As we reached the end of our research efforts ahead of the publication of the first English-language book on Los Zetas, The Executioner’s Men, I began talking to Southern Pulse investigators about what I thought was a pattern whereby Los Zetas appeared to be expanding southwest from a central base in Zacatecas toward Colima and, specifically, the port at Manzanillo. These observations coalesced into the “Zetas Cross” theory, which we still believe holds some truth today, especially where Los Zetas have forced their presence upon Jalisco and the city of Guadalajara.
As the weaker of Mexico’s two most powerful criminal organizations, Los Zetas have reached a point where they have established a comfortable beachhead in Guadalajara, and through control of routes in the state of Jalisco, east of the city, the criminal organization has patched together a logistics strategy to operate in the state. Though it runs counter to the traditional strategy of direct confrontation, Los Zetas presence in Guadalajara rests on the premise that as a high-level criminal organization, it has aligned itself with a smaller, locally focused group to support its activities in the city and beyond in the state of Jalisco.
Note: for this report, we have prepared an accompaniment map component based on the Google Earth platform, from which we developed the images used in the report. This map includes strategic and tactical layers, as well as specific criminal events. You may download the KMZ file here. You may download Google Earth here.
Our study of Guadalajara is the third part of a five-city study we initiated in the beginning of 2012 to seek support for our intelligence hypothesis that the future of security in Mexico is in the hands of smaller criminal organizations, not the behemoths that dominated the past.As a contribution to the ongoing conversation about the direction of public security in Mexico, Southern Pulse published in January 2012 its first ebook, Beyond 2012, which presented a chapter on public security in Mexico. This chapter concluded with a consideration of a future when “super-empowered” street gangs will eclipse groups such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation:
Whereas Mexico under the guise of six large, national-level criminal enterprises in 2006 could have been considered a sea of tranquility punctuated by islands of violence (less than 100 municipalities out of 2,000-plus with violence) the opposite may be proven true by early 2014, as the number of well-armed criminal groups jumps from the six significant groups we counted in 2006 - Sinaloa Federation, La Familia, Gulf Cartel, Beltra-Leyva Organization, Arellano-Felix Organization, Carrillo-Fuentes Organization - to over 10 in 2012 with a steady growth of new groups to bring the total number to possibly over 20 by the end of 2014.
By the end of 2014, the men organized by El Chapo and his principal rival Heriberto Lazcano will no longer be the principal drivers of violence across Mexico. At the hyper-local level, super-powered street gangs, armed with Twitter, You Tube, the weapon of fear, and an enviable armory will man-handle local politicians and municipal police.
We believe that while the above process continues forward beyond June 2012, there are certain cities in Mexico today that present an advanced case of how the criminal system in Mexico will evolve as street gangs become more powerful.
Guadalajara lists among the top four, which include Monterrey (See Monterrey Street Gangs Report), Acapulco (See Acapulco Criminal Environment), and Juarez. A fifth city, Tijuana, will serve as a “control case,” where we see the historical dominance of one group to be a harbinger of less violence and little to no development of street gangs. Within this brief report, we would like to present our assessment of the criminal environment in Acapulco from both a strategic and tactical viewpoint to support an understanding of how the evolving criminal system in Acapulco could impact the daily lives of those who live there, as well as the business, particularly in the tourism industry, operating in the area.
Just as we stated in prior reports, we would like to add that in the best interest of time and space, this report on criminal activity in the GMA makes some general assumptions:
The top-tier transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are the primary drivers behind violence in Mexico in 2012;
The Mexican government will not significantly alter its current strategy in 2012 or beyond, into the next administration;
TCOs in Mexico are in constant communication with leadership elements of street gangs;
TCOs do not solely rely on drug trafficking as a source of illicit revenue; and,
The line between TCOs and street gangs is so blurred that many in Mexico still consider the two to be one single unit of criminality.