x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Report finds Los Zetas now Mexico's biggest drug cartel

Los Zetas operate in 17 out of Mexico's 32 states while the Sinaloa gang operates in 16 states, down from 23 in 2005, according to US authorities cited in the Stratfor report.

MEXICO CITY // Los Zetas have become the biggest drug gang in Mexico, operating in more areas than their main rival, the Sinaloa cartel, according to an annual report from US-based security analysts Stratfor.

"By the end of 2011, Los Zetas eclipsed the Sinaloa Federation as the largest cartel operating in Mexico in terms of geographic presence," the report says.

Los Zetas operate in 17 out of Mexico's 32 states while the Sinaloa gang operates in 16 states, down from 23 in 2005, according to US authorities cited in the Stratfor report.

Mexico's cartels polarised in 2011, with most smaller groups subsumed by the Sinaloa gang, controlling much of western Mexico, and the Zetas, controlling much of the east, the report said.

Some 50,000 people have died in rising drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón deployed tens of thousands of troops to take on the cartels five years ago, according to media counts.

Violence was set to continue as the government pursued its strategy, Stratfor said, underlining geographical shifts in violent areas in recent months.

Although violent, the decades-old Sinaloa gang preferred "to buy off and corrupt to achieve its objectives", while the Zetas, formed by former military personnel in the 1990s, "prefer brutality", the report says.

The report's authors anticipated a further spread of Mexican cartel activities in the Caribbean, Europe and Australia in 2012.