The Juárez Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Juárez), also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, across the Mexico—U.S. border from El Paso, Texas.[2] The cartel is one of several drug trafficking organizations that have been known to decapitate their rivals, mutilate their corpses and dump them in public places to instill fear not only into the general public, but also into local law enforcement and their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel.[3] The Juárez Cartel has an armed wing known as La Línea, a Juarez street gang that usually performs the executions.[4] It also uses the Barrio Azteca gang to attack its enemies.[5]

The Juárez Cartel was the dominant player in the center of the country, controlling a large percentage of the cocaine traffic from Mexico into the United States. The death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1997 was the beginning of the decline of the Juárez cartel, as Carrillo relied on ties to Mexico's top-ranking drug interdiction officer, division general Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.[6][7]

In September 2011, the Mexican Federal Police reported that the cartel is now known as "Nuevo Cartel de Juárez" (New Juárez Cartel). It is alleged that the New Juárez Cartel is responsible for recent executions in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua.[8]


The cartel was founded around the 1970s. When the leader Pablo Acosta Villarreal was killed in April 1987 during a cross-border raid by Mexican Federal Police helicopters in the Rio Grande village of Santa Elena, Chihuahua,[9] Rafael Aguilar Guajardo took his place as cartel leader.

The cartel leadership was handed down from Aguilar Guajardo to Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1993 under the tutelage of his uncle, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo. Amado brought his brothers and later his son into the business. After Amado died in 1997 following complications from plastic surgery, a brief turf war erupted over the control of the cartel, with Amado's brother, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, becoming leader after defeating the Muñoz Talavera brothers.[citation needed]

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes then formed a partnership with Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, his brother Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, his nephew Vicente Carrillo Leyva,[10] Ricardo Garcia Urquiza, and formed an alliance with other drug lords such as Ismael "Mayo" Zambada in Sinaloa and Baja California, the Beltrán Leyva brothers in Monterrey, and Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán in Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.[11]

When Vicente took control of the cartel, the organization was in flux. The death of Amado created a large power vacuum in the Mexican underworld. The Carrillo Fuentes brothers became the most powerful organization during the 1990s while Vicente was able to avoid direct conflict and increase the strength of the Juárez Cartel. The relationship between the Carrillo Fuentes clan and the other members of the organization grew unstable towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, drug lords from contiguous Mexican states forged an alliance that became known as 'The Golden Triangle Alliance' or 'La Alianza Triángulo de Oro' because of its three-state area of influence: Chihuahua, south of the U.S. state of Texas, Durango and Sinaloa. However, this alliance was broken[when?] after the Sinaloa Cartel drug lord, Joaquín Guzmán Loera (aka: Shorty), refused to pay to the Juarez Cartel for the right to use some smuggling routes into the U.S.[citation needed]

In 2001, after Joaquín Guzmán Loera 'El Chapo' escaped from prison, many Juárez Cartel members defected to Guzmán Loera's Sinaloa Cartel. In 2004, Vicente's brother was killed, allegedly by order of Guzmán Loera. Carrillo Fuentes retaliated by assassinating Guzmán's brother in prison. This ignited a turf war between the two cartels, which was more or less put on hold from 2005 to 2006 because of the Sinaloa Cartel's war against the Gulf Cartel.[12]

After the organization collapsed, some elements of it were incorporated into the Sinaloa Cartel, which absorbed much of the Juárez Cartel's former territory.[13] The Juárez Cartel has been able to either corrupt or intimidate high-ranking officials in order to obtain information on law enforcement operatives and acquire protection from the police and judicial systems.[14][15]

The Juárez cartel has been found to operate in 21 Mexican states. Its principal bases are Culiacán, Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez, Ojinaga, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and Cancún.[16] Members of the cartel were implicated in the serial murder site in Ciudad Juárez that was discovered in 2004 and has been dubbed the House of Death.[17] Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Juárez. The fighting between them has left thousands dead in Chihuahua. The Juárez Cartel relies on two enforcement gangs to exercise control over both sides of the border: La Linea, a group of corrupt (current and former) Chihuahua police officers, is prevalent on the Mexican side, while the Barrio Azteca street gang operates in Mexico and in Texan cities such as El Paso, Dallas and Houston, as well as in New Mexico and Arizona. On July 15, 2010, the Juárez Cartel escalated violence to a new level by using a car bomb to target federal police officers.[18]

