gathering knowledge regarding any upcoming security force offensives (Gilmore). The Gulf Cartel runs intelligence and counter-intelligence operations against rival cartels, law enforcement, and military units. Through the use of satellite and cellular communications technology, information is spread quickly enough to change smuggling routes and pass real time targeting information through a network of informants linked by advanced communications.
Organization and Membership:
Headquarters: The primary strongholds of the Gulf Cartel are the towns of Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Alemain, Reynosa, and Matamoros. Their influence has spread along nearly the entire Gulf Coast of Mexico.
Membership: Core Personnel are estimated at 1,000 while affiliated personnel total thousands more. Los Zetas are estimated to number approximately 2,000 making up the paramilitary wing of the organization (Gilmore).
Structure: The Gulf Cartel has a decentralized structure which makes it resilient to attacks from other cartels, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement, and Mexican military operations (Gilmore).
Key Leaders: The current head of the Gulf Cartel is Jorge Eduardo Costille-Sanchez (alias El Coss). Other key members are Gregorio Sauceda Gamboa (alias El Goyo) and Heriberto Lazcano (alia El Lazca), Lazano is the head of Los Zetas (Gilmore).
Recruitment Pool: Due to the impoverished nature of the border areas and the low pay of the Mexican military and police forces the Gulf Cartel has a very large recruitment pool.
Method of Membership: Both the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas openly recruit utilizing internet ads, classifieds in local papers, banners and community events (Fiegal). This recruitment includes soldiers and civilians. The Gulf cartel also recruits in Guatemala and Los Zetas is know to have established a relationship with MS13 (Brophy).
The Gulf Cartel does not receive any known outside support.
Status of Members in Prison:
Depending on the prison will depend on the cartels members continued influence in the Cartel. Osiel Cardenas Guillien who assumed control of the Gulf Cartel in 1999 and was arrested in 2003. Guillien was able to continue running the Cartel from a maximum security Mexican prison on 2007 when he was extradited to the U.S. (Gilmore).
Analysis of Behavior under Stress:
The Gulf Cartel with its decentralized command structure and its ability to recruit has shown an ability to withstand attacks from rivals as well as Mexican and U.S. authorities. The size and strength of the Gulf Cartel can be judged by the number and intensity of operations that have been run against it. There have been four major operations run against this cartel which have accounted for 500 arrests in the United States and Mexico. In addition to these 500 arrests three Consolidated Priority Organization Targets have been arrested along with the seizure of 16 tons of cocaine, 1000 pounds of methamphetamine, 25 tons of marijuana, and $60 million in U.S. currency (National Drug Intelligence Center). Despite these efforts the Gulf Cartel adapts is structure and continues with its illicit activities.
Brophy, Stephen. "Mexico: Cartels, Corruption, and Cocaine a Profile of the Gulf Cartel." Global Crime (2008): 248-261.
Drug Threat Overview. 20 February 2009. 7 July 2009
Fiegal, Brenda 1LT. The Recruitment of Assassins by Mexican Drug Cartels . Intelligence Report. Fort Leavenworth,KS: Foreign Military Studies Office / Joint Reserve Intelligence Center, 2009.
Gilmore, Anna. "Gulf War- Pressure Mounts on Mexico's Gulf Cartel." 1 January 2008. Jane Intelligence Review. 15 August 2009 .