06/13/2024

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Members of the CJNG

Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG)

Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG)

The Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG) is a transnational criminal group that emerged from the Milenio Cartel following a series of killings, arrests, and internal fractures. It is known for its aggressive use of violence and its public relations campaigns. Despite the capture of certain top leaders, it remains one of Mexico’s foremost criminal threats and appears set to continue expanding.

History

The CJNG emerged after Mexican security forces killed former Sinaloa Cartel capo Ignacio Coronel, alias “Nacho,” in July 2010. Prior to his death, Coronel worked with 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 Coronel’s death, El Lobo had been captured and the Milenio Cartel had suffered internal divisions, splitting into two factions: the “Resistencia,” and another known as the “Torcidos,” or “Twisted Ones,” because the Resistencia accused them of giving up El Lobo to the authorities.

In the power vacuum that followed Coronel’s death, these two factions 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.

Former police officer Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias “El Mencho,” is considered the leader and founder of the CJNG. His original top operators were Erick Valencia, alias “El 85,” and Martin Arzola Ortega, alias “El 53.” All three were former Milenio Cartel members.

The group has been associated with the use of extreme violence. In the period following the CJNG’s emergence, homicides, forced disappearances, and the discoveries of mass graves spiked in Jalisco. The cartel also made it one of its early missions to battle the Zetas drug trafficking organization in Veracruz, under the name “Matazetas,” or “Zetas Killers.” Depending on the source, that group is described as either another name for the CJNG or a special cell of the group responsible for assassinations. The Matazetas claimed responsibility for a 2011 massacre of 35 people in Veracruz, and a month later, security forces recovered the corpses of around 30 apparent victims the Matazetas had killed.

In April 2015, the CJNG killed 15 Mexican police officers during an ambush in Jalisco, one of the single deadliest attacks on security forces in modern Mexican history. Additionally, Mexican officials have said the group possesses military-grade weapons, including machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers. In May 2015, the group continued its deadly streak, shooting down a military helicopter and launching a wave of violence across Jalisco.

The CJNG has also been involved in high-profile attacks against public officials. In May 2018, the group tried to assassinate Luis Carlos Nájera, Jalisco’s former security secretary. Then in June 2020, it made a bold attempt to kill Omar García Harfuch, Mexico City’s public security secretary. That same month, a judge in the western state of Colima, who had tried various cases against cartel members, was killed along with his wife. Most recently, the crime group was allegedly behind one of the country’s most high-profile political assassinations, the murder in December 2020 of former Jalisco governor Aristóteles Sandoval.

The CJNG has also been known to appeal to the Mexican citizenry with idealistic propaganda, invoking solidarity and promising to rid its areas of threats from other crime syndicates, such as the Zetas and the once-mighty Knights Templar.

The group continued such outwardly “altruistic” actions in strategic areas during the global COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, for example, CJNG members distributed toys to children in communities in Veracruz where it is fighting Zetas splinter groups. Members of the group have also delivered boxes of goods in other parts of the country, including Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.

Leadership

The CJNG is currently led by Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias “El Mencho.” The US government has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to his arrest, one of the highest bounties ever offered. For their part, Mexican authorities have offered a reward of 30 million pesos (about $1.6 million).

Rosalinda González Valencia, El Mencho’s wife and primary confidant, was considered the group’s chief financial operator and one of its highest-ranking members under El Mencho. She and several of her brothers founded the criminal group known as the Cuinis, which is reportedly still responsible for much of the CJNG’s finances and money laundering operations, despite González’s arrest in November 2021. 

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has identified several other senior figures, including Erick Valencia Salazar, alias “El 85,” as well as Ulises Mora Tapia, José Manuel Abouzaid El Bayeh, and Alfredo Galindo Salazar.

Geography

Since its founding, the CJNG has expanded rapidly and now maintains a presence in nearly every part of Mexico, except Sinaloa and the infamous Golden Triangle region, a former hotbed of plant-based drug production where the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa meet.

