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This article is about the fictional cartel in the Breaking Bad universe. For the real organization which inspired the cartel, see wikipedia:Juárez Cartel.

The fury of the cartel. Ain't no one escaped it yet.
Los Cuates de Sinaloa[src]

The Cartel was a Mexican drug cartel active in at least two states: in Michoacán and in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The Cartel controlled one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. They were a ruthless and dangerous drug trafficking organization that had been known to decapitate their rivals, mutilate their corpses, and dump them in public in order to instill fear not only in the general public, but also in local law enforcement and their rivals.

The cartel was very strictly hierarchical criminal organization. Cartel boss was Don Eladio. His word was law. Don Juan and Don Hector served as his most trusted men and most closest Capos. Behind Capos Bolsa and Hector there were other Capos below them. The shortened version "Capo" has been used to refer to certain high-ranking members of Latin American drug cartels. It seemed from the begin that in The Cartel's hierarchy Eladio was number one, Bolsa was number two and Hector was number third. Capos had their own crews (which included soldiers, other employees etc.), territories and responsibilities that they controlled. In practice all Capos and other members of The Cartel were subordinates to Eladio and when big decisions were made, Eladio decided how to do things and also many other less important changes and plans required his blessing, but not all. Very often Eladio used his right-hand man Bolsa to pass instructions down through the chain of command.

The Cartel was one of the most powerful criminal organizations (if not the most powerful) before its destruction as a result of former distributor and rival drug kingpin Gustavo Fring, who poisoned the majority of leaders of the Cartel in an act of revenge for Max Arciniega's death.

History

Early history

The cartel was supposedly started by the Hector Salamanca, Eladio Vuente, and Juan Bolsa, with Hector claiming that the Salamanca family "built this whole business" with their money and blood ("Lantern"). Eventually, Eladio became the head of the cartel, earning the nickname "El Griego Guiñador" (The Winking Greek) because of his name is another word for “Greek” in Spanish, as well the distinctive Greek amulet he wore. Don Hector and Don Juan served as his most trusted men. Eladio also purchased a mountainside hacienda, from which he often conducted business by the poolside.

Initially, the cartel only served as the middle-men for the Colombians, transporting cocaine over the US border and receiving only a small part of the profit. This was mainly because they could not produce cocaine in Mexico, leaving them dependent on the Colombians ("Hermanos"). The cartel was feared by many, and it was said that even the Mexican Federales wouldn't mess with them. The cartel even had government connections, with Bolsa's brother serving as a high ranking police chief. At some point, Hector served 17 years in San Quentin prison ("Bit by a Dead Bee").

Don Hector, Bolsa, and Eladio (1989)

In 1989, Gustavo Fring and his close friend Max Arciniega, using their restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos as a cover to cook meth, gave samples of their product to several of the cartels foot soldiers, hoping this would grant them an audience with Eladio. Their plan proved successful, and they were eventually granted a meeting with the heads of the cartel (Don Eladio, Don Juan, and Don Hector). Gustavo proposed that the they start producing meth, effectively cutting out the Colombians and keeping all the profits for the cartel itself. However, Eladio considered meth to be "a poor mans cocaine", something that was only used by hillbillies and bikers. Despite Gus' attempts to persuade him, Eladio was already offended by the "underhanded" way Gus had gotten the cartels attention. He ordered Hector to shoot Max in the head while he was pleading for forgiveness. This enraged Gus, who tried to attack Hector, but was held down by Bolsa, forcing him to look at the dead body of his former partner. Eladio revealed that the only reason Gus had been allowed to live was because of his past connections, but warned him that he was "no longer in Chile" ("Hermanos").

At a later point, despite the rocky start to their relationship, Gus began working as a distributor for the cartel, using his restaurant chain to smuggle drugs to the American southwest. Hector was displeased with this choice, as he did not trust Chileans and considered them to be "dirty people" ("One Minute"). Don Eladio forbade Gus from dealing with local suppliers in America, ensuring that he only distributed the cartels drugs ("Something Beautiful"). Juan Bolsa was assigned as Gustavo's overseer.

Hector and his nephews

In the meantime, Hector began grooming his family to join the ranks of the cartel. Hector treated his nephew Tuco like a son, hoping that one day he could take over for him when he was no longer able ("I.F.T."). Tuco's cousins, Leonel and Marco Salamanca, were taught a harsh lesson when Hector attempted to drown Marco until Leonel punched his uncle hard enough for him to stop. Hector did this to teach them that "Family is all" ("One Minute"). Tuco would go on to be a key figure in the cartels operation north of the border, with Leonel and Marco becoming notorious hitmen and enforcers.

