Guadalajara Cartel

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Guadalajara Cartel
Founded 1980
Founded by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo
Founding location Guadalajara, Mexico
Years active 1980–1989
Territory Guadalajara, Mexico
Ethnicity Mexican
Criminal activities Drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, murder and arms trafficking.
Allies Tijuana Cartel, Medellín Cartel, Cali Cartel

The Guadalajara Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Guadalajara) was a Mexican drug cartel which was formed in the 1980s by Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States. Among the first of the Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with the Colombian cocaine mafias, the Guadalajara cartel prospered from the cocaine trade.

History and Legacy[edit]

After the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo ("Don Neto"), Félix Gallardo kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his family to Guadalajara city. Félix "The Godfather" Gallardo then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop.[1] In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Félix Gallardo convened the nation's top drug narcos at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas (turfs) or territories. The Tijuana route would go to his nephews, the Arellano Félix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez route would go to the Carrillo Fuentes family, headed by the nephew of Fonseca Carrillo, Amado Carrillo. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. Control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor – then becoming the Gulf Cartel - would be left undisturbed to Juan García Ábrego. Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, he had the contacts so he was still the top man, but he would no longer control all details of the business; he was arrested on April 8, 1989.[2] It is also believed that Amado Carrillo Fuentes was once a part of the Guadalajara Cartel, but he was sent to Ojinaga, Chihuahua to oversee the cocaine shipments of his uncle, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and to learn about border operations from Pablo Acosta Villarreal "El Zorro de Ojinaga" (The Ojinaga Fox).[3] Once Acosta and his successor Rafael Aguilar Guajardo were murdered Carrillo took over the control of the Juárez Cartel. At present, these factions or remnants of them, are battling each other for control of trafficking routes, influence over the Mexican government and in retaliation for past offenses and betrayals. This conflict is known as the Mexican Drug War.

Collaboration with the CIA and DFS[edit]

According to Peter Dale Scott, "the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset."[4]

The cartel also benefited from the CIA as a result of the agency's connections with the Honduran drug lord Juan Matta-Ballesteros. According to a 1983 U.S. Customs Investigative Report, Matta-Ballesteros was the head of the SETCO airline, a corporation that was used for smuggling narcotics into the United States.[5] According to the Kerry Committee report, SETCO was the principal company used by the Contras in Honduras to transport at least a million rounds of ammunition, food, uniforms, military supplies and personnel for the FDN (one of the earliest Contra groups) from 1983 through 1985. For its services, SETCO received funds from the accounts established by Oliver North."[6]

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, one of the founders of the cartel, provided a significant amount of funding, weapons, and other aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. His pilot, Werner Lotz, stated that Gallardo once had him deliver $150,000 in cash to a Contra group, and Gallardo often boasted about smuggling arms to them. His activities were known to several U.S. federal agencies, including the CIA and DEA, but he was granted immunity due to his "charitable contributions to the Contras".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beith, Malcolm (2010). The Last Narco. New York, New York: Grove Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8021-1952-0. 
  2. ^ Rohter, Larry (April 16, 1989). "In Mexico, Drug Roots Run Deep". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-21. 
  3. ^ Poppa, Terrance (2009). "Amado Carrillo Fuentes". Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  4. ^ Scott, Peter Dale (2000), Washington and the politics of drugs, Variant, 2(11)
  5. ^ Cockburn, Alexander; St-Clair, Jeffrey (1998). Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press. Verso. p. 282. ISBN 9781859841396. 
  6. ^ Bunck, Julie M. & Fowler, Michael R. (2012). Bribes, Bullets, and Intimidation: Drug Trafficking and the Law in Central America. Penn State Press. p. 274. ISBN 9780271048666. 
  7. ^ Scott, Peter Dale; Marshall, Jonathan (1998). Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Latin America. University of California Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780520921283. 

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