Mexican drug cartels are infamous groups led by powerful narcotics lords. From Los Zetas to the CEO of crime’s Sinaloa Cartel, they’re responsible for some of the most violent firefights & attacks in Mexico. Here’s the latest in Mexican cartel news.
With a $40 billion drug-trafficking business, several corrupt and violent groups in Mexico have emerged over the years as they attempt to control more money, land, and power. With it comes a natural struggle amongst one another in what’s led to countless deaths throughout the country. As members rise, leaders fall, and lives are lost, blood is constantly being shed in a society where murder is synonymous with success. We now present to you, the top 10 horrific Mexican cartel attacks.
10: The San Fernando Massacres
August, 2010: Los Zetas—a notoriously ruthless Mexican drug cartel—intercepts buses trafficking 73 immigrants and executes all but one. They kidnap and slaughter the victims to deprive their rival, The Gulf Cartel, of the reinforcements they sent for. The lone survivor was an Ecuadorian man who was shot at the head but fortunately, the bullet missed his brain. After a shootout with Los Zetas, Mexican military units found the 72 bodies in a mass grave. This 2010 massacre took place along Highway 101 in San Fernando, Mexico and since then has been known as “The Highway of Death.” Justice for the victims did not come, however, as the power and brutality of Los Zetas is greater than the law enforcement and government control. The Chief of Police investigating the massacre was murdered. Additionally, a year after the first massacre, cartel news reported 193 bodies of victim immigrants were found to have met the same violent fate. In 2011, the drug lord responsible for the massacres, Edgar “El Wache“ Montiel, was captured by Mexican Federal Police along with 80 other members of Los Zetas. “El Wache” Montiel bragged that some of the immigrants were forced to fight each other to death for the cartel members’ amusement.
9: The Jalisco Police Ambush of 2015
The New Generation Jalisco Cartel (or NGJC) emerged powerfully in 2010 with its fathering cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel. In just six months, its illegal operations reached Mexico coast-to-coast while Mexican police forces and major cartels learned to be wary of their activity. They’ve declared war on all Zetas, their allies, and police authorities whose corruption takes advantage of the people. On April 6th, 2015, cartel news reported that the NGJC retaliated against the recent police crackdowns on organized crime by ambushing a stat police convoy. The group’s militant organizational tactics were displayed when they successfully murdered 15 members of the Jalisco stat police. In the last two years alone, over 70 public officials have been killed in Jalisco amidst warring cartels. The main role of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel is the production and trafficking of methamphetamine in addition to operating as extra muscle for the Sinaloa Cartel. They’ve been violently contending with Los Zetas for control over Veracruz, a valuable port city on the Gulf Coast. In one of their bloodiest confrontations, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel dumped 35 bodies along a main road in Veracruz; most of which belonged to civilians loyal to Los Zetas. Reports show that most of the victims suffocated to death when they were hogtied and pegged with threatening messages from the deadly group.
8: The Apodaca Prison Riot
For years, Nuevo Leon, Mexico has been a war zone for the Zetas and Gulf cartels attempting to gain control over drug trafficking routes into the United States. Members of both cartels have been imprisoned together, causing bloody prison riots…most notably, the 2012 Apodaca Prison riot, which left 44 Gulf cartel members dead. Prison guards were bribed by Zeta members to release them from their cells. Once free, they brutally attacked and murdered members of the Gulf Cartel using knives, rocks, and burning mattresses. Reports of the gory scene describe the Gulf cartel members being beaten, stabbed, thrown out of windows, hanged, and decapitated. Also during this riot, 37 members of Los Zetas escaped Apodaca Prison. Among the escaped criminals was drug lord Oscar Manuel Bernal Soriano, also known as “La Arana” (Spanish for “The Spider”). 29 prison employees including prison director, Geronimo Martinez, his deputy, Juan Hernandez, and security chief Oscar Laureno, were detained to be investigated for the Apadaca Prison riot. In the end, it was found that 19 prison employees were responsible for the escape of many high-ranking Zetas and the slaughter of 44 Gulf Cartel members.
7: The Morelia Grenade Attack of 2008
The city of Morelia was celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day on September 15th, 2008 when cartel news reported that grenades were launched into a plaza filled with thousands of people. Eight people were killed from the explosion and nearly 100 civilians suffered injuries. Officials blamed a branch of the Gulf cartel, La Familia Michoacána, for the attack. They saw it as a warning of their presence to the local government. With heavily enforced religious values and rules, La Familia Michoacána is known to operate more like a cult than a cartel. Their power has been gradually dissolving and in 2014, cartel news reported that they killed their own founder and leader, Nazario Moreno González. La Familia Michoacána ultimately lost its territories to Los Zetas, who ended up taking full blame for the crowd bombing in Morelia. Only three cartel members were arrested for this awful terrorist attack.
