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Four Mexican drug gangs meet to form ‘cartel of cartels’

August 30, 2014

The arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has left the Sinaloa Cartel vulnerable against its rivals who appear to have banded together.

Citing U.S. and Mexican intelligence documents, Mexico’s Reforma newspaper reported on Friday that four of the nation’s most powerful drug gangs have discussed banding together to form a “cartel of cartels”.

Leaders of Los Zetas, the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), the Juarez Cartel and the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) reportedly met at a summit in Piedras Negras, Coahuila in a bid to form an alliance that would have a serious impact on the world of Mexican drug trafficking. News of the meeting came from informants working for the U.S. and Mexican authorities, Reforma revealed.

Among those said to be present at the meeting were Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, the head of the CJNG; Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias “El Viceroy,” the leader of the Juarez Cartel; Omar Treviño Morales, alias “Z-42,” the current leader of Los Zetas; and another Zetas leader known as “Z-43”. BLO boss Hector Beltran Leyva was absent, but he was reportedly represented at the summit by his right-hand man, Fausto Isidro Meza, alias “El Chapo Isidro”.

Between them, the four cartels have a presence in a dozen states: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico State, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas.

Sinaloa Cartel absent

The Sinaloa Cartel, which is widely considered Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, was conspicuous by its absence from the talks. Headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman up until his arrest in February, the Sinaloa Cartel is a fierce rival of Los Zetas, the Juarez Cartel and the BLO. It was previously allied to the CJNG, but the news of the summit suggests that the four gangs are teaming up to take on the Sinaloa Cartel while it is in a weakened state.

On top of Guzman’s arrest, the Sinaloa Cartel has lost a string of key leaders and lieutenants in the last nine months. Most notably, Juan Jose “El Azul” Esparragoza Moreno – who had led the cartel alongside Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and served as a mediator with the Juarez Cartel – reportedly died of a heart attack in June. If the rumors of his death are true (the Mexican government has been unable to confirm them) then the cartel leadership now lies solely in the hands of 66-year-old Zambada.

Strength in numbers

Senator Omar Fayad, president of the Senate Security Commission, told Reforma that the meeting to form a possible alliance was evidence of the weakness of each cartel.

“They don’t feel strong on their own anymore and this is a good sign which the authorities must take advantage of,” Fayad said. “There is a sign of weakness among the Mexican cartels due to the persecution of organized crime by the federal government and the cooperation and coordination with states and municipalities.”

Los Zetas, the ultraviolent gang that controls much of Mexico’s Gulf coast, has been weakened by the arrests and killings of many of its top leaders in the last two years, while the BLO and Juarez Cartel, respectively led by the remnants of the Beltra Leyva and Carrillo Fuentes families, have suffered from being on the receiving end of Sinaloa Cartel offensives.

Previous pacts

A pact between cartels “is not unprecedented,” Fayad added, noting “that alliances have not worked for them in the past because they betray one another. There is almost always someone who wants complete hegemony.”

 This proved the case when the Sinaloa Cartel established the Federation, a loose array of drug gangs with allied interests that soon fell apart when “El Chapo” Guzman began to fall out with his partners. The BLO and the CJNG both started out as offshoots of the Sinaloa Cartel, but the former forged an alliance with Los Zetas in around 2008, while the latter now also seems to have turned against its former ally.

Mexican politician controversially cleared of hiring prostitutes as ‘secretaries’

August 29, 2014
Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre was accused of hiring female staff in return for sexual favors.

Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre was accused of hiring female staff in return for sexual favors.

Electoral authorities in Mexico City courted controversy this week by absolving a prominent member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of using public funds to run a prostitution network from his office.

An undercover investigation by MVS Noticias in April unearthed evidence that Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre, then the president of the PRI in Mexico City, had been hiring female staff in return for sexual favors.

But on August 25 the Electoral Institute of the Federal District (IEDF) ruled that there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing on Gutiérrez’s part.

Six of seven general council members voted to acquit the politician. The only dissenter was the president of the council, Diana Talavera, whose proposal for further investigation was rejected.

Critics denounce impunity

Reacting to the IEDF decision, José Antonio Crespo Mendoza, a historian and political analyst from the CIDE university, condemned the level of impunity in Mexico: “Our institutions do not hold violators of the law accountable. Accountability is an essential element of democracy … but we are lacking this essential capacity.”

Teresa Ulloa, the Mexican director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women in Latin America and the Caribbean – who said she had been harassed after presenting evidence against Gutiérrez – slammed the verdict as “shameful.”

Click here to read this article in full at Latin Correspondent.

Mexican breweries declare a beer revolution

August 23, 2014
Minerva factory worker

Founded in 2004, Cerveceria Minerva is now one of Mexico’s biggest independent breweries.

Like many sectors of the national economy, Mexico’s beer industry has long been dominated by a powerful duopoly. But a flourishing craft beer movement led by independent microbreweries is showing signs of finally forcing open this lucrative market.

