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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Clear and Present Danger: An Investigation into Tlajomulco´s Bombings

 Redlogarythm for Borderland Beat

The Facts:

On July 11th 2023 at approximately 22:00 pm a convoy composed by three pickups of Jalisco's Public Attorney Office and the Municipal Police of Tlajomulco arrived at the junction between the Abasolo Poniente and Flaviano Ramos Norte streets in the Larios colony in the town of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Jalisco. 

If we have to believe the official version later presented by authorities the officers were answering to a report done by an association of mothers searching for disappeared in the area called Madres Buscadoras de Jalisco.

According to this official version a member of this association had just received an anonymous call notifying about the finding of human remains in a plot of land located in the intersection between the Abasolo Poniente and Flaviano Ramos Norte streets. That member would have immediately notified the authorities about the phone call and a fleet of cars of members of the State Attorney and the municipal police were sent to investigate the claim.

Once they arrived to the site -a plot of land in the middle of Tlajomulco´s urban area- they started conducting a search during which a series of explosive devices -7 according to reports- were detonated simultaneously along a small and narrow path through which the vehicles were driving provoking the death of 6 people - 3 members of the Public Attorney´s Investigative Police, 1 members of Tajomulco´s municipal police and 2 civilians- as well as 14 injured. 

Aftermath of the attack. One of the pickups was completely destroyed by one of the IEDs

The images of the post-explosion scenario -which are scarce- reveal a scorched earth terrain invaded by flames in which several vehicles have been completely destroyed by the explosive devices, their pieces scattered all over the surrounding area.

Locals who happened to be nearby try to help the wounded minutes after the explosion took place

Other images regarding the injured -civilians and members of State and Municipal authorities- reveal injuries provoked by shrapnel coming if not from the debris by small pellets which would probably compose the interior of the IEDs used in the attack.

Several hours later, on July 12th at 6:09 am Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro posted a tweet making an official statement regarding the attack:

 “Tonight, personnel of Jalisco´s State Attorney and Tlajomulco´s municipal police suffered a cowardly attack with explosive devices which, preliminarily, caused the death of 3 members of the State Attorney and the municipal police and 10 injured people [in fact the death told had been much higher].

This is an event without precedents which reveals what these groups belonging to organized crime are capable of. This attack also represents a challenge against the whole of the Mexican State.

Jaslico´s Security cabinet is in permanent session. We will be informing through the Attorney's Office as investigations advance and the official data is confirmed”

Enrique Alfaro, Governor of Jalisco, in the official conference he organized to speak about the Tlajomulco attack

The tweet was accompanied by a series of official statements, including a video uploaded to YouTube through which Governor Alfaro explained a version of what had happened. According to his statement, the convoy of authorities had been ambushed through 7 different Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which had been planted by organized crime. What the Governor forgot to mention was the specific group which has traditionally held a tight grip over Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and the surrounding areas. He continuously referred to the authors as members of “organized crime”, but the truth is that the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) is the monopolistic criminal group in the area where the attack took place.

The Contradictions Begin to Rise:

Almost immediately two versions of the event started arising. According to Governor Alfaro the State authorities had received a call by a woman belonging to an association devoted to look for mass graves (these groups, mostly formed by women and mothers of disappeared have become very popular in States which, like Jaslico, are suffering a plague of forced disappearances) In this call, the woman had said that she had received a call from someone saying that in the area where the attack happened there was a mass graves containing numerous bodies.

At the same time Madres Buscadoras de Jalisco, the State ́s umbrella group coordinating the activities of such associations, issued a formal statement rejecting what Alfaro had said:

“ WE DISAGREE!! with the Governor´s statements because we work with our own resources and do the job the Government should do. Regarding this attack and recent event we firmly deny it has nothing to do with us and we deny that there are any of our members involved. We never got the call and we never go to the countryside by night. His strategy of threatening mothers that want just to get their disappeared is illogical. We have never been threatened by any cartel and have never been intimidated. Why do they want to limitate the media reporting about missing search groups, disappeared and discovered mass graves? In the last mass grave we found in San Juan Evangelista [which is in Tlajomulco] 51 bodies have been exhumed yet and that is not even a quarter of its capacity.  Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, if you think we are in danger give us the protection we deserve for doing YOUR job!! Don't you want to cover what everybody knows, we are walking over a CEMETERY!!!! Jalisco is the first place regarding forced disappearances and no one has been captured for that. Don´t you dare to silence us or to violate our rights as relatives or the rights of our disappeared as we search for them!! Madres from Jalisco continues in the struggle to get them back home!!!!

This answer by Madres Buscadoras de Jalisco was due not only to the fact that Governor Alfaro had said that it had been a member of the group the one calling the authorities to direct them to the site of the ambush but by the fact that Alfaro called for the suspension of searches of mass graves through anonymous tips since it had apparently been the strategy used to conduct the attack in Tlajomulco.

A Journalist Comes Up With a New Version:

If the panorama was confusing it would get even darker when on July 26th -two weeks- after the attack a local journalist called María del Carmen Vázquez Amador uploaded a video to social media in which she appeared offering a completely different version of the events related to the Tlajomulco ambush. 

Carmen Vázquez is a strange figure. Although she publicly poses as a freelance journalist and community activist from Tlajomulco de Zúñiga she has a background very linked to local politics. In the 2021 State Elections she rallied as a the Partido Verde candidate for Tlajomulco´s 12th electoral district. Although she lost the election she has been linked to the current municipal Government led by Salvador Zamora Zamora -who belongs to Movimiento Ciudadano, the same party of Jalisco´s Governor Enrique Alfaro-. 

Carmen Vázquez and Tlajomulco´s current mayor Salvador Zamora Zamora. She defends the bombings were a movement to attack Zamora politically by creating social unrest and assures CJNG was not involved

Carmen Vázquez and the current Governor of Jalisco Enrique Alfaro

Political leaflet of the Partido Verde for the 2016 State elections to which Carmen Vázquez presented herself

As many sources have pointed out Carmen Vázquez is employed by the town council, specifically by the Citizenship Participation Directorate, from which she receives a regular sum of money for the provision of “technical support” duties.

