Mexico President’s Account Suggests Cartel is a Megastructure

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Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto says nearly 2,500 members of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation have been apprehended just in the state of Jalisco since May 2015, a statement which would make the cartel a megastructure should the numbers be accurate.

Mexico’s government presented the 4th Report of Enrique Peña Nieto’s Presidency to Congress on September 1. Amidst the various assessments of Peña Nieto’s policies were the results of the military-led ‘Operation Jalisco’ launched on May 1st last year to tackle the growing Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG).

The president said that 2,448 individuals were arrested in Jalisco since the beginning of the operation less than 18 months ago, according to El Informador. Of those, 1,890 were apprehended for crimes under common law. The other 558 were arrested on federal charges.

Among the detained were several alleged high-ranking figures of the CJNG, according to the document, including five ‘plaza bosses’ – who manage criminal activities in a given city or region, a ‘cell boss,’ who runs a unit of criminals at the behest of a plaza boss, and two financial operators.

More than 190 firearms and 3,000 vehicles were also reportedly seized. The report says these successes led to a decrease in intentional homicides in 2015 of more than 14 percent in comparison with 2012, the year Peña Nieto took office.

InSight Crime Analysis

The magnitude of the CJNG arrests reported by the president raises questions concerning the figure’s accuracy. The arrest of nearly 2,500 criminals in Jalisco in less than 18 months would suggest that total membership in the CJNG — the only cartel currently operational in the state and the target of the military’s operation — is a much higher number, given that the group is still operational.

Or the arrests figure might be accurate, but the arrests themselves misrepresented. This would be the case if the arrested suspects included a significant proportion of people not linked to the CJNG. That could explain both the elevated number and why the cartel hasn’t been visibly diminished by the military-led operation against it.

Not only does the CJNG operate in eight states – more than any other cartel – but it is reportedly the sole cartel operating in five of them, including Jalisco. It is largely responsible for the high level of violence in that state, which, according to recent statistics, suffered 546 intentional homicides during the first semester of 2016.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Homicides

While President Peña Nieto emphasizes the 14.1 percent decrease in intentional homicides between 2012 and 2015 for the state of Jalisco, the 4th Report shows that this is nearly 8 points under the national average reduction of 21.7 percent. That fact, combined with the presence of four of Jalisco’s municipalities among the 50 most deadly in the country, casts serious doubt on the authorities’ attempt to depict ‘Operation Jalisco’ as a successful exercise in improving security for the state.

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