Founded in 1989 by Héctor Palma, Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, the Sinaloa Cartel today stands as one of the most established transnational drug trafficking organizations. While it has carved out a presence in 15 of the 32 Mexican states, the cartel also expanded its operations into the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.
With El Chapo in prison, the cartel has been plagued by internal fighting between Zambada and three of El Chapo’s four sons, known as ‘Los Chapitos’.
The Drug Enforcement Administration views the Sinaloa Cartel as one of the top two criminal organizations along with its rival, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
The DEA said the Sinaloa Cartel 'exports and distributes wholesale amounts of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana in the United States by maintaining distribution hubs in various cities.'
How they get drugs into the US: 'Illicit drugs distributed by the Sinaloa Cartel are primarily smuggled into the United States through crossing points located along the [south west border]. The cartel employs gatekeepers assigned to Ports Of Entry and controls Arizona and California area smuggling corridors into the United States.'
Jalisco New Generation Cartel
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel was once allied to the Sinaloa Cartel as El Chapo depended on its firepower to combat Los Zetas.
Commandeered by Nemesio ‘El Mencho’ Oseguera, the group set itself apart from other cartels in the country butchering its enemies and today is considered by the Mexican government as the most dangerous group in the country.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is spread out across 23 of the Mexico's 32 states and currently finds itself at war with at least ten cartels.
The group has been known to have increased the power that its members have by purchasing military weapons and parts from the United States.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel, according to the DEA, specializes 'in manufacturing and distributing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.'
How they get drugs into the US: 'The CJNG smuggles illicit drugs into the United States by accessing various trafficking corridors in northern Mexico along the SWB including Tijuana, Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo. The CJNG also has influence over the busiest port in Mexico, the Port of Manzanillo, and utilizes that influence for the distribution of large quantities of drugs.'
For a while, the Beltrán-Leyva Organization [BLO] was born out of the Sinaloa Cartel and became one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico led by the Beltrán Leyva brothers: Marcos Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo, Mario Alberto and Héctor.
The Beltrán-Leyva Organization was involved in a deadly war with the Sinaloa Cartel after the brothers accused their cousin, El Chapo, of being responsible for the January 2008 arrest of Alfredo. The brothers retaliated by reportedly plotting the murder of El Chapo’s 22-year-old son, Édgar Guzmán, in May 2008.
Alfredo’s arrest sparked one of the worst periods in Mexico’s war on drugs as the BLO’s new ally, the Juaréz Cartel, went to war with the Sinaloa Cartel in Ciudad Juaréz, a border town across from Texas.
The BLO also expanded its might by going toe-to-toe with the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel in the northeastern border city of Reynosa.
While the cartel remains viable today, the organization’s members over time split into 11 factions.
How they get drugs into the US: 'BLO relies on its loose alliances with larger cartels for access to drug smuggling corridors along the [south west border].'
Los Zetas and the Cartel del Noreste [Northeast Cartel]
Los Zetas were created by Mexican military deserters who formed an alliance with the Gulf Cartel in 1999 and based its operations in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, across from Laredo, Texas. The group quickly carved out a named for itself through its savage killings. By 2010, Los Zetas split from the Gulf Cartel.