Snapshot obtained by Borderland Beat from Tlajomulco´s town hall transparency web. Carmen Vázquez appears as municipal employee in charge of public relations

In the video -which lasted for more than an hour and a half- Carmen Vázquez assured that she was the woman who received the anonymous tips regarding the location of the mass grave and that she had been the one notifying this information to the local authorities. 

In her statement Vázquez assured that because she usually works with disappeared searching groups and runs several news sites she usually gets tips about public security issues. According to her version of the events on the noon of July 10th she received several phone calls in which a woman who identified herself as the mother of a missing boy said someone had given her the location of the mass grave where his remains rested. 

18 minutes later a second person called Vázquez. This individual, a male, talked very aggressively and in a rude way. He told Vázquez that he was going to give her the location of a mass grave and asked angrily whether she was going to the place to check it out or not.

In a second call, the man identified himself as a former employee of “La Empresa”, as criminal groups are known among the locals, and said that a brother of his had been kidnapped and disappeared by this very same criminal organization. 

From then on this man started contacting Vázquez through Whatsapp sending her multiple messages which included a GPS location as well as an aerial image of the place where the mass grave was located taken with Google Maps. In another message the man admitted to have personally buried 50 people in that site.

Then Vázquez received a third phone call in which a person told her about a mass grave located in the “Mariano Otero Street”. This third individual identified himself as a construction worker who when going to work saw his dog digging in the area and retrieving human remains from under the soil. And although the alleged address of the mass grave was Mariano Otero Street the location that this third person sent to Carmen Vázquez was the one of Flaviano Ramos, the very same place reported by the tips provided by the first two individuals.

In some cases the tips included GPS locations as well as images of the exact alleged sites which were accompanied by text messages signaling specific things -trees, fences, etc- used as references to point the exact location of the alleged mass grave. All these images,phone numbers, locations and texts are shown by Carmen Vázquez in her video and there is no doubt regarding their authenticity.

Vázquez assures that she immediately reported all this information -including the alleged mass grave location and the phone numbers of the three people contacting her- to Jalisco´s Public Prosecutor Office in Guadalajara.

Then Vázquez assures that on that very day -July 10th- the Jalisco's Public Attorney sent a convoy of vehicles to the place that she reported to check the allegations but found nothing. This version contradicts the official one radically since according to the former the convoy was attacked on July 11th and it never mentions a previous convoy being sent the prior day to investigate the area.

Allegedly, once they arrived at the location the members of the convoy found nothing and confirmed to Vázquez that although the signals that the people contacting her had used to describe the site existed no mass grave was located in the area.

The next day, on the 11th, the very same people who had contacted Vázquez on the previous day started messaging her again asking whether or not she was going to go to the site and  mentioned that another dog was already finding more corpses. The woman who had contacted her -the one who had an alleged missing son- was specially vehement in her requests for Vázquez to go and check the area alleging that she had denounced the location of the mass grave to the Tlajomulco Municipal police but that after three hours she had not obtain a response by the authorities.

Due to this new reports Carmen Vázquez assures that she contacted the authorities, in this case Jesús Clemente Lozoya Hernández, head of Operational Deployment for the Tlajomulco´s Municipal police who couldn't answer properly because he was in a meeting. She then contacted an individual known as Gabriel who was in charge of the Missing Persons Searching Unit -a special body created inside Tlajomulco´s municipal police in late 2021-.

This man, Gabriel, requested from Carmen Vázquez a formal complaint to the C5 -the Coordination, Command, Control, Communications, and Calculation Center in charge of monitoring public security in the Guadalajara´s urban area through a network of cameras and other technologies and in charge of receiving, analyzing and answering to complaints and requests by citizens-. 

Carmen Vázquez requested the woman who had contacted her to pass the receipt of the complaint she had allegedly filed to the C5 but this woman started producing excuses alleging that she didn't find the receipt.

Carmen Vázquez told Gabriel, from the Tlajomulco Municipal police searching unit, that the woman didn't find the receipt of the complaint and he asked Vázquez to file a new complaint to the C5. Carmen Vázquez alleges that following Gabriel´s recommendations she called 911 -the number of th C5- and filed the complaint about the mass grave. 

She also called the State Public Prosecutor Office to tell them again that people were reporting about a mass grave in Tlajomulco and despite they told her that they had already been there and nothing had been found Vázquez insisted saying that she was going to go to the site to check it personally. 

According to her own version Carmen Vázquez found his car damaged -it presented an oil leak- and couldn't get to the area of the alleged mass grave as soon as she would have wanted because she called some friends to come get her in another car. And it was then when she received reports about the attack which happened against a second convoy that had been sent again to the area.

In her statement Carmen Vázquez goes on saying that after the attack the State Attorney Office contacted her and requested her mobile phone to analyze the messages. At the same time, they offered her protection and promised her that she would be given a status of protected witness, something which didn't happen. Vázques assures she has had to change homes several times and has been threatened through social media.

The Documents Produced by Vázquez:

At one point during her statement Carmen Vázquez shared with her mobile phone some of the messages she received during the conversations with two of the individuals who contacted her on July 10th talking about the alleged mass grave.

Transcript of the Whatsapp conversation with the alleged mother of the disappeared boy:

July 10th

14:05.- Mother: It is in an illicit construction site. There is a bucket over some bricks, there is sand and like two buckets of water. Just where I sent you the location, there it is, now look at it in the GPS. It looks big.

