Infographic of the Day: The Power Structure of a Mexican Drug Cartel

This is surely one of the most remarkable infographics we've ever posted. Created by social scientist Eduardo Salcedo-Albarán, it documents the organizational structure and almost limitless influence of Mexico's Michoacan drug family. And it teaches you a great deal about why, exactly, the family is so hard to combat — and why its power seems so pervasive.

The infographic itself details various wings of the Michoacan cartel — or La Familia as it's better known — alongside various government agencies. (The short hand for the acronyms: Anything starting with "FUN" is a Michoacan drug cell; those starting with "NAR" are government drug agencies.) The arrows show links between each one, meaning they're sharing information. But what's most interesting is that the size of the bubbles shows how much information each cell of the organization is able to share:

[Click to see full-sized image]

We're not quite sure how accurate the information is or how it was gathered, but what strikes you is that the group is far from centralized. Instead, it's extraordinarily diffuse, much like Al Qaeda, for example. And that in turn surely contributes to the fear the organization sows — it's power must seem limitless in Mexico precisely because its influence, even when small, is always very close at hand, due to the prevalence of tiny, even autonomous cells everywhere you look.

The diffuse nature of the organization, and its web of contacts, means that if you're a Mexican living near one of their power bases, there's literally no where you can turn without meeting La Familia's influence. Moreover, as documented before, each of the cells is independent enough that you never know if you're crossing the path of some new menace with every interaction. You can never be sure if by pleasing one branch, you're offending another. And that type of uncertainty is the very nature of fear itself.

But perhaps the most sobering part of this chart is that it even exists. The fact that it's possible to know so much about the organization while simultaneously being totally unable to stop it speaks volumes about the nature of Mexico's drug problem.

[Hat tip We Love Dataviz]

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1 Comments

  • Charles Knickerbocker

    What app was this social network map done in? I'm looking for social network mapping app that provides interactive capability: clicking on one highlights links; ability to add comments, docs, files; etc.