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Feature 041315 InSight Crime

Monday, April 13, 2015

Analysis: Mexico's Expanding 'Jalisco Cartel - New Generation'

InSight Crime

The Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG for its Spanish acronym) is a criminal group that has evolved as a result of killings, captures and rifts in older cartels. It is known for its aggressive use of violence and its public relations campaigns. Despite the capture of top leaders, the group appears set to continue expanding.


The CJNG emerged after former Sinaloa Cartel capo Ignacio Coronel, alias "Nacho," was killed by Mexican security forces in July 2010. Prior to his death, Coronel gave orders to Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia, alias "El Lobo," the leader of the Milenio Cartel. This criminal group moved drug shipments and managed finances for the Sinaloa Cartel, operating primarily in the states of Jalisco and Colima, and later extending into Michoacan and the Federal District (Mexico City).

By the time of Nacho Coronel's death, El Lobo had been captured and the Milenio Cartel had suffered internal divisions, splitting into two factions: "La Resistencia" and what that faction referred to as "Los Torcidos" (The Twisted Ones -- La Resistencia accused them of giving up El Lobo to the authorities). In the power vacuum that followed Nacho's death, these two groups fought for control of drug trafficking in Jalisco, and Los Torcidos became what is now the CJNG, emerging as the successors to the Sinaloan capo's network in the region.

Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias "El Mencho," is considered the leader and founder of the CJNG, and his original top operators were Erick Valencia, alias "El 85", and Martin Arzola Ortega, alias "El 53." All of these men were former Milenio Cartel members.

The group has been associated with the use of extreme violence. In the period following the emergence of the CJNG, homicides spiked greatly in Jalisco. The cartel also made it one of their early missions to battle the Zetas drug trafficking organization in Veracruz state, under the name "Matazetas," or "Zetas Killers," who, depending on the source, are described as either another name for the CJNG or a special cell of the group responsible for assassinations. The group claimed authorship of a 2011 massacre of 35 people in Veracruz, and a month later security forces recovered the corpses of another 30-odd apparent victims of the group. 

In April 2015, 15 Mexican police officers were killed during an ambush in Jalisco state, one of the single deadliest attacks on security forces in recent Mexican history. The attack was initially attributed to the CJNG, and the group was also blamed for another attack in March 2015 that killed five federal police. Additionally, Mexican officials have previously indicated that the group possesses highly sophisticated armaments, and machine guns and grenade launchers were used to conduct the March attack. 

The CJNG has also been known to appeal to the Mexican citizenry with idealistic propaganda, invoking solidarity and promising to rid its areas of operation of other crime syndicates, such as the Zetas and the Knights Templar -- another sworn enemy.

Since 2013, government officials have claimed on various occasions that the CJNG provided arms to the self-defense forces that purportedly emerged to combat the Knights Templar in the southwest pacific state of Michoacan -- a strategic operating point for criminal groups, and home to a wealth of minerals and a major seaport.

Following the decline of the Knights Templar in Michoacan, the CJNG may now be looking to expand its presence in areas previously controlled by that group.


The CJNG is currently led by Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias "El Mencho." Oseguera has an approximate $150,000 price on his head, and the CJNG's assets are thought to be worth over $20 billion.


The group appears to be growing rapidly. According to Mexico's Attorney General's Office, the cartel operates in eight states (Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Morelos, Nayarit, Guerrero, and Veracruz) plus the Federal District (Mexico City). The cartel also allegedly has contacts in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Central America and the United States, and uses these connections to traffic marijuana, cocaine, and synthetic drugs.

Allies and Enemies

While the CJNG has numerous proclaimed enemies (such as the Zetas and the Knights Templar), Mexican security officials have stated that the group has an alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel. However, there have been rumors of a split since at least mid-2012. More recently, in mid-2014, authorities reported that El Mencho participated in a meeting in Coahuila that also involved the remnants of the Juarez Cartel, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) and the Zetas. This could indicate that a strategic realignment may be taking place in Mexico's drug trafficking world, and that the CJNG may be looking to switch sides.


Despite relatively quick growth and consolidation of its areas of influence, the group has suffered some setbacks. In March 2012, Erick Valencia was arrested. In July 2013, soldiers captured Victor Hugo Delgado Renteria, alias "El Tornado," one of El Mencho's deputies. In January 2014, El Mencho's son, Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, alias "El Menchito," was detained by security officials in Jalisco. In April 2014, Federal Police arrested a key member of the CJNG in Jalisco, who allegedly led an operation that aimed to produce and traffic six tons of synthetic drugs. Security forces also reportedly killed the head of the CJNG's assassin network -- Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas, alias "El Gringo" -- in March 2015.

Nonetheless, the 2015 ambush in Jalisco state that left 15 Mexican police officers dead could be a sign the CJNG is becoming more audacious in making its presence felt and expanding its territory. Indeed, following the attack, several security experts noted that the group appears to be gaining in strength.


This commentary, "Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG)," was first published in InSight Crime, on Apr. 8, 2015 and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization.  InSight Crime's objective is to increase the level of research, analysis and investigation on organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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