14:31.- Vázquez: Let me open it. I will reach out to you

14:52.- Mother: Yes

July 11th

14:12.- Mother: Hi, good afternoon señora Carmen. Look, I passed through this site again and in the hole where I told you the dogs already dag a little bit more and it looks like human remains, I don't know if an arm, a foot… I only wanted to tell you to see if you are coming or not…

14:14.- Vázquez: I already told you. I am waiting for the Public Prosecutor´s permit. I won't last very long. In an hour or so I think it will be ready and I´ll be going there. Don´t get very close. Don't let yourself be seen. It is dangerous

14:15.- Mother: Thanks. The truth is that it smells very bad

14:15.- Vázquez: Wait near the site and don´t let yourself be seen

14:15.- Mother: The dogs already found human remains. Okay

14:15.- Vázquez: Don´t push them

14:16.- Mother: Yes, thanks. I don't want to get in troubles

14:17.- Vázquez: Yes, things must be done accordingly. Police are on the way. They can be trusted

Transcript of the conversation with the man who alleged to have buried 50 people in the mass grave:

14:31.- Carmen Vázquez: Excuse me but in which part?

14:31.- Individual: There is like an abandoned construction with a white bucket

14:32.- Individual: On the top of some bricks

14:32.- Vázquez: If I go there today will I find the bucket?

14:32.- Individual: There is sand and two buckets of water. Yes

14:33.- Vázquez: Is it the street that can be seen? Or the property? Can I enter? Is it a free site or a private property? Because if it is a private I can ask for a  search warrant

14:33.- Individual: The information is accurate. I brought bodies there

14:34.- Vázquez: I am going there right now

14:34.- Individual: Maybe even my brother is there

14:34.- Vázquez: Just tell me if there is people

14:35.- Vázquez: I don't want to go if there is people there because they will kill me

Locating the Exact Bombing Localization

After an extensive search during which dozens of sources have been consulted and many hours of images recollection have been invested Borderland Beat has found a place where there is a high degree of possibility that the attack of the 11th of July took place.

In their official statements, the authorities of Jalisco have insisted that the explosions took place in the confluence between the Abasolo and Flaviano Ramos Streets, a version that has been repeated ever since by several credible and prestigious media outlets

This has led some sources to say that the explosions took place in an urban area full of people but that is inaccurate. As the images of the aftermath of the explosion reveal, the attack took place in a rural environment. The pictures show an irregular and unpaved road surrounded by bushes and scrubby vegetation. 

That scenario is found not in the confluence between the Abasolo and the Flaviano Ramos streets but 2 kilometers from there, in a narrow and long rugged road that enters into the mountains surrounding Tlajomulco from the North. This road is very popular among locals who use it for hiking and to go walking during the day. Satellite images reveal the presence of civilians in sport clothing going up and down the road which is paved with litter and surrounded by bushy hills.

In the bottom of the picture the confluence of the streets where the official statement says the attack happened. In the upper photo, the location where the event really took place

The analysis of the convoys of vehicles taken on the night of July 11th when they rushed to the explosion area to assist the wounded and lock up the site reveal details that are found in the narrow road which is part of the Flaviano Ramos road. Furthermore, in her images Carmen Vázquez supports this version by providing the coordinates which were allegedly sent to her. These coordinates coincide with Borderland Beat´s conclusion.

The ranch were the police cordon was set after the explosion

The same place found by Borderland Beat

The same place from an aerial perspective

Tlajomulco´s municipal police vehicles coming down from the scene of the bombing

The same place found by Borderland Beat

Vehicles rushing to the explosion site minutes after the IEDs detonated

The same place localized by Borderland Beat

The same place from an aerial perspective

One of the best available materials about the site of the July 11th explosion incident was exposed by NMas news agency which managed to get aerial images of the site using a drone. In the video they uploaded to the internet the full scenario can be seen located in a small curve that Borderland Beat has located using satellite images.

The curve of the road, of about 20º of amplitude, reveals that the explosions took place right at that point which means that the eventual IEDs used in the attack had to be buried at that exact point.

An Analysis of the Explosions:

To understand what happened in the ambush one must analyze the images of the post-attack scenarios because there is no other way of investigating the attack itself since there are no images of the explosions.

The crews of journalists who managed to get to the site revealed that at least one of the IEDs -remember that according to the Jalisco Governor there were a total of eight IEDs- was buried in the middle of the narrow grave path, not in the bushy area that covers the road at both sides.

The images of the remains reveal that the explosion or explosions were powerful enough to virtually destroy one of the pickups -several pieces of which were thrown into a near meadow at least 50 meters away. The trees growing at both sides of the paths appear covered in rubble, metal and plastic gear which lies from the branches. 

Some images even reveal small puddles of molten steel, which means that the explosions must have created an incredible degree of heat that melted parts of the chassis and bodywork of the vehicles. Steel melts when reaching temperatures between 2552 and 2732 ºF. Nevertheless it is too possible that the puddles are made of other metallic materials with a melting temperature much lower than the one of steel.

Molten steel or metal found in the site of the attack

According to reports a total of four vehicles were caught by the explosions: two pickups owned by Jalisco State Attorney, one pickup property of tlajomulco´s municipal police and a car owned by civilians who happened to be at the site. The number of vehicles involved was confirmed by an eyewitness, the owner of the civilian car also damaged by the explosion. According to his testimony he and his family are the owners of a plot of land that is found on the upper side of the road. They had left their vehicle, a 2005 gray Astra- in the very same area where the convoy was attacked. When returning to get their car they found the three cars of the State Attorney's Office and Tlajomulco´s police right next to his car and when they were all concentrated in the same place the explosions took place. 

Scheme of the attack designed by Informador.Mx

Perhaps the most interesting thing have been the images -which have been strangely ignored in the aftermath of the Tlajomulco events- regarding the crater left by the alleged IEDs. The video taken by the NMas crew reveals a considerable crater left in the middle side of the road which was literally filled with debris and vehicle parts. The crater seems to present a diameter of around 1.5 meters and would indicate the placement of an IED not in the sides of the road -the most common method- but rather in the middle of it.

There are images about a second crater located in the left side of the road which might be caused by the removal of soil done by authorities to retrieve the debris from the surrounding fields or by the deactivation of the eight IED which was later found by authorities in the same place.

This crater would help to reject the idea of the attack being carried out with the use of rocket-propelled armament such as an RPG as some initial versions of the incident reported.

