The CJNG 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 Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG for its Spanish acronym) 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, the CJNG killed 15 Mexican police officers during an ambush in Jalisco state, one of the single deadliest attacks on security forces in recent Mexican history. The group was also blamed for an attack in March 2015 that killed five federal police. Additionally, Mexican officials have previously indicated that the group possesses highly sophisticated armament, and machine guns and grenade launchers were used to conduct the March attack. In May 2015, the group continued its deadly streak, shooting down a military helicopter on May 1 and launching a wave of violence across Jalisco.
Jalisco Cartel – New Generation Factbox
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 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 approximately $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
The leader of the Los Cuinis criminal group, Abigael González Valencia, is the brother-in-law of El Mencho. The relationship between the two groups is unclear. While some consider Los Cuinis as the financial arm of the CJNG, others only consider them as two partner organizations.
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.
On the other hand, in mid-2014 the authorities reported that El Mencho participated in a meeting in Coahuila in which the remaining members of the Juárez Cartel, the Beltrán Leyva Organization (OBL) and Los Zetas were also present, a possible sign that a strategic readjustment in the world of drug trafficking is being presented in Mexico, and that the CJNG wants to change 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. On February 28, 2015, Abigail Gonzalez Valencia, alias “El Cuini,” the leader of close CJNG ally “Los Cuinis” and principal financial operator of the CJNG, was arrested. Security forces also reportedly killed the head of the CJNG’s assassin network — Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas, alias “El Gringo” — in March 2015.
Nonetheless, the spate of attacks against Mexican security forces in Jalisco state during early 2015 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. The current weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel has allowed the CJNG to become the most notorious Mexican cartel.
However, in response to the groups growing strength, in May 2015 the Mexican government initiated “Operation Jalisco,” aimed at restoring security to Jalisco and dismantling the CJNG.