By at least 1998, the cartel had begun dealing in meth, just as Gus had proposed several years prior. Tuco and his lieutenant, Nacho Varga, started working with a group of bikers out of Riverside, California who hooked them up with poor quality meth, but they could sell it just as fast as they bought it, making it a profitable endeavor. Tuco started using the meth they were buying, becoming erratic and unpredictable. During a meeting with their supplier, Dog Paulson, Tuco became paranoid that Dog was trying to cut him out by selling to his competitors. He stared him down and without a word shot him point blank in the head with a sawed-off shotgun. A piece of Dog's skull became lodged in Nacho's shoulder, remaining there to this day ("Grilled") ("Gloves Off").

In 1999, Hector paid Don Eladio a visit at his hacienda, announcing that he had bought an ice cream factory in Michoacan and an ice cream shop in Albuquerque. He intended to use the factory's former driver, Ximenez Lecerda, to smuggle drugs across the border. Hector also named the store El Griego Guiñador, after Don Eladio himself. Eladio was amused by this, especially after seeing a bobblehead of the store's mascot, Sabrosito. He mocked Hector for bringing him just "a toy", to which Hector responded by dumping a bag of money on the table, temporarily appeasing him. However, they were quickly interrupted by Juan Bolsa, who had brought a Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirt as a gift, along with Gus' monthly earnings. Eladio was impressed by the large sum of money and the professional way in which it was stored, demanding that Hector do the same from now on. Hector was visibly jealous, which lead to Eladio mercilessly teasing him about his "cute" pile of money. As Eladio headed inside with the money, Bolsa warned Hector to not insult him. This further fueled his hatred of Gustavo and deepened their rivalry ("Sabrosito").

Better Call Saul

Season 1

In 2002, small time lawyer Jimmy McGill tries pulling a hit-and-run scam on Betsy Kettleman, but accidentally targets Tuco's Abuelita. McGill's accomplices, Cal and Lars Lindholm, try to blackmail her into giving them money and even resort to insulting her, calling her a "biznatch". This enrages Tuco, who knocks them out and ties them up in the garage. Moments later, McGill shows up and tries to explain the situation to Tuco. After some fast talking, Tuco agrees to let Jimmy and the brothers leave, until the brothers blurt out that Jimmy put them up to the scam. Tuco takes the three of them out to the middle of the desert to interrogate them. He is accompanied by his three lieutenants, Nacho Varga, No-Doze, and Gonzo. Varga convinces Tuco to let McGill go, but Tuco wants to kill the Twins for insulting his grandmother. Jimmy persuades him to only break their legs as punishment and let them live ("Uno",  "Mijo").

Unbeknownst to Tuco, Nacho has begun doing drug deals on the side. He meets with Pryce and his bodyguard Mike Ehrmantraut to buy pharmaceuticals. ("Pimento")

Season 2

Nacho and Pryce continue to regularly meet, until Pryce (whose real name was Daniel Wormald) begins spending his money carelessly, buying an expensive car. Nacho decide to cut ties with him and robs his house in the process.

Season 3

Juan Bolsa attends a meeting between Gus and Hector and announces that Gus' trucks will now be the only route for cartel product over the border. This causes Hector to throw an angry fit, triggering a stroke and leading him to be sent to the emergency room. ("Lantern")

Season 4

The Cousins kill 24+ members of the Espinosa Gang, essentially incapacitating this other group's operations. ("Something Stupid") Afterwards, Juan Bolsa tells Hector that the Espinosa's territory will go to the Salamancas.

After Hector becomes incapacitated as a result of his stroke, his nephew Lalo Salamanca comes north of the border to take over operations. ("Coushatta")

Breaking Bad

Season 1

In 2008, Tuco was released from prison and began operating a successful drug ring and taking the remnants of his uncle's drug distribution business and employees a number of operatives and establishes his own headquarters for the cartel.

His operation is extremely successful and he becomes a key man for the Cartel's operations north of the border and gradually he becomes one of the most powerful and influential dealers in Albuquerque. This helps the Cartel more in the North.

Season 2

A former cartel associate, "Tortuga", starts ratting on the cartel to the DEA and Mexican law enforcement. ("Negro y Azul") It is revealed in Season 3 that Juan Bolsa and the Salamanca Twins lured him into a bar and decapitated him. ("I.F.T.") His head is placed onto a pet tortoise and rigged with a bomb, then placed in a location originally intended to be a confidential meet spot. Law enforcement triggers the bomb, killing one Federale and injuring several DEA agents. ("Negro y Azul")

Season 3

There are already rumors swirling all over Mexico about a Heisenberg who has started encroaching on Cartel territory north of the border, with Mexican consumers acquiring a taste for the Blue Sky meth. In order to avenge the death of Tuco the Cartel sends The Cousins north of the border. The Cousins visit Hector at his nursing home and he reveals that Heisenberg's identity is Walter White. The Cousins are about to easily make their way to the White Residence, when Mike Ehrmantraut who has also been tailing Walt for some time, informs Gus of the impending assassination. Gus quickly reaches out to the Cousins, where he convenes a meeting and informs the Cousins of Hank Schrader, the DEA agent who was directly responsible for Tuco's death. Gus acknowledges that a hit on the DEA north of the border is outside the usual cartel M.O., but seeing as the Cousins feel the need to revenge on someone, decide to take up the offer anyways.

