A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Infographic series explores cartel operations in Mexico


Infographic series explores cartel operations in Mexico

First infographic depics how cartel fragmentation and expansion affect Mexico

June 4, 2020Jessica Rivinius

START is publishing an infographic series exploring findings from its Tracking Cartels project, a Joint Centers of Excellence project supported by the DHS Office of University Programs. Each week, for four weeks in June 2020, START will release a new infographic that depicts cartel operations in Mexico, specifically detailing: Major cartel operational zones; the violent rise of Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG); violence in Michoacán over control of the avocado trade; and violence in Guanajuato over control of illicit petroleum.

START's Geospatial Research Unit (GRU) is leading the joint research project with partnering DHS Centers of Excellence, the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA) and the Center for Acceleration Operational Efficiency (CAOE). The project aims to develop a multi-pronged approach to triangulate open source information about TCOs, including major Cartels and gangs (e.g. MS-13), operating in Mexico and the Northern Triangle. The purpose is to use open-source information to build a holistic and accurate understanding of TCOs’ activities in Mexico and the Northern Triangle for analyses and operational decision-making.

The team has created a series of infographics that help illustrate their findings. Authored by Samuel Henkin, the first infographic details major cartel operational zones in Mexico and highlights these key points:

  • Major cartel fragmentation has led to increasingly adaptable, agile, and competitively violent criminal organizations.
  • The geographical expansion of cartels has led to greater territorial contestation over drug plazas, trafficking routes, and illicit markets.
  • Seeking greater profit, cartels are diversifying and increasing in criminal density through criminal activities like extortion, kidnapping, and money laundering.

View the research brief and infographic here.

Infographics will be released weekly in June 2020 and will be available on the Tracking Cartels Infographic Series webpage here.

animated map of cartel operational zones in Mexico