Thursday 29 September, 2016
CJNG is becoming the most Powerful
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On May 1, 2015, CJNG changed the paradigm of the 40 year old battle between the Mexican state and organized crime; it used a rocket launcher to take down a Mexican Army helicopter. Prior to that, Carteles had demonstrated that their combat power was strong enough to resist, but not to overcome, that of the Federal Government, this according to an investigation conducted by “Animal Politico.”
The Mexican Armed Forces recognized that they had never before witnessed an attack of that magnitude, in which eight military members died. But taking down the helicopter in Guadalajara, Jalisco was not the only thing that this criminal group accomplished that day. CJNG also placed 39roadblocks in 20 municipalities in three different states with the goal of stopping the federal forces. Additionally, it authored four gun battles against police and military, and most importantly, it prevented the capture of its founding leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, better known as El Mencho. It was just in 2011 that this group had been included as one of the nine drug cartels that operate in the country.
This wasn’t the first time that this criminal group reacted with high levels of violence and great strategy against the federal government. A month prior, this group executed an ambush against police; on April 7, 2015, members of the Police in Jalisco were returning from conducting community work in the coastal area when a vehicle blocked their path in the town of Soyatan. An armed group of men opened fire and killed 15 officers while injuring five others. The State’s Security Commissioner, Alejandro Solorio Arechiga said that the ambushed was in response to the arrest of Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas AKA El Gringo who was considered as one of the regional leaders of CJNG.
Local authorities have recognized that every time that there’s an arrest or killing of a high ranking CJNG member, the cartel will respond with violence. Additionally, never before has any criminal organization gained so much power that quickly in Mexico. It took the big and traditional cartels that dominated the business between 1980 and 1990 three presidencies (18 years) to gain their power. According to the PGR (State Attorney’s Office), since its inception in 2011, CJNG maintains the majority of its operations in the Mexican Pacific regions which include Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit. The DEA and the department of the Treasury have identified their presence from the Gulf to the Pacific and from border to border, south and north of the country.
Information provided by Mexican and American authorities report CJNG activities in 14 states, almost half of the Mexican territory. CJNG presence increased during the Peña Nieto presidency. This criminal organization was recognized as a drug cartel with the ability to traffic at the national and international level as early as 2011, this according to the PGR. Five years later it is considered the criminal group with most presence in the country with operations in 14 different states even surpassing those of the Sinaloa Cartel (historically, Sinaloa Cartel had dominated the business).
Its first operations took place in Jalisco, Nayarit, and Colima where it emerged as a criminal organization. CJNG then extended its presence to Michoacan, Guanajuato, Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, San Luis Potosi, Mexico State, and even the Federal District (as of 2014). The latest information from Mexican and American authorities regarding CJNG operations is that of June 2016, they also have a presence in Aguacalientes, Baja California and have even reached the coasts of Oaxaca and Chiapas and of the southeast. Currently, it is the only criminal organization with a presence in Gulf States, Pacific Ocean, and both south and northern borders.
The Department of the Treasury and DEA agree that one of the main factors behind the rapid expansion is due to them sharing operations with Los Cuinis who are experts in the trafficking of cocaine and meth, but most importantly in money laundering. The former member of the now defunct Milenio Cartel and now leader of Los Cuinis, Abigael Gonzalez Valencia who was arrested in Mexico in February of 2015 is also the brother-in-law of El Mencho. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included them both in their April 2015 list of Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Origin and Transformation
Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel leader of the Sinaloa Cartel in Jalisco died on July 29, 2010 as a result of an operation on behalf of the Mexican Military. In addition to controlling the Pacific Zone, during the last years of his life, Nacho Coronel created an armed group with the mission of preventing the entry of Los Zetas, the criminal organization with more presence in Mexico during the Felipe Calderon administration. Nacho Coronel’s armed group became known as Los Mata Zetas (The Zeta Killers). In the beginning, Mexican authorities identified this group only as a cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, but a year after Nacho’s death, its independence was recognized as the 9th criminal organization that operated in the country along the following cartels: Tijuana, Sinaloa, Golfo, Beltran Leyva, Zetas, La Familia, and Caballeros Templarios.
For journalist and writer Javier Valdez Cardenas, the conception of this cartel was the death of Coronel. “This void was filled by CJNG with its leaders, with its own routes, new partners, but still using the same structure it already had as Sinaloa Cartel, only that in this case, Sinaloa Cartel was stripped of its territory in Jalisco.” The journalist assures that as an independent force, CJNG has made a treaty with the Sinaloa Cartel to avoid that Jalisco becomes a battleground and added that even El Mencho travelled to Sinaloa to fortify this agreement.
On September 24, 2011, Los Mata Zetas scored one of the worst massacres during the Felipe Calderon administration when 49 bodies were dumped on the streets of Boca del Rio, Veracruz. This is how El Mencho and Abigael Gonzalez Valencia created CJNG, born from the strong arm of Nacho Coronel and from the remains of the Milenio Cartel (also from Los Valencia). It operated as a Sinaloa Cartel ally since the 1980s until the Vicente Fox presidency when its founder, Armando Valencia Cornelio AKA El Maradona was arrested in 2003 and the federal government declared this organization as defunct.
According to DEA, CJNG’s expansion started in 2011 after taking over Michoacán and Veracruz which previously belonged to Los Caballeros Templarios and Los Zetas, respectively. Security expert, Alejandro Hope argues that at least on two occasions, the actions and/or omissions on behalf of Auto Defensas had favored the consolidation of this cartel. The first was between 2011 and 2013 when in Veracruz Los Mata Zetas confronted Los Zetas: “There was an official tolerance to strike against Los Zetas that had become an extremely violent group.”
“The fall of Los Caballeros Templarios as a result of the Federal Government is the second important incident. That cartel was its territorial rival in the zones of Michoacan and Jalisco and also in the meth market. The weakening in 2014 of Los Caballeros Templarios has empowered CJNG. Also, CJNG can seize on the opportunity of Chapo’s arrest to continue its expansion.” DEA has alerted that while Cartels, including Sinaloa, were busy fighting the government on the so called War on Drugs, the CJNG expanded throughout the country. > This past March, the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana reported in its Northeast Crime and Security report that in its quest to dominate the main drug trafficking routes, CJNG is facing old cartels on the border. Tijuana has been historically dominated by the Arellano Felix Cartel, but also has the presence of other organizations. Tijuana has also been fought by Sinaloa Cartel and or Juarez due to it being an important route.
The Most Powerful?
According to OFAC director, John E. Smith, “CJNG has relied on violence and corruption to become one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.” Seven months later, the administrator said that the U.S. is making every effort to destroy the money laundry operations of this powerful criminal organization. UNAM professor and national security expert, Javier Olea has said that this cartel has become stronger after acquiring members from Los Caballeros Templarios and of La Familia Michoacana. In less than five years, CJNG entered the U.S. black list of most important drug organizations. With the Sinaloa Carte’s Leader, El Chapo in prison since January 2016, CJNG leader, El Mencho is now a priority objective.