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Beltran Leyva Brothers

Led by the Beltran Leyva brothers, this Mexican drug trafficking organization worked with the Sinaloa Cartel before it seceded in 2008, managing the groups’s hitmen networks and controlling the state of Sonora and the lucrative port of entry in Acapulco. 

After a series of arrests and deaths at the hands of rivals and government authorities, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), once one of Mexico’s bloodiest and most powerful criminal organizations, is gravely weakened. It is currently run by Hector Beltran Leyva, alias “El H,” the middle sibling. 

The arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva, alias “El Mochomo,” in 2008 sparked a battle with the Sinaloa Cartel, and the group’s precipitous fall. By most accounts, the Beltran Leyva brothers began working in their home state of Sinaloa with small-time poppy growers. Often called “gomeros,” for the sticky paste that comes from the plant before it is processed into heroin, the Sinaloa region was and remains the heart of the poppy culture. The brothers later rose with the Sinaloans, who built nationwide organizations. Among these was Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who employed them as hitmen and transporters. Alias “El Señor de los Cielos,” Carrillo Fuentes ran the powerful Juarez Cartel, which had established drug trafficking routes stretching south to Colombia and north into the United States.

It was not until a 2005 report by Mexican intelligence described them as the “Three Horsemen” (Los Tres Caballeros) that the BLO garnered widespread attention. A local journalist used the report as the basis for a story about the brothers. The report gave important clues as to how the gang operated: using connections in local government and the security forces, they would move large quantities of cocaine, marijuana and later meth-amphetamine in small airplanes, stash it in safe houses, and then ship it north over the porous Arizona border. 

Their financial wing, led by Hector, would buy off high and low level security and politicians throughout the country to replicate this model. Their multiple security wings ensured their associates either complied with their orders, or faced death.

The BLO are allied now with the Zetas, the former armed wing of the Gulf Cartel. The two organizations complement each other well. The Zetas have their power base on the eastern U.S.-Mexico border and operate along the Caribbean coast through Central America. The BLO has its power base in the west, in Guerrero, Morelos and the State of Mexico. Combined, they have some of the more sophisticated and well-equipped paramilitaries in Mexico. 

However, there are also obvious negatives. The two are allied for practical rather than ideological or family reasons. Their bond comes from their common enemy: the Sinaloa Cartel.

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Categories: The Cartels
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