Michoacán. Craters left after a criminal group -probably CJNG- attack a SEDENA convoy with IEDs. They are very similar in size and depth to the one found in Tlajomulco

According to the testimony of the owner of the gray 2005 Astra there were at least three craters in the scene: “when I turned to see it I saw a crater where the pickup was blown up, I supposed that something was under the pickup, and I managed two see two other [craters]...each one of around one and a half meters”.

The vehicles caught by the explosion also help to reveal the true nature of the weapons used in the July 11th incident. As we can see the explosion was so powerful that it literally grinded one of the vehicles -probably the one located just over the IED- the pieces of which were sprayed over the surrounding fields.

Forensic team working in the site of the explosion

The remaining vehicles suffered heavy damages too. Images reveal how the doors, roof and bonnet of one of the pickups -the thinnest and weakest parts of the chassis- were bent by the force of the explosion.

At the left side one of the pickups which was overturned. At the right part of the front chasis of the destroyed vehicle, pending from a tree branch

On of the Prosecutor´s Office vehicles is carried out from the site of the explosion. Behind it thegrey 2005 Astra can be seen

This means that the vehicles were subjected to a considerable degree of pressure exercised from multiple points, something which can be achieved by the detonation of an IED and not through the use of a rocket-propelled grenade which is designed to perforate the objective provoking the insufflation of debris, shrapnel and gasses to the interior of the vehicle.

With regard to the IEDs used in the attack the number oscillates between seven and nine devices. As Governor Enrique Alfaro declared publicly a total of seven devices were detonated in the scene on July 11th while one more was found nearby the next day by the authorities analyzing the crime scene. Three weeks later -on July 31st- a ninth device detonated in the same road at approximately 05:40 am near the Agua Amarilla ranch which is located 100 meters away from the point where the July 11th took place. No one was harmed and authorities soon pointed out that the explosive device had been placed there since July 11th since the authorities in charge of cleaning the crime scene didn't find it.

The use of explosive devices has become increasingly popular in Mexico during the last two years despite other incidents have involved the use of car bombs in the past -specially in Ciudad Juárez and Hidalgo in the early 2010s-. Nevertheless it is undeniable that in certain areas of Mexico -Guanajuato, the Tierra Caliente region, Tamaulipas and Jalisco predominantly- the reports about handcrafted explosives being used in a military style are piling up.

Much of these reports involve the use of handcrafted explosive artifacts with very simple mechanisms. Tube bombs particularly -composed by a threaded metal pipe with black powder and shrapnel inside, sealed by two female threads and a fuse- are manufactured and found in great quantities.

Pipebombs found in a training camp in Jalisco in 2023. They are the most common type of explosive device used by organized crime in Jalisco

Homemade IEDs found composed of a simple charge wrapped with duct tape and a fuse as ignition device. Tepalcatepec, September 2022

Other more interesting devices such as professional IEDs inserted inside hollow steel tubes and the fire extinguisher carcasses have been found in Michoacán, where one of them provoked in June 2023 the destruction of a SEDENA personnel carrier non armored pickup seriously wounding eight soldiers.

Fire extisnguisher used as IED with shrpanel material: bent nails, razor blades and screws. Michoacán, June 2022 

Shell case in which IEDs were fitted. The CJNG logo might be fake. Michoacán, June 2022

The carcases of two fire extinguishers used as IEDs. Michoacán, June 2023

Some of these events have been linked to land mines, this is, explosive devices activated through pressure. This would mean a turning point in the use of explosives by Mexican organized crime since there still is not too much visual evidence of landmines being used in Mexico. Instead, much of the reports regarding landmines seem to be talking about IEDs detonated at distance not through pressure devices but by electric wires.

Nevertheless there is evidence of landmines being used in Mexico, particularly in Jalisco. In March 2023 in Santa María del Oro -Jalisco- authorities raided an enormous weapons caché which included an incredible number of explosive devices, all of them handcrafted except for 74 hand grenades. The stash included at least 72 IEDs and two small flat dishes covered with duct tape that were labeled as landmines.

Cache of explosives found in Santa María del Oro, Jalisco, March 2023

On a previous incident that took place on January 7th 2022 authorities had raided a training and logistical base in the region of Quitupan -Jalisco- where they found at least 50 explosive devices, including IEDs very similar to the ones that would later be used in the Aguililla siege to attack SEDENA convoys. The stash included 14 flat explosive devices very similar to the ones found in Santa María del Oro as well as 9 small flat circular devices with a strong resemblance to anti personnel landmines. Borderland Beat has consulted weapons experts which have affirmed that they are IEDs, not landmines.

Formidable cache of explosives found in Quitupen, Jalisco, January 2023

These artifacts have been labeled as anti-personnel landmines. Nevertheless Borderland Beat has consulted experts who have assured they are normal IEDs

Despite this evidence regarding the existence of artisanal landmines in Jalisco the most probable thing is that the July 11th attack was not carried out using landmines activated by pressure but other type of IED detonated at distance. The fact that the attack was carried out in a road with a constant flow of vehicles and people would mean that the attackers would have suffered the risk of a civilian or vehicle detonating the mines before the convoy had arrived at the scene, something the owner of the gray 2005 Astra affected by the explosions remarked when denying the possibility of having entered a mined field.

If the attack wasn't carried out with landmines it means that wires or at least radio frequencies must have been used since the ignition of the fuse in site would be too risky and would have been suspicious. This leads us to conclude that somebody detonated the explosives while keeping a safe distance that managed him/them to watch over the convoy and choose the exact moment to activate the IEDs. 

The comparison with the damages suffered by other vehicles affected by other IEDs used, for example, in Michoacán as well as the analysis of the shrapnel injuries presented by the injured individuals present at the scene leads to the conclusion of an IED used which was probably similar in composition and form to the ones used in Aguililla in the past.

The vehicle of a local farmer after it was hit by an unidentified explosive. El Aguaje, February 2022. Source: Milenio

A SEDENA patrol vehicle after hit was hit by an IED. Apatzingán, June 2023.

The Important Question: Who Was Behind the Bombings?

