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Mexico's Gulf Cartel increasingly relies on women

The number of women working in the drug trade is estimated to have grown in Mexico by 400 percent between 2007 and 2010, writes guest blogger Patrick Corcoran.

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The idea of an all-powerful female criminal boss has spilled out into Mexican popular culture as well. "La Reina del Sur," a novel about a Sinaloa woman forced to flee her homeland, who subsequently sets herself up as a major trafficker in southern Spain, is among the most popular recent pieces of crime lit, and was spun off into a telenovela with longtime star Kate del Castillo. Scores of "narcocorridos" (drug ballads) have been written about leading females in the drug trade, and a handful of non-fiction accounts of their exploits have appeared on the shelves of Mexican book stores.

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In most cases the role of women is portrayed as secondary, and their involvement comes across as isolated cases of happenstance – Avila, for instance, married her way into the drug trade – rather than as part of a broader strategy. In Reynosa, however, the women are not mere add-ons, but, according to Excelsior, central figures.

Insofar as the use of women is a shift forced upon the Gulf Cartel by difficult circumstances, it demonstrates the group’s weakening. If Gulf leaders have been forced to turn to women, who they consider less effective, because they could not maintain their operation otherwise, this is an indication of a group that may be in its last days.

Such a lack of access to manpower could well have been provoked by the Zetas' success in identifying Gulf reinforcements sent from elsewhere in the country; their efforts to wipe out these fighters have been blamed from the mass disappearance of bus passengers in Tamaulipas in recent years.

An alternative interpretation, however, is that the Mexican gangs’ failure to integrate women into their organizations represents a needless and limiting oversight. Just as legitimate multinational corporations have benefited from the influx of women into their boardrooms, so too could smuggling organizations increase their efficiency by no longer ignoring half the population.

– Patrick Corcoran is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region.. Find all of his research here.

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