The Juárez Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Juárez), also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas.
The cartel is one of several drug trafficking organizations that have been known to decapitate their rivals, mutilate their corpses and dump them in public places to instill fear not only into the general public, but also into local law enforcement and their rivals, The Sinaloa Cartel. The Juárez Cartel has an armed wing known as La Línea, a Juarez street gang that usually performs the executions.
The Juárez Cartel was the dominant player in the center of the country, controlling a large percentage of the cocaine traffic from Mexico into the United States. The death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1997, however, was the beginning of the decline of the Juárez cartel, as Carrillo relied on ties to Mexico's top-ranking drug interdiction officer, division general Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.
In September 2011, the Mexican Federal Police informed that the cartel is now known as "Nuevo Cartel de Juárez" (New Juárez Cartel). It is alleged that the 'New Juárez Cartel' is responsible for recent executions in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua.
The cartel was founded in the 1970s by Rafael Aguilar Guajardo and handed down to Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1993 under the tutelage of his uncle. Amado brought his brothers in and later his son into the business. After Amado died in 1997 following complications from plastic surgery, a brief turf war erupted over the control of the cartel, where Amado's brother —Vicente Carrillo Fuentes— emerged as leader after defeating the Muñoz Talavera brothers.
Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who remains in control of the cartel, then formed a partnership with Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, his brother Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, his nephew Vicente Carrillo Leyva, Ricardo Garcia Urquiza, and formed an alliance with other drug lords such as Ismael Zambarda Garcia in Sinaloa and Baja California, the Beltrán Leyva brothers in Monterrey, and Joaquin Guzman Loera in Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.
When Vicente took control of the cartel, the organization was in flux. The death of Amado created a large power vacuum in the Mexican underworld. The Carrillo Fuentes brothers became the most powerful organization during the 1990s while Vicente was able to avoid direct conflict and increase the strength of the Juárez Cartel. The relationship between the Carrillo Fuentes clan and the other members of the organization grew unstable towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s. During the 1990s and early 2000s, drug lords from contiguous Mexican states forged an alliance that became known as 'The Golden Triangle Alliance' or 'La Alianza Triángulo de Oro' because of its three-state area of influence: Chihuahua, south of the U.S. state of Texas, Durango and Sinaloa. However, this alliance was broken after the Sinaloa Cartel drug lord, Joaquin Guzman Loera (aka: Shorty), refused to pay to the Juarez Cartel for the right to use some smuggling routes into the U.S.
In 2001 after Joaquin Guzman Loera 'El Chapo' escaped from prison, many Juárez Cartel members defected to The Sinaloa Cartel. In 2004, Vicente's brother was killed allegedly by order of Guzmán Loera. Carrillo Fuentes retaliated by assassinating Guzmán's brother in prison. This ignited a turf war between the two cartels, which was more or less put on hold from 2005 to 2006 because of the Sinaloa Cartel's war against The Gulf Cartel.
After the organization collapsed, some elements of it were absorbed into The Sinaloa Cartel, an aggressive organization that has gobbled up much of the Juárez Cartel's former territory. The Juárez Cartel has been able to either corrupt or intimidate high-ranking officials in order to obtain information on law enforcement operatives and acquire protection from the police and judicial systems.
The Juárez cartel has been found to operate in 21 Mexican states and its principal bases are Culiacán, Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez, Ojinaga, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and Cancún. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes remains the leader of the cartel. Members of the cartel were implicated in the serial murder site in Ciudad Juárez that was discovered in 2004 and has been dubbed the House of Death. The Juárez Cartel was featured battling rivals The Tijuana Cartel in the 2000 motion picture Traffic. The Australian ABC documentary La Frontera (2010) described social impact of the cartel in the region.
Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, The Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Juárez. The fighting between them has left thousands dead in Chihuahua state. The Juárez Cartel relies on two enforcement gangs to exercise control over both sides of the border: La Linea, a group of corrupt (current and former) Chihuahua police officers, is prevalent on the Mexican side, while the Barrio Azteca street gang operates in Mexico and in Texan cities such as El Paso, Dallas and Houston, as well as in New Mexico and Arizona. On July 15, 2010, the Juarez Cartel escalated violence to a new level by using a car bomb to target federal police officers.
In September 2011 banners were displayed, publicizing the return of the extinct cartel. They were signed by Cesar "El Gato" Carrillo Leyva, who appears to be the son or a close relative of the late drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
Prior to 2012, the Juárez Cartel controlled one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. Since then, however, control of these areas has shifted to The Sinaloa Cartel.
Since March 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by The Juárez Cartel, The Tijuana Cartel, The Los Zetas Organization and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel; the other faction integrated by The Gulf Cartel, The Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana Cartel.