In September 2011 banners were displayed, publicizing the return of the extinct cartel. They were signed by Cesar "El Gato" Carrillo Leyva, who appears to be the son or a close relative of the late drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes.[citation needed]

Prior to 2012, the Juárez Cartel controlled one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars' worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. Since then, however, control of these areas has shifted to the Sinaloa Cartel.[19] On September 1, 2013, the Mexican forces arrested Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, alias Betty la Fea ("Ugly Betty"), in the western state of Nayarit. He had taken the leadership of the organization in 2013 after his brother Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (fugitive until his arrest in October 2014) retired following a reported illness.[20][21]

Current alliances

Since March 2010, it is alleged that the major cartels have aligned into two loosely allied factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and the now disbanded La Familia Cartel.[22]

Media Portrait

A Fictional Juárez Cartel was featured battling a Fictional Tijuana Cartel headed by a character named Obregon in the 2000 motion picture Traffic. The Australian ABC documentary La Frontera (2010) described the social impact of the cartel in the region.

A fictional Juárez Cartel appears in AMC television series Breaking Bad as recurring antagonists.

See also


  1. ^ McCAUL, MICHAEL T. "A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border" (PDF). House Committee on Homeland Security. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 September 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Sinaloa Cartel: responsible for 84% of "narco" homicides". Borderland Beat. October 31, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Juarez murders shine light on an emerging 'Military Cartel'". NarcoSphere. December 6, 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-08.  first1= missing last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ "Mexican police: Drug gang leader says he ordered 1,500 killings". CNN. July 31, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Background: Barrio Azteca gang". El Paso Times. 3 October 2011. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Mexican Drug Czar Fired, Charged With Drug Corruption.
  7. ^ Cartel worker reportedly spied on DEA in Mexico Archived 2008-10-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Update: Leyzaola says New Juárez Cartel responsible for attacks on Juárez police El Paso Times (January 30, 2012)
  9. ^ "Comandante Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni". 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-12. Retrieved 2009-08-18.  first1= missing last1= in Authors list (help)
  10. ^ Castillo, Euardo (April 2, 2009). "Vicente Carrillo Leyva, Wanted Mexican Drug Suspect, Detained". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  11. ^ TRAHAN, Jason; ERNESTO LONDOÑO; ALFREDO CORCHADO (December 13, 2005). "Drug wars' long shadow". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  12. ^ Longmire, Sylvia. "DTO 101: The Juarez Cartel". Journal of Strategic Security. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  13. ^ Burton, Fred (May 2, 2007). "Mexico: The Price of Peace in the Cartel Wars". The Stratfor Global Intelligence. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  14. ^ "Juarez Cartel – Family Tree". PBS Frontline. February 1997. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  15. ^ "Certifiable Mexico Corruption, Washington's Indifference". PBS Frontline. February 1997. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  16. ^ "CRs Report for Congress". Congressional Research Service. October 16, 2007.  first1= missing last1= in Editors list (help); contribution= ignored (help)
  17. ^ Rose, David (2006-12-03). "The House of Death". The Observer. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  18. ^ "Car bomb in Mexican border town kills 4". CNN. 2010-07-17. Retrieved 8 August 2010. 
  19. ^ Which cartel is king in Mexico? January 5, 2012
  20. ^ "Mexican forces seize drug kingpin Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, alias 'Ugly Betty'". The Daily Telegraph. 2 September 2013. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  21. ^ Hernández, Anabel (11 May 2013). "Betty la Fea, el nuevo capo de Juárez". Proceso (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Violence the result of fractured arrangement between Zetas and Gulf Cartel, authorities say". The Brownsville Herald. March 9, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.  first1= missing last1= in Authors list (help)

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