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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

‘El Mencho’: Chasing The Most Powerful Drug Lord In Mexico

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes is the leader of the brutal Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Despite being the most wanted criminal in North America, with millions of dollars in rewards hanging over his head, both the Mexican and US governments have failed to track him down

A police officer stands near a vehicle set on fire by members of Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

The last time a relative of “El Mencho” was arrested, two Mexican marines were kidnapped in an act of revenge. Subsequently, a military siege was unleashed, with tanks and helicopters turning one of Guadalajara’s most exclusive neighborhoods into a war zone.

On Tuesday, December 20, after the arrest of the kingpin’s brother, Antonio Oseguera aka Tony Montana, the authorities in Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán were on high alert, with soldiers and police assigned to guard almost every corner across the states. In the end, the only retaliatory act of violence committed by members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel was a car being torched. But the extreme show of force by the security services was proof of how much the conflict between the government and Mexico’s most powerful mafia has escalated.

El Mencho – the alias of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes – is the head of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. He is the number one target for both the American and Mexican authorities. The US Justice Department is offering up to $10 million for leads that could result in the capture of the most-wanted criminal in North America. Yet despite all the effort devoted to catching one man, the hunt for El Mencho has turned into a vengeful game of chess – an endless succession of attacks and counter-attacks.

In practically all corners of the country, the mafia has a presence – even in Aguascalientes, one of the smallest of Mexico’s 32 states.

Back in 2015 – when he was beginning to establish himself as the heir to El Chapo in the realm of organized crime – one of El Mencho’s men was killed by the Mexican Army. In response, a military convoy was ambushed, with 15 agents being murdered. Then, the arrest of several of the hitmen who were involved was followed by blockades throughout Jalisco and a military helicopter being shot down by a bazooka.

Three years later, when El Mencho’s wife was arrested for the first time – charged with leading the cartel’s financial apparatus – this was read as a governmental response to the attempted assassination of a former prosecutor. Her second arrest in 2021 resulted in the infamous case of two marines being abducted.

The recent arrest of El Mencho’s brother, meanwhile, has been interpreted by several analysts as retaliation for the abduction of a colonel at the hands of the cartel. However, security expert Alejandro Hope does not believe that the arrest of Antonio Oseguera is necessarily related to the kidnapping of Colonel José Isidro Grimaldo, who was “disappeared” by cartel members on December 10. He thinks that the security forces were preparing for the operation to capture El Mencho’s brother long before the abduction.

“This may be a coincidence… perhaps the kidnapping of the soldier may have injected some urgency into the matter.”

Hope also rules out the possibility that the arrest of the drug lord’s brother may be a means of getting New Generation to negotiate for the release of the colonel. It’s still unclear what exact role Tony Montana had in the structure of the criminal organization. “This won’t change the [cartel’s] calculations,” he notes.

The recent leak of millions of emails from the Mexican military leadership – known as the Guacamaya Leaks – demonstrated the intense intelligence work of the Ministry of National Defense in monitoring Jalisco New Generation’s tentacles. In practically all corners of the country, the mafia has a presence – even in Aguascalientes, one of the smallest of Mexico’s 32 states. But most of the secret operations have not resulted in great success. For instance, when the Army conducted a failed raid (based on faulty intelligence) in an attempt to arrest a major kingpin, violent retaliation swept across the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato.

“How much intelligence does the Army have?” asks Guillermo Valdés, who led Mexico’s National Intelligence Center during the presidential administration of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012).

“From what we saw in the documents from the Guacamaya Leaks, they have a lot of intelligence… but they don’t use it. Sporadic arrests won’t amount to much.”

Despite the consolidation of the militarized strategy imposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador – with the creation of the National Guard and the massive deployment of soldiers in the streets – the government appears to be more focused on containment. There isn’t much interest in attacking organized crime. Nevertheless, violence in Mexico has hardly declined during the past four years of the López Obrador administration.

Carlos Flores – a researcher and security specialist who has studied the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in depth – points out that the government’s strategy “lacks adequate synergy” with other bodies. There is little cooperation with institutions such as the Financial Intelligence Unit or the Prosecutor’s Office, in order to convict gangs for organized crime.

“They should focus on networks and not individuals,” he explains. The difference that Flores detects between López Obrador’s attitude towards drug trafficking in relation to previous administrations is mainly rhetorical… perhaps a little less offensive. The approach hasn’t changed, he insists, because “there remains a tendency to give continuity to the ‘kingpin’ strategy,” he sighs, referring to the practice of devoting enormous resources to pursuing criminal leaders.

The strategy of beheading the cartels by arresting their bosses was especially relevant during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). This paved the way for the emergence of El Mencho and his cartel, given the displacement of other top dogs. For Guillermo Valdés – who led the intelligence service during the militarized escalation of the war on drugs, before Peña Nieto took office – “there is no general strategy to dismantle criminal organizations... only the [search for] big bosses.”

