Who's fighting who?

This escalating armed conflict now involves 7 major Mexican cartels who fight off the Mexican Federal Police, Naval Infantry, Air-force, Navy, and Army. Casualties have risen to 75,000 since 2006.

Current cartels

Alliances or agreements between drug cartels have been shown to be fragile, tense and temporary. Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juarez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas Cartel and the Beltran-Leyva cartel; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel.
Mexican drug cartels have increased their co-operation with U.S. street and prison gangs to expand their distribution networks within the U.S.

Beltran Leyva Cartel

The Beltrán Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, became allies of Los Zetas Cartel in 2008. Since February 2010 they fight along Los Zetas against all other Mexican cartels. The South Pacific Cartel is a branch of the splintered Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.

La Familia Cartel

La Familia Michoacana is based in Michoacán. It was formerly allied to the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas Cartel, but has now split off and become an independent organization. In February 2010, La Familia forged an alliance with the Gulf Cartel against Los Zetas Cartel and Beltrán Leyva Cartel.

Gulf Cartel

The Gulf Cartel, based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, has been one of Mexico's two dominant cartels in recent years. In the late 1990s, it hired a private mercenary army (enforcer group called Los Zetas Cartel), which in 2006 stepped up as a partner but, in February 2010, their partnership was dissolved and both groups engaged in widespread violence across several border cities of Tamaulipas state, turning several border towns into "ghost towns".

Juarez Cartel

The Juárez Cartel controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Ciudad Juárez. La Línea is a group of Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt Juárez and Chihuahua state police officers who work as the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes heads the Juárez Cartel.

Los Negros

Los Negros is the former armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel; it was formed to counter Los Zetas Cartel and government security forces. Los Negros now work with Edgar Valdez Villarreal's organization.

Sinaloa Cartel

The Sinaloa Cartel began to contest the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the coveted southwest Texas corridor following the arrest of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas in March 2003. The "Federation" was the result of a 2006 accord between several groups located in the Pacific state of Sinaloa. The cartel is led by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Mexico's most-wanted drug trafficker and whose estimated net worth of US$1 billion makes him the 701st richest man in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. In February 2010, new alliances were formed against Los Zetas Cartel and Beltran Leyva Cartel. As of May 2010, numerous reports by Mexican and US media claimed that Sinaloa had infiltrated the Mexican federal government and military, and colluded with it to destroy the other cartels. The Colima Cartel, Sonora Cartel and Milenio Cartel are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Tijuana Cartel

The cartel of the Arellano-Félix family, the Tijuana Cartel, was once among Mexico's most powerful but has fallen on hard times, thanks to the arrests of several top capos. The cartel entered into a brief partnership with the Gulf Cartel. It has been the frequent target of Mexican military confrontations and might be breaking into smaller groups. The Oaxaca Cartel reportedly joined forces with the Tijuana Cartel in 2003.

Los Zetas Cartel

In 1999 the Gulf Cartel hired a group of corrupt former elite military soldiers now known as Los Zetas, who began operations as a private army for the cartel. The Zetas have been instrumental in the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the drug trade in much of Mexico and have fought to maintain the cartel’s influence in northern cities following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas. Los Zetas made a deal with ex-Sinaloa cartel commanders, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers and since February 2010 Los Zetas became rivals of their former employer/partner, the Gulf Cartel.

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