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California Border Alliance Group Drug Market Analysis
June 2007

Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexican DTOs are the dominant transporters and distributors of illicit drugs in the CBAG region. These DTOs maintain sophisticated command-and-control operations in Mexico and exert nearly total control over drug trafficking operations along the U.S.-Mexico border, rendering them the primary organizational threat to the CBAG region. Mexican DTOs manage sophisticated smuggling, transportation, and distribution networks that compartmentalize duties; employ advanced security and communication techniques; gather intelligence; and use violence and intimidation to deter law enforcement authorities, control organization members, and secure smuggling territories. Over the past few years, the structure of Mexican DTOs that operate in the CBAG region has changed from traditional hierarchical organizations to organizations composed of decentralized networks of interdependent, task-oriented cells. For example, one cell may be responsible for transporting drug shipments across the U.S.-Mexico border, another for transporting drugs to U.S. markets, and yet another for laundering drug funds. The varied nature of the individual cells associated with a Mexican DTO as well as their insular nature, particularly for organizational heads, renders Mexican DTOs more difficult for law enforcement to dismantle than DTOs with a traditional hierarchical structure.

Competition among Mexican DTOs for control of smuggling corridors in Baja California, Mexico, has resulted in high levels of violent crime in Mexico. Historically, the Arellano-Felix Organization (AFO), also known as the Tijuana Cartel, dominated drug smuggling in the Baja California area; however, the indictment of several leaders of the organization has disrupted its control over drug smuggling in that area. As a result, several DTOs are attempting to gain control of this lucrative corridor, including the Osiel Cardenas-Guillen Organization, also known as the Gulf Cartel, the Joaquin Guzman-Loera Organization, and the Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes Organization, also known as the Juárez Cartel. These DTOs are engaging in increasingly violent tactics to intimidate other traffickers. This increased violence among traffickers at the border area places CBAG's border communities at increased risk of drug-related crime and violence.

Mexican DTOs' control over drug trafficking in the region is augmented by alliances that they have formed with various prison gangs, street gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) to transport, stash, and package illicit drugs and to assist in money laundering activities. Mexican DTOs capitalize on the organizational networks that these gangs have established to distribute drugs in the area. For example, the AFO works with Mexican Mafia to recruit and train members of Southern California Hispanic street gangs to act as smugglers, soldiers, and debt collectors.

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