Different from what most people believe, the real government of the Mexican state is not its elected bureaucracy, but a combination of five drug cartels that, just as in other narco-states, control the lives of millions of people.
Just as in the case of the central government, the narco organizations have set roots in the Federal District, Mexico City. The drug cartels set foot there because it is the largest market for drug sales in the country.
The Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltran Leyva, the Knights Templar, the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas are the five criminal groups that have a presence in Mexico City, according to the DEA.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration recently issued a report warning about the growth of Mexican criminal organizations, which already ‘own’ most of the country’s courts, political parties and politicians.
Miguel Angel Mancera, the mayor of Mexico City, has held on to deny the presence of drug trafficking during the three years he has ruled. However, since the beginning of his administration, the attorney general’s office warned of drug trafficking cells operating in the city.
An official report released in March 2013, a few months after Mancera took, five groups stood up for their strong operations in the capital city.
The Beltran Leyva, former associates of ‘Chapo’ Guzman, had under its command a narco group nicknamed after its leader, el Mosco.
At that time the federal government put Edgar Valdez Villarreal, former head of the cartel of assassins of Beltran Leyva, as the head of three cells that operate in Mexico City, even though the drug dealer had been in prison for three years.
El Indio, El Pelos and the New Administration, the latter a division of The Hand with Eyes, had control of the territory of the city of Mexico and its neighboring state of Mexico.
Martin Barron, a researcher at the National Institute of Criminal Sciences, said that the presence of cartels is so visible that even the arrests of some kingpins and their relatives have occurred in the capital city.
“Alfredo Beltran, one of the leaders of the Beltran Leyva cartel; Vicente Zambada, son of Mayo Zambada (one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel); and Vicente Carrillo, the son of Amado Carrillo (the late drug lord known as The Lord of Heaven) were arrested in Mexico City,” he exemplifies.
In 2007, during the administration of former President Felipe Calderon, who launched the so-called war against drug cartels, the Mexican Attorney placed the presence of four cartels in Mexico City: the Arellano Felix (Tijuana cartel), the Carrillo Fuentes (Juarez cartel ), the Osiel Cardenas Guillen (Gulf Cartel) and Joaquin Guzman Loera (Cartel of Sinaloa).
Their tentacles of the drug distribution spread to colonies with high crime rates as the Doctores, Morelos and Guerrero, one of the first to be founded in Mexico City. It also covers neighborhoods with a strong night business such as Roma, Juarez and Cuauhtemoc.
“Undeniably, there is a clear presence of various criminal organizations. The cartels operate in Mexico City due to a simple reason: it is the biggest market in the country for selling drugs, not only for distribution, as it was once believed.
Despite events such as the seizure of 800 kilos of cocaine at the airport in Mexico City, the mayor has denied that drug cartel organizations are installed in Mexico City. “Mexico City has not a single settled cartel,” he said.
Mexico City, even during the most violent years of the war on drugs, lived under a kind of shield, but in the last three years it has been gripped by events that bear the unmistakable stamp of organized crime.
Only in May 2013, 13 youths were abducted -in the full light of day- in a bar located in the heart of the DF and a few months later their bodies were found in mass graves.
In the past year, the capital has seen scenes that were only proper of the most violent states, such as Tamaulipas and Guerrero.
In October, authorities found the body of a man hanging from a vehicular dawned bridge. The scene was sadistic: the body was wrapped in bandages and his face was covered with a black mask. The next day the body of a person was found in a barrel.
These episodes have followed the discovery of the ‘narco mantas’, threats of criminal groups through messages written on cloth which are places in public places.
“The authorities do not recognize that there is a presence of different narcos because if they do it would mean to accept the failure of security strategies in the capital,” says Barron.
One of the most profitable activities of drug trafficking is drug dealing. In the Mexican capital, small drug dealers have diversified their modus operandi to the extent of making deliveries, serving cell phone requests.
Also they dealt drugs on scooters, backpacks or used cars and stalls selling sweets outside schools. Authorities have detected that this activity has increased due to the participation of ‘franeleros’, street parking men and women who are spread all over the city.
Criminal groups are not only engaged in drug trafficking. In their fight for control of places and their fierce struggle to gain power, they have begun to kidnap, extort, collect dues in a similar manner as it is done by the Italian Mafia, human trafficking, robbery and murder.
The reality lived in Mexico City is not different from what Mexicans experience in other regions of the country. The Mexican drug cartels are more powerful than what authorities would like to admit. They have taken possession of cities across the northern Mexican border in the United States.
When it comes to being governed by drug cartels, Mexico City is no exception. It does not matter how much authorities deny it.
This article was originally written by Zorayda Gallegos. It has been adapted and translated to English by Luis R. Miranda.