How the Gulf Cartel, Juárez Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel Control the Drug Trafficking Routes

Sep 11, 2022 | Articles, Crime, Drugs

In Mexico, one of the most profitable professions and actions is drug trafficking. The country is in the heart of the illegal trade schemes in the world, and there are multiple cartels that are fighting between themselves for power for years. Strong leaders in the world are backed up by some of most violent leaders in Mexico, including the leaders of the drug cartels. The following three cartels, The Juarez cartel, the Gulf Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel have continued on despite casualties, captures and wars between them. Those three, control almost all of the drug trafficking routes in the world.


Despite being in war, the three cartels have often allied to fight the greater good. At the moment, there are two factions in Mexico, one leaded by the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel, with the Knights Templar and La Familia Cartel also in. The second faction is led by the Juarez cartel, with Tijuana, Los Zentas and the Beltran-Leyva also in.

In 2003, leaders of the Tijuana and Gulf cartel were arrested. While they were in prison, the leaders Benjamin Arellano Felix and Osiel Cardenas formed alliance to defend from the likes of the Sinoloa and Juarez. At one point, the alliance ceased to exist due to unpaid debts in 2007. Now, the Sinoloa and the Juarez cartel are competing against each other.

Sinaloa Cartel

Led by Joquin Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel is arguably the most wanted and dangerous cartel in Mexico. Sinaloa controls almost half of the territory in Mexico. After the Guadalajara cartel split, Sinaloa took one half of the members and its territory. Its leader, Guzman, is the most wanted drug trafficker in Mexico, and one of the most powerful in the same time. His net worth is estimated at $1 billion.

Sinaloa controls most of the territory in Mexico, with presence in 17 states. The cartel has centers in Tepic, Mexico City, Toluca, Guadalajara, Zacatecas and all state of Sinaloa. Out of all Mexican drug cartels that smuggle and distribute drugs in the US, Sinaloa controls most routes. The primary product of the cartel is Colombian cocaine, as well as methamphetamine and Mexican marijuana and heroin.

Since the late 1980s, the Sinaloa cartel is categorized as the largest drug organization in Mexico by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Sinaloa Cartel is in strategic alliance with the Juarez cartel, and the two together control most of the routes in Mexico. The cartel itself controls the Sonora-Arizona corridor, one of the most important and biggest corridors that extends up to 375 miles. Aside from the Arizona corridor, Sinaloa cartel controls distribution routes through Chicago and other big cities in the US. Sinaloa also controls 35% of the cocaine made in Colombia.

Juarez Cartel

For quite some time, the Juarez Cartel and the Sinaloa cartel were in an alliance. However, the two cartels have been in a bloody battle since 2007. Despite the battle, Juarez still controls three of the main drug trafficking routes into El, Paso, Texas. The Juarez cartel works with two gangs to ensure its safety, the La Linea and the Barrio Azteca. One of the reasons why the Juarez cartel is feared among rivals is the way the Cartel and its gangs handle rivals. They decapitate and mutilate their rivals, and then publically discard the corpses.

Up until 1997, the Juarez cartel was the dominant player in the center of Mexico. The cartel controlled 70% of the cocaine traffic from Mexico to the US, but the death of its leader Amado Carrilo Fuentes was the beginning of decline.

In 2011, the cartel changed its name to Nuevo Cartel de Juarez, or New Juarez Cartel. At the moment, the Cartel is believed to operate within 21 states in Mexico, with the main bases in Monterrey, Ojinaga, Mexico City, Cancun, Guernavaca, Guadalajara and Culiacan.

Gulf Cartel

The Gulf Cartel is based in Tamaulipas, Mexico and is one of the oldest organized crime organizations in Mexico. The cartel is involved in more crime actions, not just drug trafficking. Known for its extreme violence, the Gulf Cartel has been associated with several assassinations and kidnappings of high profile targets. The most prominent period of the Gulf Cartel was during the 1990s, when they had its own private army. The alliance ended in 2010 with a gruesome and chaotic battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Los Zetas. Most of the leaders of the Gulf Cartel have been captured or killed, including Osiel Cardenas Guillen, Mario Alberto Cardenas Guillen, Antonio Cardenas Guillen and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez. However, the group remains intact.

In the beginning, the Gulf Cartel worked with alcohol smuggling, as its founder Juan Nepomuceno Guerra was smuggling alcohol during the prohibition era in the US. It was in the 1970s when the cartel shifted its focus to drug trafficking, mostly cocaine. Nowadays, the Cartel is present in the US, Europe and Africa. In the United States, the Gulf Cartel has cells in Roma, Rio Grande City and Mission. In Europe, the Gulf Cartel has ties with an organized crime group from Italy called Ndragheta. It was in 2009 that the cartel expanded to other Europe countries, especially in countries that formed after the failure of the Soviet Union. In Africa, the Cartel is mostly present in the northern and western parts of the continent.

One of the main reasons why the Gulf cartel is so successful is corruption of police officers in the Tamaulipas area. The area where the cartel operates is one of the worst paid areas for police forces in the country. This allows the Cartel to bribe police officers who work for approximately $260 per month.


US Drug Addiction

One of the reasons why Mexican cartels are so successful and powerful is the increased addiction in the US. According to statistics, the number of drug users in the US doubled between 2007 and 2013, and the drug cartels in Mexico are well aware of those numbers.

Opium production in Mexico has increased by 50% in the last year. Combined with the higher demand for painkiller drugs in the US and the crackdown of the painkiller abuse, users are forced to search for alternatives. And the drug cartels in Mexico have capitalized on the opportunity.

According to crime experts in the US, Mexican drug cartels understand the prescription drug issue in the US, and they see it as an opportunity to expand their poppy production.

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Thomas B.