More than one month after the incident the level of interest regarding the July 11th massacre has ceased as fast as it grew in the first instances. As usual in Mexico the interest regarding a certain critical event -a kidnapping, the finding of a mass grave, a new massacre in a drug rehab site, etc, lasts for a few weeks and very soon vanishes leaving the most important question unasked.

Authorities have announced that five people have been detained in connection to the bombings. Two men -identified as Sergio Julián N and Samuel Magallanes- were detained less than a week after the July 11th bombings and accused of five different criminal charges. According to the relatives of Samuel Magallanes both men were present at the scene when the bombings happened on the 11th and were among the people who helped to assist the wounded.

Samuel Magallanes

Sergio Julián N

As they said in an interview to Milenio, Samuel Magallanes worked at a drug rehabilitation center located nearby and went to give a hand to his godfather, the owner of the plot of land where the alleged mass grave was located, who had received a call from the authorities. Samuel Magallanes went to the site in company of Sergio Julián who was interned in the drug rehab site and has been labeled as mentally ill. Samuel Magallanes was detained in the aftermath of the 11th explosions in a local Green Cross facility where he had helped to get the injured. The families of both men have said that their relatives have been subjected to torture.

Certain reports say that both men were detained when trying to bribe local authorities for unknown reasons.

A few weeks later a third man, Alejandro V, was captured in Tonalá for drug trafficking offenses, liberated by a judge and again re-captured on the grounds of charges related to the bombings. He has been credited with placing -among others- the IEDs.

Alejandro V

Finally, on August 17th, Jalisco´s State Prosecutor made public that two other men -Salvador Alejandro M and Alejandro A- had been detained on the grounds of false statements and concealment of information regarding the July 11th bombings. 

Salvador Alejandro M

Alejandro A

Despite the captures -none of which are important criminal figures- the level of ferocity, the number of fatalities and the initial amazement provoked by the July 11th events made many people wonder who could be behind the attack. And because of the place where the bombings took place many fingers pointed towards the most probable culprit: the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación or CJNG.

With a firm grip over the State of Jalisco and its neighbors CJNG has made Tlajomulco one of the jewels of its criminal crown. With a population of 727,750 inhabitants in 2020, the municipality is one of the fastest growing populated areas in the whole of Mexico and its closeness with Guadalajara -in fact it forms part of Guadalajara´s metropolitan area- makes of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga a vital and strategic point that the faction wanting to held control over the State capital should own as a means of securing its southwestern zone. What is even more, Gudalajara´s Miguel Hidalgo International airport is located in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, making the place a vital node in the dark business of drug trafficking by plane.

Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, located in the southern part of Guadalajara´s metropolitan area

Politically speaking Tlajomulco de Zúñiga was the cradle for the Movimiento Ciudadano political party. Founded in 1999 Movimiento Ciudadano has been a party identified in the center-left of the political spectrum and was the entity with which Enrique Alfaro -the current Governor of Jalisco- won the town hall of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga in 2010.

It is interesting that the current Governor of the State started his path to the obtention of power in the same town in which the July 11th bombings took place. After being mayor of Tlajomulco for less than two years Enrique Alfaro run for the State Governorship which he lost to Aristóteles Sandoval. Then he run mayorship of Guadalajara which he won in October 2015 until December 2018 when he was elected as Governor of Jalisco succeeding Aristóteles Sandoval, who was gunned down by CJNG in 2019. 

Enrique Alfaro Ramírez, former mayor of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and Guadalajara and current Governor of Jalisco

During his political career Enrique Alfaro has faced certain events that cannot be left undetected. In April 2011 -while he still was the mayor of Tlajomulco- Enrique Alfaro traveled to Cuba to try to convince singer Silvio Rodríguez to perform a concert in his town. It was later revealed that the plane was navigated by a businessman that had been previously investigated and condemned by American authorities for drug trafficking. Alfaro defended himself declaring that he didn´t know who the plane belonged to.

In August 2016 a businessman from Jalisco called Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval was detained by Federal authorities which labeled him as an important CJNG financial operator known by the nickname of “La Pistola”. The son of this man -called Kurt Schmidt Díaz- happened to be employed in Gudalajara´s town hall since November 2015 -the days during which Enrique Alfaro taking over the town hall as Guadalajara´s new mayor- and was fired when news of the capture of his father were aired. He had also been employed in Tlajomulco´s town hall since 2012.

Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval aka La Pistola, alleged CJNG financial operator, and his son Kurt Schmidt Díaz

It was later revealed that Enrique Alfaro knew Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval aka La Pistola very well despite he said he had known him only by reference of third parties and as a respected businessman. They appeared in photos together in political rallies and the son also appeared with Enrique Alfaro in photographs uploaded to social media.

Guadalajara, 2012. AMLO attends the final campaign rally for the Governorship of Jalisco in support of Enrique Alfaro, who can be seen shouting with a microphone while Sergio Kurt Schmidt appear nearby. When he was acused of being a CJNG heavy hitter AMLO said he didn´t know it while Enrique Sandoval denied any responsibility 

Enrique Alfaro forgot to mention that Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval was very well known among Jalisco's society for his role during the 1980s in the failed assault of an armored car. He also must have forgotten to explain how he couldn't have known La Pistola´s wife who worked also in Tlajomulco´s town hall and was the proprietary of the facilities rented to the same town hall to use them as Tlajomulco´s municipal police precinct. Sergio Kurt Schmidt Sandoval would be released and all the charges dropped in 2017 by the work of a Federal judge.

The presence of organized crime in Tlajomulco is old and dates back to the 2000s when several high ranking bosses back then associated with the Sinaloa cartel were captured in the municipality. On October 28th 2009 Óscar Orlando Nava Valencia aka El Lobo, head of the Valencia Drug Trafficking Organization and CJNG predecessor, was captured in Tlajomulco and a year later his brother Juan Carlos aka El Tigre would also be captured in the town.

Several businesses owned by the Esparragoza Moreno and Caro Quintero dinasties were also located in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga as it was published in 2012 when the OFAC blacklisted them although they continued operating in the market as if nothing had happened.

