The Drug Cartel Hierarchy: Leaders & Kingpins

Reported by: Will Ripley
Last Update: 11:00 pm

MEXICO - They are the leaders of the most violent and dangerous group of cartels in Mexico. These drug kingpins are calling the shots in Mexico's drug war.

The balance of power can change almost overnight as rival cartels fight for control of certain areas.

Reports of shoot-outs, execution-style murders, kidnappings and torture are a daily practice in Mexico. The cartels are using the same tactics as the terror group Al-Qaeda.

Mexico's government has declared war on the drug cartels and have arrested or killed many of the major players.

Former Gulf cartel kingpin Osiel Cardendas Guillen is now serving time in a US prison. His brother cartel leader Tony Tormenta was killed a couple of weeks ago in Matamoros.

The Beltran-Leyva cartel's leader is Edgar Valdez Villarreal known as La Barbie. The Laredo native was arrested in August on drug trafficking charges.

Sylvia Longmire has eight years of military law enforcement experience. She has been analyzing the cartels in Mexico for four years.

"Theres a lot of activity going on in the leadership because of those arrests and killings," said Longmire.

Seven cartels divide the $40 Billion drug business right now. They are: Tijuana, Juarez, La Familia, Beltran-Levya, Sinaloa, Gulf, and Los Zetas

Longmire says the Sinaloa, Gulf and the Zetas are the cartels affecting residents in the Valley.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. At just 5'6" he may be a short man but he's very powerful. Last year he made the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people.

Until recently Sinaloa was allied with the Gulf cartel. Jorge "El Coss" Costilla Sánchez was sharing leadership duties with Tony Tormenta until his death. Longmire says Tormenta's spot has likely already been filled. Replacing these leaders within 24 hours is extremely crucial to the survival of the cartel. They can't afford to have a power vacuum because a rival could come in and see that as an opportunity to take over.

That's where Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano comes in. He is described as the ruthless leader of Los Zetas. The group began as the Gulf cartel's private army. Now they want to the destroy their old boss and take over their territory.

The group was founded by Mexican army special forces deserters. Now most of the original Zetas are dead and the cartel is recruting teenagers. The new members are getting younger and their techniques are not as good as the original members, says Longmire.

The Zetas are still a force to be reckoned with, terrorizing and taking over border towns like Ciudad Mier and preparing for an attack on the Gulf cartel strongholds of Reynosa and Matamoros.

Ten-thousand people have died in Mexico's drug war just this year. The Mexican government has 3,000 troops patrolling the area near the Valley, trying to prevent even more bloodshed. ... HDUgw.cspx