Season 4

Gus Fring, Mike Ehrmantraut, and Jesse Pinkman travel to Mexico to meet with the cartel. They arrive at the cartel lab, and Jesse bluffs his way through his inability to synthesize phenylacetic acid (back in Gus's superlab, it comes in barrels with a bee), demands that the lab be scrubbed spotless, and then watches as a digital readout inches above 96 percent purity for his meth. The cartel is very pleased, with Gaff (a cartel sniper who also hijacked a Los Pollos Hermanos truck) saying "First of many!" - Jesse's first indication that the deal Gus made requires him to stay in Mexico.

All cartel leaders are poisoned as part of Gus's plot ("Salud")

Almost immediately, however, Mike relieves Jesse’s mind (and cements his loyalty) by saying “I promise you this—either we’re all going home or none of us are.” Gus’ plan is to poison the entire cartel household with some rare tequila (Zafiro Añejo) he offers to cartel kingpin Don Eladio as a gift; he even takes the first drink (after swallowing a couple of emetic pills earlier). When the party is in full swing, Gus excuses himself to go to the bathroom (with one of Eladio’s henchmen standing guard), where he throws up the poison and walks out to a poolside littered with the dead and dying.

With a last look of horror and outrage at Gus, Don Eladio dies, falls into the pool, and Mike pulls Don Eladio's necklace off the floating corpse. Having just garroted Gaff, Mike tells Jesse to grab a gun. After Gus shouts out a challenge to the compound to either get out and live or stay to fight and die, the three head for the hills. The pills Gus swallowed haven't rendered him completely immune to the poison's effects, however, and he doubles over in pain. Mike gets shot and Jesse returns fire at his assailant (later revealed to be Joaquin Salamanca), looking completely shocked when the man drops. Gus, Mike, and Jesse successfully rush away from the scene ("Salud").

Power Vacuum

The cartel was thrown into chaos, and a power vacuum emerged, following the mass poisoning of Don Eladio Vuente and the leading members of the organization. In its place, Gus' Drug Empire spreads its control of methamphetamine trade in the American Southwest. The empire is quickly brought down by former Cartel Underboss Hector Salamanca, who (with the help of Walter White) suicide bombs himself, Gus and Tyrus.

Cartel figure

Don Eladio Vuente (1989)

Management & Finance

  • Don Eladio Vuente, boss
    • Don Juan Bolsa, a high level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Juan Bolsa (1989)

      Don Hector Salamanca, former high level member and patriarch of the Salamanca family and former Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Eduardo Salamanca, Hector's nephew and high-level member and Capo of the Cartel, new head of Salamanca family and head of enforcement arm of the Cartel
    • Don Paco, high level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Cesar, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Renaldo, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel

      Don Hector Salamanca (1989)

    • Don Artuno, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Cisco, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Luis, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Escalada, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel
    • Charlie Manson, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel

Don Eduardo Salamanca (2004)

Enforcement

  • Eladio Vuente
    • Gaff, Eladio's primary enforcer
    • Miguel, Eladio's large bodyguard
    • Joaquin Salamanca, Hector's grandson and one of Eladio's bodyguards
    • 8 Unnamed Hitmen
  • Salamanca Lieutenants

Manufacturing

Jesse Pinkman and Tuco Salamanca

  • Walter White (formerly), Tuco's temporary American supplier and later betrayer
  • Jesse Pinkman (formerly), Tuco's temporary American supplier and later betrayer
  • Benicio Fuentes, the cartel's lead chemist

Distribution

  • Gustavo Fring, high level operative and distributor
  • Ximenez Lecerda, the truck driver who brings the drugs over the border for Hector Salamanca
  • Domingo Molina, a street dealer who works for Tuco (formerly)
    • Arlo, a street dealer who works for Domingo
    • Mouse, a street dealer who works for Domingo
  • Carlos, a street dealer who works for Tuco
  • Blingy, a street dealer who works for Nacho
  • 2 unnamed Truck Drivers

Cartel's victims

Tortuga's head on a tortoise

Trivia

  • The organization is entirely unnamed throughout the series, with the name “Juárez“ being derived from a few lines of dialogue in Breaking Bad season 2’s episode "Negro y Azul".

References

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