Now an analyst, Valdés references the time he spent helping to dismantle “The Zs” – one of Mexico’s largest and most violent criminal syndicates, now significantly diminished.

“First, we focused on the operative cells… the hitmen, the regional bosses, the accountants, the financial operators. We were undermining the organization from below to weaken it. After that, we were able to catch the leaders.”

Valdés does recognize, however, that times have changed. “It’s true that [Jalisco New Generation] is more aggressive against the state.”

Of all the attacks on police, military, politicians and judges perpetrated by El Mencho’s mafia, surely the one with the greatest impact was the assassination attempt two years ago on Mexico City’s police chief, Omar Harfuch. More than 20 hitmen fired 414 bullets at him with assault rifles in the middle of an ambush in one of the most exclusive areas of the capital. Miraculously, he recovered from his injuries and survived. Two of his bodyguards and a female passerby were killed in the attack.

El País


  1. His finest hour was "SOY MENCHO GUEY"

  2. Even his Roosters have military training and carry automatic weapons .
    El Señor de los Gallos will never be arrested !

  3. Just like CJNG made a the high ranking officer disappear, the military should make the captured brother disappeared, simple as that, but they always leave the door open for the criminals.

    1. Wow! how did you get so smart 6:47?

    2. 6:47 If the military killed him, then ELMOs bribes would be less.

  4. Los cuinis Los migueladas lo que quedo del abuelo farias Los gallito templarios todos estan alineados con las 4 letras aqui en michoacan

  5. Makes you wonder who is he paying off if anybody. Seems to be at war with all levels of military, federal police, Guardia Nacional etc & still gaining more power. Maybe AMLO double dipping protecting both top dog cartels

  6. Mexico ain't Colombia... Mexico is Heavily assisted by the U.S.... so it's a matter of time. He will be behind bars

  7. If El Mencho is caught and extraditted to the USA, CJNG will kidnap a gay blak basketball player for a prisoner exchange

    1. @1131 hrs.: Touche! Nicely played, El Commandante. 100% true!


  8. If Mexico would green light the US to send kill teams for head hunt Mexican Narcos. How many kills in a 6 year term would the program net. Including use of drone.

    1. Thousands and thousands of kills. The vast majority of them innocents, and the rest victims of cartel backlash, and the chaos that would come from it. Besides, Mexico have their own ''kill teams''. If a strategy fails you don't double down, then treble down, then call in outside help. It will fail more spectacularly every single time.

  9. When is the last time, that Mencho been seen.
    As far as I m concerned the boss is dead, and family is running the show.
    Soon they will be looking for a body double, that will resemble him, to make everyone think he is alive.

    1. When was the last time that old man mayo has been seen??

    2. 3:05
      I saw him yesterday buying ice cream at 31 flavors.

  10. La mencha is not the most powerful. El mz is.

    1. 5:04 you know you 12 when you come on here to argue the title of the article. you probably didnt even read the article. Even if Mayo is more powerful that doesnt take away from the fact that you live a pathetic existence

    2. 5:04:
      Both the DEA and the FBI repeatedly refer to Mencho as the most powerful, dangerous and violent capo. I agree that Mencho wins in the violence category hands down. However, Mayo's been in the game a lot longer and has had more time to accumulate assets and build the criminal connections and infrastructure. I believe that who is more powerful and dangerous is a toss up, but I am leaning more towards Mayo because he is so elusive and has the staying power to stay in a fight long term.
      Violence helps bring these cartels down, so CJNG is drawing a lot of attention and resources from authorities. I believe the violence will be Mencho's undoing.
      I may be leaning more towards Mayo, but I lack the knowledge that the FBI and DEA has. If I were to bet my money as to who is more powerful, I would go with Mencho because the FBI and DEA are more likely to be right than I am.

    3. @Detroit. We might lack the knowledge that the FBI and DEA has, but they aren't being honest. The definitions of ''power'' in the drug war have lost all meaning when it is translated to the public. Mencho is seen as a direct threat to US business interests, so they are told to focus on the violence, while Mayo has been corrupting the investment for entire markets in Mexico for decades but doesn't leave the same trace. The fact that Mencho is seen as the biggest ''threat''(or the most interesting story/political tool post-Zetas) doesn't make him the most powerful.

  11. At the end of the day MAYO, CHAPO and MENCHO are puppets for the gringos.
    They get used fotmr propaganda here in the US if A and get blamed for everything regarding drug dealing.
    When they want to act like the US of A are actually fighting the fake war on drugs they will get captured.
    Just like MANY capos before them.
    Most recently Caro quintero who got captured but didn't even kill camarena.
    There's cartels from all over the world crossing tons of drugs but they blame everything on Mexico haha
    War on drugs is a joke


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