The Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – 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 and some emerging signs of internal division, 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 Óscar 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 Michoacán and 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 another faction referred to as the “Torcidos” (“The Twisted Ones”), because 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. The 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 in Jalisco. The cartel also made it one of its early missions to battle the Zetas drug trafficking organization in Veracruz state, under the name “Matazetas,” or “Zetas Killers,” which, depending on the source, is 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, including machine guns and grenade launchers were used to conduct the March 2015 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.
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 Michoacán — 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 Michoacán, the CJNG expanded its presence in areas previously controlled by that group and in some 20 states across the country, leading them to become one of the country’s most dominant organized crime groups.
The CJNG’s assets are thought to be worth over $20 billion.
The CJNG is currently led by Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias “El Mencho.” For information leading to his arrest, the US has offered a reward of $10 million, one of the highest bounties ever offered. Mexico has offered its own reward of 30 million pesos ($1.6 million).
The group appears to be growing rapidly. According to authorities, the CJNG operates in at least in 22 states: Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Morelos, Nayarit, Guerrero, and Veracruz, plus Mexico City and the State of Mexico. 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. Recent arrests suggest that the Cuinis, the alleged money laundering arm of the CJNG, may have established operations in Brazil and Uruguay.
Allies and Enemies
The leader of the Cuinis criminal group, Abigael González Valencia, is the brother-in-law of El Mencho. The relationship between the two groups is unclear, though US authorities have described the Cuinis as the financial arm of the CJNG.
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.
However, the CJNG is also battling a number of rivals. In central Guanajuato state, the group is fighting with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, led by José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro.” One series of clashes between the two groups over oil theft left more than 50 people dead in October 2018. The CJNG is also at war with a splinter faction of the Zetas known as the Zeta Old School (Zetas Vieja Escuela), in addition to a splinter faction of the Gulf Cartel known as the Shadow Group (Grupo Sombra). One of the groups longest standing enemies has been the Knights Templar.
The CJNG is also dealing with internal divisions. The Nueva Plaza Cartel, for example, formed in 2017 after splitting from the CJNG over disputes regarding a murder that had been ordered. The Nueva Plaza Cartel has not penetrated Guadalajara — the CJNG’s base of operations — but is exerting control over areas to the west and southeast of the city.
The relationship between the CJNG and a number of self-defense groups in Michoacán remains unclear. In the past, rumors have hinted at the alliances between the CJNG and a number of these vigilante organizations. Furthermore, the CJNG has also allegedly provided high-caliber firearms to many of these groups.
Despite relatively quick growth and consolidation of its areas of influence, the group has suffered some setbacks. In March 2012, Erick Valencia was arrested. (He was released in December 2017 due to alleged irregularities in his prosecution.) 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 González, 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 the Cuinis and principal financial operator of the CJNG, was arrested. In March 2015, security forces also reportedly killed the head of the CJNG’s assassin network, Heriberto Acevedo Cárdenas, alias “El Gringo.”
The weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel allowed the CJNG to become the most notorious Mexican cartel. However, in response to the group’s growing strength, in May 2015 the Mexican government initiated “Operation Jalisco,” aimed at restoring security to Jalisco and dismantling the CJNG. An international effort to disrupt the operations of the Cuinis — including arrests of alleged top leaders in April 2016 in Uruguay and December 2017 in Brazil — may also be hurting the CJNG financially.
Since late 2017, the CJNG has begun to display signs of internal divisions, and such splinter groups have challenged the main cartel’s dominance in key areas. The emergence of smaller competing groups is also threatening the CJNG’s control in a couple of criminally strategic regions across Mexico. That said, the CJNG has so far been able to hold on and remain one of the country’s most dominant organized crime groups.