Since assuming office in December 2012, the Enrique Peña Nieto administration has passed major reforms to combat monopolies and foster greater competition in key industries such as energy and telecommunications. Mexico’s beer industry, which is worth approximately $20 billion a year, according to government figures, is also experiencing significant change.

The world’s sixth largest producer and consumer of beer, Mexico brews over 8.6 billion litres annually, while the average Mexican drinks 62 litres per year. But two dominant breweries, Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma, control 98 percent of the market, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report from 2013.

Minerva factory

Production at Minerva’s factory totaled 1.1 million liters last year. The goal for 2014 is 1.5 million.

Microbreweries account for less than one percent, although their combined market share is growing rapidly by 50 to 60 percent a year.

Breaking the mould

“When we started out 10 years ago the market was completely closed. The only beers that existed were those of Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma,” Jesus Briseño, the tall, middle-aged founder of Guadalajara’s Minerva brewery, told Al Jazeera.

Minerva, which proclaims itself the leader of Mexico’s “beer revolution,” sought to shake up the industry by encouraging Mexicans to embrace new styles of beer, while forcing open the market through legal action. The latter path led to a federal decree in 2013 limiting the duopoly’s use of exclusivity contracts which prevent most bars, stores and restaurants from selling rival beer brands…

Click  here to read this feature in full over at Al Jazeera.

La Blanca microbrewery

Run by German expat Petra Kittel, Guadalajara’s La Blanca microbrewery produces a range of excellent wheat beers.

Mexican court order suspends flooding of Temacapulin

August 22, 2014
If built to 105 meters, the Zapotillo dam will flood the towns of Temacapulin, Palmarejo and Acasic.

If built to the intended height of 105 meters, the Zapotillo dam will flood the towns of Temacapulin, Palmarejo and Acasic.

A district court in western Mexico has suspended the federal government’s controversial plans to flood the town of Temacapulín by raising the height of a nearby dam.

The August 14 ruling prohibited Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua) from raising the Zapotillo dam from 80 to 105 meters because this would leave Temacapulín and the smaller villages of Palmarejo and Acasic beneath the banks of the Rio Verde.

Conagua has vowed to respect the ruling but said it remains confident that any legal obstacles will be overcome and that the dam will still be built to the original specification of 105 meters.

Raising the dam to this height would create a reservoir of 900 million cubic meters. Around 80 percent of this water would used to supply the nearby city of Leon, with the remainder split between Guadalajara and the Los Altos de Jalisco farming region.

Local resistance

Located in the western state of Jalisco, Temacapulín is home to around 500 inhabitants, many of them indigenous Mexicans.

In order to press ahead with the project, the federal government wants to relocate displaced residents to Nuevo Temacapulín, a new settlement where it has built more than 30 homes.

Local residents have campaigned fiercely to save their communities.

Local residents have campaigned fiercely to save their communities.

But the government plans have been met with fierce resistance. Many locals have complained that their human riots are being violated because they are being forced to leave their homes and lose their jobs…

Click here to read this story in full at Latin Correspondent.

Energy reforms see Mexico relinquish total control of its oil reserves

August 18, 2014


New reforms mean state-owned firm Pemex will no longer have a monopoly on Mexico’s oil reserves.

After 76 years of state control, Mexico’s oil and gas sector was opened up to private investors when the government signed historic reforms into law last week.

Under the new law, state-run oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) will retain the rights to 83 percent of the nation’s proven oil reserves, but only 21 percent of any reserves that have not yet been discovered.

The latter figure is less than Pemex had asked for but it will please multinational companies like Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and Lukoil – all of whom are expected to bid for contracts in the auction scheduled for June 2015.

Pemex will retain control of reserves equivalent to around 20.6 billion barrels. The rationale behind auctioning off 79 percent of Mexico’s unproven reserves is that exploiting these may require a degree of investment and exploration that is beyond Pemex’s capabilities…

Click here to read this article in full over at Latin Correspondent.

Mexico’s most loved pre-Columbian brews

August 18, 2014
Acidic, milky and slightly viscous, pulque is something of an acquired taste.

Acidic, milky and slightly viscous, pulque is something of an acquired taste.

Although tequila and mezcal are undoubtedly the most famous Mexican liquors, the nation has also produced a number of lesser known beverages that have endured for centuries. Long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1519, indigenous Mexicans enjoyed alcoholic drinks made from fermented corn or the maguey plant, such as tejuino, tepache and pulque.

The best known of the three, pulque has made a comeback in hipster circles in Mexico City in recent years, while tejuino remains popular in Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco. Tejuino and tepache are also both popular among the Mexican-American communities of the southwestern United States.

A sacred brew

A milky, acidic and slightly viscous drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey (also known as agave) plant, pulque has been produced for over 1,000 years in Mexico. There are numerous references to pulque in the Aztec codices and in many ancient myths it is associated with Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey.


