The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, also known as the Juárez cartel or VCFO, is active in one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the US from Mexico. The cartel was founded by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Vicente’s brother, in 1993 under the tutelage of his uncle. Amado brought his brothers and later his son into the business. After Amado died following complications from plastic surgery, a brief turf war erupted over leadership of the cartel. Vicente emerged as the victor, and formed a partnership with his brother, nephew, and a few others—most notably the Beltrán Leyva brothers.
The VCFO cartel was in a flux throughout most of the 1990s, as Amado’s death formed a power vacuum and the Arellano Félix Organization wielded most of the regional power at the time. In 2001 after Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera escaped prison, many VCFO members defected to Guzmán Sinaloa Federation. In 2004, Vicente’s brother was killed allegedly by Guzmán’s order. Vicente responded 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 2005-2006 because of the Sinaloa Federation’s war with the Gulf cartel. Mexican government efforts to neutralize the Gulf cartel were somewhat successful, allowing the Sinaloa leadership to once again focus on a re-energized VCFO. The feud between the Federation and the VCFO in Ciudad Juárez has been largely responsible for the unprecedented violence in what has been labeled the “murder capital” of the Americas.
The VCFO has been weakened considerably, however, in the past few years due to aggressive actions by both their rival and Mexican government forces. While the Federation dominates the corridor between Juárez and El Paso, Texas, the VCFO still has an operational presence in the city, controlling the deadly La Linea enforcer group made up of police officers recruited from Chihuahua state. The VCFO has also formed alliances with other TCOs and splintered into smaller criminal groups, such as the New Juárez Cartel. Despite the organization’s persistence in surviving, it will likely not regain its former status as the most powerful TCO in Mexico.
(Chart below by Strategic Forecasting)