Breaking Bad Wiki
Breaking Bad Wiki
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, also known as the Juárez Cartel, was a Mexican drug cartel active in Ciudad Juárez, Michoacán, Chihuahua, and Jalisco.

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 cartel 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. The boss was Don Eladio, and his word was law. Don Juan and Don Hector served as his most trusted men and most powerful Capos. Behind Bolsa and Hector, there were other Capos below them. The term "Capo" has been used to refer to certain high-ranking members of Latin American drug cartels. It seemed from the beginning that in The Cartel's hierarchy, Eladio was number one, Bolsa was number two and Hector was number three.

The Capos each 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.

For many years, The Cartel was one of the most powerful drug cartels (if not the most powerful) before its crippling blow when its former distributor and rival drug kingpin Gustavo Fring, poisoned the majority of leaders of the Cartel, including Eladio, as revenge for Max Arciniega's death.


Early history[]

The cartel was started by Hector Salamanca, Eladio Vuente, and Juan Bolsa, with Hector claiming that he and his family "built this whole business" with their money and blood ("Lantern"). Eventually, Eladio became the don of the cartel with Hector and Bolsa serving as his most trusted capos. Eladio also lived in a mountainside hacienda, which was bought for him by Hector, and it’s also 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. They 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"). Since Hector's prison sentence had been fully served by 1988, the Cartel would have to have been founded in 1971 at the latest, or at some point prior to that year.

Juarez Cartel 1989

Don Hector, Bolsa, and Eladio (1989)

In 1989, Gustavo Fring and his romantic partner Max Arciniega, using their restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos as a cover to cook meth, gave samples of their product to several of the cartels soldiers, hoping this would grant them an audience with Eladio. Their plan proved successful, and they were eventually granted a meeting with the three heads of the cartel (Eladio, Juan, and 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"). Bolsa was assigned as Gustavo's overseer.

Salamanca Family

Hector and his nephews

In the meantime, Hector began grooming his family to join the ranks of the cartel. Hector treated his nephews Lalo, Tuco, Leonel and Marco like they were his own sons, hoping that one day either Tuco or Lalo would take over for him when he was no longer able to lead the family ("I.F.T."). Leonel and Marco 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"). Lalo would become a capo in the cartel, running their enforcement arm. Tuco would go on to be a key figure in the cartels operation north of the border, leading his own crew. Leonel and Marco became a duo of ruthless hitmen and enforcers. Hector’s grandson Joaquin also would become one of Don Eladio’s personal hitmen and bodyguards, alongside Gaff and Miguel.

By at least 1998, the cartel had begun dealing in meth, just as Gus had proposed nine 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 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[]

Nacho continues to work under Tuco at his drug operation. Unbeknownst to Tuco, however, Nacho engages in personal side deals. While buying stolen pharmaceuticals, he meets Mike Ehrmantraut, who was hired as a bodyguard by the seller. ("Pimento")

Season 2[]

Worried that Tuco might kill him if he becomes suspicious, Nacho hires Mike to assassinate him. ("Amarillo") Instead, Mike provokes Tuco into a fight to get him arrested. ("Gloves Off") With Tuco gone, Hector takes over his operation. Trying to reduce Tuco's prison sentence, Hector tells Mike to lie to police that the gun on the scene was actually his, and not Tuco's, offering Mike $5,000 to do it. ("Rebecca") Mike continually refuses, which escalates to a threat on the life of his granddaughter. Mike is forced to admit defeat and amend his statement, but not before bravely negotiating with Hector to raise the payment to $50,000. ("Bali Ha'i")

Season 3[]

Angered by Hector's threat to his family, Mike sabotages the Salamanca supply lines to attract DEA attention. ("Sunk Costs") Similarly motivated, Nacho switches Hector's heart medication with a placebo. ("Slip") In response to the Salamanca's compromised supply, Bolsa tells Gus and Hector that the Los Pollos Hermanos trucks will now be the only route for cartel product over the border. Hector is deeply enraged by this betrayal, which triggers a stroke. Without his heart medication, the stroke leaves Hector paralyzed. ("Lantern")

Season 4[]

The Cousins kill 20+ members of the Espinosa Gang, essentially incapacitating this other group's operations. ("Something Stupid") Afterwards, Bolsa tells Hector that the Espinosa's territory will go to the Salamancas.

With Hector incapacitated, Nacho took over as acting head of their drug operation, and Lalo traveled to Albuquerque to oversee the operation. ("Coushatta")

Breaking Bad[]

Season 1[]

In 2008, Tuco was released from prison and began operating a successful drug ring, while also taking over the remnants of his family’s drug operation. He employees a large 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 cartel drug runner, "Tortuga", starts ratting out the cartel to the DEA and Mexican law enforcement. ("Negro y Azul") Bolsa and the Salamanca twins intercept him at a bar and decapitated him. ("I.F.T.") His head is placed onto a tortoise and rigged with a bomb, then placed in a location originally intended to be a confidential meeting 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 man called "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 Twins north of the border. The Twins visit Hector at his nursing home and he reveals that Heisenberg's identity is Walter White. The Twins are about to easily make their way to the White Residence, when Mike, who has also been tailing Walt for some time, informs Gus of the impending assassination. Gus quickly reaches out to the Twins, where he convenes a meeting and informs the Twins 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 Twins feel the need to get revenge on someone, decide to take up the offer anyways. The Twins ambush Schrader in a parking lot, but Marco is shot in the head, and Leonel is crippled from his legs being slammed between two cars, and later dies in the hospital.

Season 4[]

Gus, Mike, 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, making it easy for Jesse to identify), 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 (the cartel’s chief button man) saying "First of many!" - Jesse's first indication that the deal Gus made requires him to stay in Mexico.

640px-4x10 - Cartel

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 all present cartel leaders with some rare tequila (Zafiro Añejo) he offers to 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 vomits 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 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 make their way out. 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, Hector's grandson and one of the few living family members he had left), 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 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 Hector, who (with the aid of Walter White) triggers a bomb on his wheelchair that kills himself, Gus and Tyrus Kitt.

The death of Gus Fring was widely attributed to the Cartel, but its unknown who is in charge of it now, with Eladio and many of his key men gone ("Say My Name").

Cartel figures[]

4x8 Don Eladio

Don Eladio Vuente (1989)


  • Don Eladio Vuente, the boss of the Cartel
    • Don Juan Bolsa, high level member and the underboss of the Cartel, as well as the emissary of their New Mexico territory.
    • Bolsa 1989

      Don Juan Bolsa (1989)

      Don Hector Salamanca, former high level member, former patriarch of the Salamanca family and former Capo of the Cartel
    • Don Eduardo Salamanca, Hector's nephew, high-level member and Capo of the Cartel, new head of Salamanca family and head of enforcement arm of the Cartel
    • Don “Charlie Manson”, high-level member and Capo 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
      Hector 1989

      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
    • 2 unnamed men, high-level members and Capos of the Cartel

Don Eduardo Salamanca (2004)


(Note: lieutenants, enforcers, political allies, cooks, other employees, etc)


Jesse Pinkman and Tuco Salamanca

Known Fronts and Properties[]

Cartel's victims[]


Tortuga's head on a tortoise


  • 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".