Author Biography

Nathan P. Jones is an Associate Professor in Security Studies at Sam Houston State University. He is the author Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction (2016) with Georgetown University Press. His areas of interest include drug violence in Mexico, drug trafficking organizations, social network analysis, border security, domestic terrorism, and the political economy of homeland security. Dr. Jones is also a Small Wars Journal–El Centro Senior Fellow, a Rice University Baker Institute Drug Policy and Mexico Center non-resident scholar, and the book review editor for the Journal of Strategic Security.

Irina A. Chindea is a political scientist with the RAND Corporation. Her research interests include irregular warfare, cooperation and conflict among non-state armed groups, U.S. foreign policy, grand strategy, security cooperation, and alliance politics. The regional focus of her work covers Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Chindea has a Ph.D. in international relations and an M.A. in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a B.Sc. in business administration from the Academy of Economics in Bucharest, Romania.

Daniel Weisz Argomedo is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of California Irvine with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Studies. He is currently writing his dissertation on the war on drugs and its impact on women’s security in Mexico. He holds an M.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University where he wrote a dissertation on ‘Hacktivism’and social movements; and earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Alberta where he wrote a thesis on the Mexican war on drugs. He wrote "Climate Change, Drug Traffickers and La Sierra Tarahumara" for the special issue on climate change and global security at the Journal of Strategic Security. He is a founder and secretary of the Leonora Carrington Foundation. He is fluent in Spanish and his research interests include cyberwarfare, the war on drugs and contemporary Latin American politics and history. He can be reached at dweiszar@uci.edu.

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.



Subject Area Keywords

Latin America, Mexico, Narcotics trafficking, Networks and network analysis, Security studies


This article assesses Mexico’s organized crime alliance and subgroup network structures. Through social network analysis (SNA) of data from Lantia Consultores, a consulting firm in Mexico that specializes in the analysis of public policies, it demonstrates differential alliance structures within Mexico’s bipolar illicit network system. The Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación’s (CJNG) alliance structure is top-down and hierarchical, while the Sinaloa Cartel is denser, particularly in the broader Tierra Caliente region. Additionally, our analysis found a sparse overall network with many isolates (groups with no relations to other groups) and disconnected components. Further, we identified organized crime networks that might fill future power vacuums based on their network positions, following state or rival high-value targeting of major cartels. The implications of these findings are discussed, and policy recommendations are provided.


A previous, non-refereed version of this manuscript was published as part of a working paper series by Rice University's Baker Institute. The authors have undertaken a significant revision to allow for peer review to qualify for publication in the Journal of Strategic Security. The Baker Institute supports the publication of this revised manuscript without any restrictions. The previous version may be read on the Baker Institute website: https://doi.org/10.25613/KMGB-NC83.


The authors would like to thank Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez, Roberto Valladares, and Lantia Consultores for access and collation of their alliance and subgroup data for organized crime groups in Mexico. The Lantia data set, data platform, and weekly analyses have been invaluable as research tools. The authors would like to thank Tony Payan, Lisa Guáqueta, and Joelle Paulson of the Baker Institute Center for the United States and Mexico for their support of this research on U.S.-Mexico security issues. Finally, the authors would like to thank Sam Houston State University research assistant Heberto Villarreal for his assistance with data management and verification.