Around the same time -early 2010s- the roots of what would later be known as the CJNG had already established a firm presence in Guadalajara´s metropolitan area. Since then the relationship between CJNG and Tlajomulco de Zúñiga has translated into a never ending list of plaza bosses being captured, shootings, whackings and an incredible number of mass graves being found in the municipality.

The 2013 murder of the Municipal Police commander -Francisco Javier Sánchez Chacón- marks the beginning of a very long list of individuals eliminated for one or other reason. It was later revealed that his murderer -a former municipal officer who had been fired- had joined CJNG. 

One of the first CJNG heavy hitters to be credited as Tlajomulco´s plaza boss was Martín Arzola Ortega aka El 53, who was captured on July 13th 2011 in Tlajomulco with his second in command Erick José Alcázar Limón aka El Niño. El 53 has been named as founder of the La Resistencia faction all along with El Mencho and Erick Valencia Salazar and would meet his end in the Galerías mall of Zapopan when he was gunned down in July 2019. At the time of his capture in 2011 el 53 was labeled as plaza boss of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Guadalajara, Zapopan, Tlaquepaque and Tonalá.

Martñin Arzola Ortega aja El 53, one of the masterminds behind the creation of CJNG

A few years later Heriberto Acevedo Cárdenas aka El Gringo, who was gunned down on March 30th 2015 in Zacoalco de Torres. Former personal bodyguard of Abundio Mendoza Gaytán aka El Güero Abundis at the time of his death Acevedo Cárdenas was cited as being in charge of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Zacoalco de Torres, Cocula, Atemajac de Brizuela and Tapalpa where he coordinated kidnappings, drug retailing, oil theft and murders.

Heriberto Acevedo Cárdenas aka El Gringo

Then, on May 26th 2015 Víctor Manuel García aka El Mono/El Monito -credited as CJNG leader in the Ciénegas region- was captured too in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga.

On November 18th 2015 it was the turn of Iván Cazarín Molina or Víctor Hugo Delgado Rentería aka el Tanque who was credited as a leader in the western parto of Jalisco and Veracruz as well as an individual close to Mencho with whom he personally spoke. 

Iván Cazarín Molina aka El Tanque

On December 4th 2015 it was the time of Antonio Oseguera Cervantes aka Tony Montana, one of El Mencho´s known five brothers, who was captured in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga for the first time.

Antonio Oseguera Cervantes aka Tony Montana, borther of Mencho and captured two times in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga

Things in Jalisco started heating up around 2017 when a feud between members of CJNG started. It has been said that this feud was the starting point for the building of the Cártel Nueva Plaza which was provoked by the differences between Carlos Enrique Sánchez Martínez aka El Cholo and El Mencho himself.

If we have to believe the available information El Cholo and Mencho were close allies until the former killed a 26 year old financial operator identified as “El Colombiano” in March 2017 which made El Mencho claim vengeance and ask for El Cholo´s head.

From then on Guadalajara´s metropolitan area was immersed in a wave of homicidal violence that affected every neighborhood and which saw the elimination of multiple bosses in a game of tit for tat killings. Murders in Tlajomulco increased by 18.93% between 2016 and 2018.

On April 11th 2018 authorities captured Jorge Luís Sierra aka El Orejón in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga citing him as a compadre -very close friend- of El Mencho and on June 2018 Juan Francisco Aguilar Santa, a leader of hitmen recruiting rings and with influence in southern Jalisco, was apprehended too in Tlajomulco.

Jorge Luís Sierra aka El Orejón

Other cases happening in Tlajomulco reveal the importance of the town for CJNG as the one involving two individuals wanted by a Laredo court for weapons smuggling or the caché of high caliber weapons found in a safe house in Tlajomulco after a fierce gun battle which were tracked to a cell of weapons dealers acting from Utah.

American imported weapons -including M249 light machine guns- found in a Tlajomulco-based CJNG safe house. They would later be tracked to a weapon smuggling ring sited in Utah

In early October 2022 César Augusto N aka El Gafe was captured too and credited as CJNG plaza boss in the towns of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and El Salto. He was linked to a failed kidnapping attempt against the owner of a car dealership business that had resulted in a massive shootout in the Puerta del Hierro mall on October 2nd.

César Agusuto aka El Gafe, the last known CJNG Tlajomulco plaza boss

On December 19th 2022 Antonio Oseguera Cervantes aka Tony Montana -el Mencho´s brother- was re-captured again in the middle of Tlajomulco.

The SEDENA leaks documents showed by certain mass media in late 2022 reveal an unknown but important CJNG leader in the area of Tlajomulco  called Luís Enrique Sierra Machuca aka El Rayo, allegedly in charge of conducting oil theft operations.

All these events reveal the importance of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga for CJNG. It has been in this town that several high ranking bosses of the group have been captured and the clashes between CJNG and Nueva Plaza have brought a bloodbath to the streets.

Nevertheless there are reports too about internal feuds inside the CJNG that go beyond the mere attrition war against Nueva Plaza for the control of Gudalajara´s metropolitan area.

In August 2018 it was known that a feud among the members of a CJNG cell in charge of conducting drug distribution operations in the colonies of Villa Fontana Aqua, Lomas del Mirador, Chulavista and Santa Fe. The leader of the cell -identified as Raymundo N aka El Rayo and his wife, a four month pregnant woman identified as Herminia Montserrat aka La China- were killed on June 4th and July 14th respectively by orders of El Rayo´s second in command identified as Heriberto N aka El Heri. El Heri would later be killed on August 5th by orders of his deputies identified as El Hippie and El More.

Another clue of an internal feud in the CJNG cells operating in Tlajomulco was given on May 5th 2020 when a narco banner was found next to a plastic cooler placed in a roundabout in the Hacienda Santa Fe colony, in Tlajomulco. 