In recent years pulque has become the Mexican hipster’s drink of choice.

Pulque’s alcohol content ranges from around two to eight percent and it is considered high in nutritional value, as it contains carbohydrates, vitamins B, C, D and E, amino acids and minerals such as iron and phosphorus. The health benefits of drinking pulque were recognized by the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican civilizations, who allowed pregnant women and the elderly to consume it, as well as he priests, nobles and warriors for whom this sacred drink was usually preserved.

Consumption rose after the Spanish conquest, peaking in the late 1800s, but it declined in the 20th century as beer became more widely available. The central states of Hidalgo and Tlaxcala were once home to hundreds of pulque haciendas, but the best place to sample this unique drink is in one of Mexico City’s many pulquerias (pulque bars), which have recently roared back into fashion in the capital’s more bohemian districts.

But be warned: it is something of an acquired taste and pulque virgins may prefer to try one of the many flavored variations available in any good pulqueria. Meanwhile, those looking for a nonalcoholic alternative should try aguamiel, a syrupy drink made from the sap of the maguey that also dates back to the pre-Columbian era.

A mural of Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey, in Guadalajara's La Pulkata.

A mural of Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey, in Guadalajara’s La Pulkata.

“Mint flavor pulque and aguamiel are the most popular varieties among local clients,” according to the bartender at La Pulkata, one of only two or three pulquerias in Guadalajara. Other variations include oatmeal, guava and celery, while tepache is also available at La Pulkata, which is celebrating its seventh anniversary this month.

Adorned with psychedelic murals of Mayahuel, colorful paintings and statuettes, this humble bar draws a young crowd and has much more of a hippie atmosphere than the average Mexican bar or cantina. Mexico may be the world’s biggest consumer of Coca-Cola but you won’t find a drop of it in this establishment, as the slogan pinned above the bar makes clear: “Pulque is our weapon against neo-liberalism.”

Tepache and tejuino

Tepache and tejuino were both originally made from fermented corn by the indigenous Nahual people of central Mexico. While tejuino is still made from the same corn dough that is used for tortillas and tamales, tepache is now more commonly made from fermented pineapple rind.


Tejuino is a heavy, corn-based drink commonly served with lime sorbet, salt and chili.

In tejuino production the corn dough is mixed with water and a local form of unrefined brown sugar known as piloncillo and then boiled until thick. The liquid is then allowed to ferment slightly, but the final product is either nonalcoholic or has a very low alcohol content at most. Typically sold by street vendors in small plastic cups or in plastic bags tied with a straw, this stodgy but refreshing beverage is best served cold with lime juice, salt and a dollop of lime sorbet.

Tepache is also produced in quick and simple fermentation process but it is much lighter in texture than tejuino. Red-orange in color, it is typically sweetened with piloncillo and cinnamon, which leaves it with a pleasant sweet and sour flavor. Often seasoned with lime, salt and chili, Tepache perfectly complements the rich, spicy tones of a lot of Mexican cuisine. Like tejuino, it is either non-alcoholic or very low in alcohol, but it combines well with beer, tequila or mezcal for those who prefer to imbibe something with more of a kick.

Tepache perfectly complements much Mexican cuisine, like Guadalajara's fiery tortas ahogadas.

Tepache perfectly complements much Mexican cuisine, such as Guadalajara’s fiery tortas ahogadas.

Prominent PAN politicians filmed partying with strippers

August 14, 2014

Mexico’s right-wing National Action Party (PAN) was rocked this week by the release of two videos that showed senior officials partying with exotic dancers and a suspected drug trafficker at a luxury beach house.

The third high-profile scandal to hit the PAN in as many months, the affair is likely to further damage the image of the opposition party that ruled Mexico from 2000 to 2012.

From January 23-27, the PAN convened a conference in Puerto Vallarta, a popular beach resort in the western state of Jalisco, to discuss Mexico’s energy reforms and agree on the legislative agenda for the year. But by night, it seems the politicians failed to abide by the conservative ideals they so often espouse in public.

The videos, released Monday by Mexican media outlet Reporte Indigo, show high-ranking party members — including federal congressmen from Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Sonora and Sinaloa — drinking liquor and dancing to a live band with strippers from Taboo and Candy’s, two of the best-known lap dance clubs in Jalisco.

The politicians can be seen fondling the women’s buttocks and are heard joking that “the Viagra’s going to run out.” The drunken debauchery took place at Villa Balboa, a 2,000-square foot, seven-bedroom mansion that costs $3,200 a night…

Click here to read the rest of this article and find out why a man suspected of trafficking marijuana and murdering a PAN politician was hired to organize the parties; why two PAN politicians are currently imprisoned in Brazil; and why the PAN had to play down its links to a neo-Nazi organization in Jalisco earlier this summer.


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