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Important terms to know

"ajuste de cuentas" - "settlement of accounts" Often heard after murders related to drug debts.

"autodefensas" - Groups of locals who band together to defend their towns against cartels. Prominent in Michoacan in the 2010s.

"chapulin" - A criminal who switches sides or jumps around. Literal translation "grasshopper".

"capo"- The head of a cartel.

"cobro de piso" - Extortion. A payment demanded from businesses by criminal organizations as a "tax" for operating in the gangs territory.

"cuerno de chivo" - AK 47, literally translates to "goats horns", a reference to bent magazine shape of the AK 47.

"encobijado" - A body wrapped in a blanket. Usually left in a public place.

"halcon" - A low level criminal on the payroll of a cartel or gang. Paid to watch and monitor rival cartel and police movements.


Members of CJNG beat taxi drivers who failed to warn them of rivals movements in the area. June 29, 2020.

"huachicol" or "guachicol" - The theft of gasoline by illegally drilling into PEMEX pipelines, and then selling at lower prices to locals.

"jale azul" - Crystal meth.

"jefe de plaza" - A high ranking cartel officer in charge of a "plaza".

"mata policia" - An FN 57, a pistol that shoots a 5.7mm round at a very high velocity of 2,500 fps, capable of piercing police body armor. Literal translation "cop killer". 


"mota" - Marijuana.

"mula" - A drug mule, someone who traffics drugs across the border.

"narcomenudeo" - Low level drug dealers.

"plaza" - A profitable drug trafficking or dealing region such as Mexico City, Culiacan, or Cancun. The country is divided into many "plazas", which are constantly under dispute by different groups.

"piedra" - Crack cocaine.

"rafagas de metralla" - Machine gun fire.