6: The 2014 Iguala Kidnappings
On September 26th, 2014, 43 students were kidnapped from a teacher’s college in Iguala, a town in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. While traveling to a protest, police intercepted the busses and took them into custody. Investigations found that local law enforcement and the wife of Iguala’s mayor collaborated the kidnapping with a cartel known as Guerreros Unidos (or “United Warriors”). Days later, mass graves were discovered containing charred bodies; all of which were too burnt to officially identify as those of the missing students. Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, María
De los Ángeles Pineda Villa, were arrested for the murders along with 20 corrupt police officers. The mayor’s manicured wife, Pineda, was found to be the mastermind responsible for not only the Iguala kidnappings, but countless more. It was later revealed that she was the daughter of two crime syndicate family heads and a leader of Guerreros Unidos.
5: The Nuevo Laredo Massacre of 2012
Nuevo Laredo is a border city on the banks of Rio Grande, a majorly profitable trafficking route that sees an estimated 40% of all cargo into the United States from Mexico. The fearsome Los Zetas have had a bloody war with the allied Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels over this checkpoint for years. The main interstate (I-35) set the stage for one of the most grotesque displays of bodies in 2012. Officials found nine victims hanging over a busy overpass and later discovered fourteen more in an abandoned Chrysler—each decapitated and stuffed into trash bags. The first heinous presentation was an act of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by infamous drug kingpin, “El Chapo” Guzmán. Along with the nine murdered Zetas members, El Chapo posted a message stating that the Sinaloa Cartel will control Nuevo Laredo. The second incident was Los Zetas’s even more violent retaliation. They were responsible for fourteen decapitated bodies, which were later identified as members of the Gulf cartel.
4: The Monterrey Casino Attack of 2011
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon experienced its most violent massacre when, on August 25th, 2011, four vehicles of Los Zetas opened fired into a casino. The Casino Royale was peppered with gunfire, doused in gasoline, then set ablaze. Civilians who survived the shooting were trapped inside, while many other unfortunate souls burned alive. Los Zetas’s goal in this attack was not only to punish the casino owners for refusing to pay the money demanded of them, but also to warn any others who dared to resist extortion. While mostly coming from drug trafficking, cartel income is also earned from a variety of other crimes INCLUDING extortion, kidnappings, and contract killings. Victims were either shot, suffocated from the carbon monoxide, and some were even trampled in the chaos. Officials reported that 61 casino guests, mostly woman, were killed in the assault.
3: The Durango Mass Graves
A series of mass murders were exhumed in the northwestern Mexican state of Durango in 2011. According to cartel news reports, Mexican police dug up 23 mass graves, shockingly containing over 350 corpses. One of these burial sites was an abandoned auto repair lot, in which a total of 89 bodies were logged. Due to the severe mutilation and dismemberment of the bodies, only 30% of them could be identified. Forensics notably revealed that one of these victims was Alfonso Pena, the former mayor of Tepehuanes, Durango. As the death count rose with each excavation, it became apparent that the powerful and violent Los Zetas were responsible for the mass killings. Cartel news states that many of their victims were strangled or buried alive for refusing to join the syndicate.
2: The Tijuana Battleground
In the first few months of 2008 in Tijuana, Mexico, dozens of kidnappings and shootouts erupted in the streets, leaving the city broken and bloody. As a drug and human trafficking hotspot, Tijuana supports the illegal trade between Mexico and California. Police suspected the Arellano Felix Cartel of a series of homicides that year, which unforgivably included the death of many children. Cartel news reported that the number of deaths in Tijuana in 2008 reached 844 people, which was double that of Detroit, Michigan; also known as America’s “murder capital.” Despite Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s effort in sending hundreds of soldiers and federal police to Tijuana, the cartels continue to ballet each other over this trade route. The area has since been dominated by the Sinaloa cartel, led by “El Chapo” Guzmán, a man with a sick and twisted imagination for delivering sinister messages to other cartels and law enforcement.
1: The Acapulco Decapitations of 2011
In the once-glamorous location of Acapulco, Mexico, 25 bodies were found one morning in January, 2011; 15 of which were decapitated. According to cartel news, the lucrative tourism business in Acapulco attracted the interest of rival cartels, leading to an influx of murders and crimes. Guerrero state police discovered the headless bodies after investigating a burning car in a shopping center parking lot; most of the victims were reported to be less than 30 years of age and accused of being extortionists. The nation’s most powerful and feared group, the Sinaloa Cartel, was responsible for the beheadings and left notes with many of their victims’ bodies; each note being personalized by cartel leader, “El Chapo” Guzmán. Later that year in Acapulco, five more heads and a threatening message were found in a sack near an elementary school. Cartel news states that this was directed at local teachers who were being been extorted for half their earnings.