Virtually the entire US illicit-drug market is controlled by seven Mexican cartels, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.
The DEA report notes that there are no organizations at this time with the infrastructure and power to challenge these cartels and their hold over the US market.
Trafficking heroin, meth, cocaine, and marijuana, these organizations will continue to dominate throughout the US, according to the DEA.
“Narcotics are the biggest black market earner of all,” wrote Ioan Grillo, author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America.”
“Estimated to be worth more than three hundred billion dollars a year, the global industry has pumped huge resources into criminal empires decade after decade.”
A number of criminal organizations have risen and fallen over those decades, but we have listed the seven Mexican cartels that currently supply the US drug market below.
The Sinaloa cartel
The Sinaloa cartel is generally regarded as the most powerful and wealthiest cartel in Mexico and in the world.
The cartel is based in Sinaloa state on Mexico’s Pacific coast — a rugged and mountainous area known as the Golden Triangle for its extensive drug cultivation.
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada took leadership of the Sinaloa cartel in the early 1990s (after the disintegration of the Guadalajara cartel).
In 2012, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzmán as Chicago’s Public Enemy No.1 due to the Sinaloa cartel’s dominant role in supplying large quantities of drugs to the city and the region around it.
In 2013, the DEA said that Guzmán’s organization shipped “80% of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine” most of which flowed through the Chicago region each year, a supply with a value of $3 billion.
The DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment revealed even more extensive control, with only Arizona and the southern half of Texas out of the Sinaloa cartel’s grasp.
On the morning of January 8, the Mexican government arrested Guzmán, and hours later frog-marched him from northwestern Sinaloa state, where he was captured, back to the prison near Mexico City from which he escaped in July — where he will reportedly be even more closely monitored.
Most observers believe that Guzmán will eventually end up in a US supermax facility and that his cartel will continue to operate from Mexico through its vast networks.