The banner found in Tlajomulco on May 2020 detailing an internal feud between a CJNG Colombian faction and a Tlajomulco-based CJNG cell

“Sargento, now it seems you are a sergeant for the Deltas and when the real war was waged you weren't even here and now you feel a sergeant just because your countrymen, the Colombians, gave you the designation. That is how they thank, betraying their own business -CJNG- and their boss el 3 where you are the bearded fatso bringing the chapulines from the areas where you are in charge like in Tlajomulco. Mr Mencho, watch over your son Juan Carlos aka El 3 or El Pelón since we as his personnel are tired of the fucking Colombians coming to the area where we work since this CJNG cartel started and now they feel the masters and sires of the land we work. Mr Mencho, the land is for the one working it and we work for ourselves and not for the sons of bitches of the Colombians and the faggot of El Sargento and El Tarjetas. Sincerely: the one who won the war and was betrayed by his real people ”

There is no clue about who El Sargento might be but that narco banner identified two individuals. First, Juan Carlos Valencia González aka El R3 or El Pelón, El Mencho´s son in law -he is the son of Rosalinda González Valencia and another man- who commands the Elite group. Second, Julio César Montero Pinzón aka El Tarjetas, high-ranking member of CJNG and one of the members of a particularly violent faction operating in the Puerto Vallarta area led by Francisco Javier Gudiño Haro aka La Gallina and Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela aka La Firma. 

Juan Carlos González Valencia, son of El Mencho´s wife Rosalinda González Valencia and alleged leader of the Elite Group

Julio César Montero Pinzón aka El Tarjetas, high ranking member of the Puerto Vallarta-based CJNG faction

This event reveals important details. It poses as a proof regarding the involvement of Colombians in the Tlajomulco area of which there were already evidences available like the 22 Colombians captured in July 2015 when managing a formidable genetically modified marihuana plantation in Tlajomulco or the Colombians captured in August 2018 for stealing a pickup or the Colombian captured or the Colombian captured in December 2019 for a whacking he had carried out as  hitman in Tlajomulco or the bodies of two unidentified Colombian businessmen found stuffed in plastic bags in February 2021. As it is publicly known CJNG employs an important number of Colombian nationals -some of them with military experience- as hitmen and some of them have risen to top echelons of the group´s chain of command.

It is the case of Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela aka La Firma, a Colombian citizen who has been credited by US authorities as member of the Puerto Vallarta CJNG commanding cell the leadership of which he shares with Francisco Javier Gudiño Haro aka La Gallina. This cell has been linked to important businesses conducted in the area -including the massive time-share fraud rings recently sanctioned by the OFAC- as well as several high profile whackings such as the murder of Aristóteles Sandoval in December 2020 and the attempt on Omar Garcia Harfuch´s life in June 2021.

Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela, a Colombian national cited as head of the Puerto Vallarta CJNG faction

Francisco Javier Gudiño Haro, another leader of the Puerto Vallarta-based CJNG faction

What the May 2020 banner reveals is a conflict between at least two CJNG factions, one operating in Tlajomulco with a long background in the area and the other one the Puerto Vallarta faction or one of its satellites sent with the man known as El Sargento in charge to Tlajomulco to work in the area using Colombian hitmen. Naturally both entities entered into conflict and violence erupted.

These considerations lead us to the question of who ordered the Tlajomulco July 11th bombings. Certain individuals have insinuated it could have been the Cártel Nueva Plaza while others -Carmen Vázquez included- have denied CJNG authorship assuring that it was an attempt of heating up the Tlajomulco plaza to put CJNG in the bullseye. Vázquez was particularly vehement when defending CJNG´s innocence and stressing the idea that this criminal organization doesn´t attack women and children -an evident fallacy-. 

CJNG itself soon reacted -as it usually does when being credited with a massacre or ambush that exceeds the limits of tolerance- and in late July uploaded a video to the Internet in which 9 heavily armed individuals carrying tactical equipment identified themselves as members of CJNG and assured they were not responsible for the bombings.

“Good morning or good afternoon. Through this statement I address to the citizens of the State of Jalisco, the State and Federal Governments to make them know that we -the CJNG- deny any responsibility for the explosive placed in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga. Let them tell who the culprits are through the people who tell them about the mass graves they themselves organize, because those dead bodies are placed by them so the Government sends more things. Ask Governor Enriqe Alfaro, because he must know very well about that since he is the most interested party in all this. Because he is engaged with other cartels. We -CJNG- have always obstructed him and we are going to continue obstructing him. Because we aren't going to jump through the hoop or agree with his working style: only dead, and not even this way. My cartel is not for that. We don't steal, we don't kidnap and we are not terrorists. We are here to protect citizenry and to help the people in need. Mister Governor Enrique Alfaro: there you have more dead people in the SEMEFO so you can continue making more mass graves because it is the only thing you know to do so you make outlook like terrorists. I wish you that God, the virgin of Guadalupe and my San Judas Tadeo gives you all life and health. For the people of the State of Jalisco and the rest of the country. Sincerely: CJNG”.

Through this video -which was aired on July 24th, not even two weeks after the bombings- CJNG appears to detach themselves from the incident. And that was no surprise since the level of ferocity and the toll of casualties provoked massive unrest in Mexico and the fingers soon started to point out the criminal organization which is notably in charge of the area.

Scenario 1

Although it is not not possible to discard the possibility of the CJNG planting the devices to conduct an attack against State and municipal authorities it is highly suspicious that a criminal organization which already has the area under its control thinks that blowing a convoy of authorities is a good strategy to maintain their dominion over the same territory where the attack has been carried out.

Scenario 2

Another viable possibility is that a rival faction -Cártel Nueva Plaza or agents linked to the Sinaloa cartel- are the masterminds behind the attack. This is also possible, but the preparation of the ambush, which probably required planning, vigilance and the dispatching of people to place the IEDs would have been difficult because of the tight network of surveillance operators -halcones- who would have reported suspicious movements. This is precisely the version that Carmen Vázquez -an underrated witness to which no one has paid any attention- maintains. There is no doubt that the evidence she produces about the people hiding her to the alleged mass grave are real but the way of defending CJNG´s activities and his anxiety to label it as crime with the objective of destabilizing the mayoralty of Salvador Zamora Zamora -a close ally of Enrique Alfaro and current mayor of Tlajomulco- makes us wonder about the possibility of CJNG or other authorities pressuring her to expose their own version of events.

Scenario 3

A third possibility is a faction from inside the CJNG placing the explosives as a way of damaging the reputation of another faction with which it has a feud. As we have seen in 2020 there were evidences of an internal violent dispute between a local Tlajomulco CJNG affiliated and people linked to the Puerto Vallarta “Colombian” faction. 

This third possibility is made viable too by the fact that there is evidence of Colombians working in the underworld of Tlajomulco as well as under the orders of the Puerto Vallarta faction bosses that have allegedly engaged in past in extremely violent events planned as a direct attack against the political establishment as happened in the Aristóteles Sandoval and Omar García Harfuch cases. Furthermore, the fact that not normal IEDs but a great number -eight or nine- and more powerful explosives were used offers a link with Colombian veterans working for CJNG and preparing the devices used in the July 11th bombings.

This has been the path followed by the respected journalist Anabel Hernández when publishing an article for Deutsche Welle in which she assured that American federal agencies had joined the investigation of the Tlajomulco massacre . According to Hernández a team of FBI and ATF agents has been investigating the Tlajomulco bombings and have linked it to the FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, the now defunct Colombian narcoguerrilla which has been replaced by a constellation of smaller insurgent groups using its name) She also mentions the fact that American authorities have linked the FARC-EP members responsible for the attack to Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela aka La Firma, leader of the Puerto Vallarta CJNG faction.

No clue has been given about Hernández´s claims. Nevertheless it is true that at least a team of ATF agents was present at the scene of the bombings during the following weeks. As Milenio has reported the US consulate of Guadalajara confirmed that it was an action aimed at “compiling information about the type, composition and the detonation method used with the explosives involved in the attack. Document about the damage pattern left in the debris area and the explosion force effect was compiled too.

The relationship between Jalisco and the ATF has been increased in recent years by the efforts of Enrique Alfaro himself, who in April 2022 announced that the ATF would be opening a permanent office in Guadalajara. 


The main question regarding the July 11th attack remains unanswered: who placed the devices and by orders of whom? Although five individuals have been captured in relation to the incident at least two of them were probably captured when trying to bribe the officers at the site of the explosion while two others probably didn´t have a role in the attack itself. Authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge publicly CJNG authorship and have opted instead to label the attack as the work of “organized crime” while the CJNG itself has produced a video denying responsibility and has probably forced a journalist -Carmen Vázquez- to produce a very lengthy statement planned as a make-over to distract the attention from the true nature of the event.

Having reached this point it is important to stress the fact that after the initial unrest and outcry provoked by the July 11th attack the scenario regarding the Tlajomulco bombing issue has become incredibly silent. This is not exceptional but rather the most normal thing for a public opinion accustomed to seeing the burdens of violence and boldness by Mexican organized crime get overself time continuously. 

Nevertheless, the state of things in Mexico, where criminal organization have become during the last two years extremely engaged in the use of explosives in all their modalities as weapons of war as well as the increasing finding o devices that are becoming more powerful and the rhetoric by certain members of the American political spectrum claiming for the designation of Mexican criminal groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) as a way of granting the American military a way for using military force unilaterally makes of the Tlajomulco bombing a new grain of sand that will be added to the mountain of past, present and future events that represent a Mexico that is becoming entrenched in a situation that offers very little opportunities for a normal police institutional response rather than a serious military one.

SOURCES: SDP Noticias, Grillonautas, Razón, Gloria Reza, Twitter, YouTube, Aristegui Noticias, Jornada, Facebook, Ayuntamiento de Tlajomulco, Gobierno de Jalisco, Nmas, Informador Mx, Debate, Univision, Informador MX, Excélsior, Excélsior, Milenio, Milenio, Milenio, Fiscalía Estatal de Jalisco, VLex/El Norte, El Financiero, Excelsior, MarcaTextos, Proceso, La Crónica de Chihuahua, Informador.MX, TV Notas, Milenio, Gobierno de México, El Universal, Noventagrados, El Financiero, Proceso, Reporte índigo, La Vanguardia, Quadratín Jalisco, Unión Jalisco, Informador MX, La Silla Rota, Milenio, El Norte, Jalisco Rojo, Borderland Beat, Milenio, Debate, El Occidental, Deutsche Welle, Milenio, YouTube,


  1. Why wont the mexican gob say enough is enough and flood Jalisco etc looking for these fuckers?
    Does this tell us how much money CJNG is putting in the pig trough?

    1. 12:44 they didnt flood sinaloa the first time the little rat was arrested, what makes you think they will do that because of a little bomb

    2. Sinaloa is a small place with 1 million population - it’s easy to take anyone out once government had a coordinate

    3. 2:31 add at least 2million more and you'll get close enough

    4. 2:55 shit Guadalajara and its sourrounding cities have almost twise the people of all of sinaloa put together

  2. Martin Beltrán Coronel "El Águila" y La Corona

  3. Hey Red, thats the posting of the year. So much details, info and background, that was days of research. Very appreciated.

    1. Thanks compa!! The average investigative article takes 3 weeks to 2 months. Thanks for your support and comment

    2. i agree very good article keep them coming

  4. Has anybody info on the detonators that were used? Were they industrial parts or DiY stuff

    1. No, there is a radio-silence policy regarding the attack. Nothing has been published about it apart from the capture of 5 individuals. Regarding the IEDs used, impossible to tell which type of detonator was used. In past car bombs I know criminal groups have used Tovex explosive with plane detonators, most of it material bought or stolen from mining sites. But in this case I haven´t been able to discover neither the type of explosive used nor the type of detonator

    2. Get the book Anarchists Cookbook if you want to delve into how these things are made....I would start there.

  5. Good article! Thank you!

  6. you should be really proud of this work.


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