However, the level of control that the CJNG exerts varies considerably. It is the dominant criminal actor in Jalisco, Nayarit, and Colima — especially at the port of Manzanillo — in the eastern state of Veracruz, and in the oil-rich central region of Guanajuato, Puebla, Querétaro, and Hidalgo.

It is also strong in strategic areas such as the Riviera Maya, the border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, and Tierra Caliente — the area which covers parts of Michoacán, Guerrero, and the State of Mexico. However, the group faces several competitors in each of these regions to control lucrative criminal economies, primarily drug trafficking.

The group’s actions have suggested it may be focusing on entering the capital after the brazen attack against Mexico City’s public security secretary in June 2020.

Internationally, the cartel has contacts across South America in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, as well as in the United States, Canada, Australia, China, and Southeast Asia. Its most important foreign connections are in neighboring Guatemala, specifically with drug trafficking groups like the Huistas, which help it control part of the cocaine and synthetic drug trafficking supply chain into Mexico and the United States.

Allies and Enemies

The CJNG’s longest running ally was the Cuinis, led by Abigael González Valencia, El Mencho’s brother-in-law. However, the precise nature of this relationship has never been fully clear. Some reports described the Cuinis as the financial arm of the CJNG, while others viewed it as a separate, if still affiliated, organization.

While the CJNG may have once maintained an alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel, today the two are fierce enemies across large parts of Mexico. The CJNG has even gone after top leaders within the Sinaloa Cartel. In August 2016, CJNG members briefly kidnapped two sons of the then-leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo.”

The CJNG is also engaged in a number of smaller, localized rivalries, which are a result of the fragmentation which has broken up many of Mexico’s larger criminal groups.

In the central state of Guanjuato, the group has been embroiled in a bloody war with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (Cartel de Santa Rosa de Lima – CSRL), formerly led by José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, alias “El Marro,” before his 2020 arrest. This battle revolved around control of oil theft in the state and led to Guanajuato becoming the most violent state in Mexico. Since then, the CJNG appears to have taken a decisive advantage over the CSRL, whose control has dwindled to a few municipalities.

On the Atlantic Coast, the CJNG has moved into Veracruz, where it has faced off with the Old School Zetas (Zetas Vieja Escuela), a splinter group of the Zetas, as well as a dissident faction of the Gulf Cartel known as Grupo Sombra. In April 2019, the CJNG massacred 14 people in the municipality of Minatitlán, a stronghold of the Old School Zetas.

One of its oldest enemies was the Knights Templar, although this group has now fragmented into several smaller organizations in the Tierra Caliente region. The largest of these splinter groups is the Viagras, which has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in Tierra Caliente and has frequently clashed with the CJNG.

At the same time, there have also been reports of alliances between the CJNG and a number of so-called self-defense groups, known as autodefensas, in the region. Some reports allege that  the CJNG has provided high-caliber weaponry to these groups. However, the CJNG has also consistently battled the Cartel del Abuelo, a local group in Michoacán which began as a self-defense group but has also been accused of drug trafficking.

Despite its rivalries with smaller groups, the CJNG has also frequently relied on alliances with local groups to aid its expansion efforts. In Tijuana, for example, it has joined forces with remnants of the now-defunct Tijuana Cartel to create the Tijuana Cartel New Generation (Cartel Tijuana Nueva Generación). And in Ciudad Juárez, reports have emerged that the CJNG is making strides in the city through an alliance with a faction of the Juárez Cartel. There are also reports that the group is attempting to move into Tamaulipas utilizing unstable alliances with a number of Gulf Cartel factions. However, it’s unclear how much success the group has had.

Finally, while the CJNG has succeeded in remaining united where other groups have fragmented, it has not been immune to internal divisions. The main fracture came in 2017, when a group calling itself the Nueva Plaza Cartel broke off after an alleged dispute over an assassination order. While the Nueva Plaza Cartel has not been able to really threaten the CJNG inside Guadalajara, their base of operations, it maintains a measure of control over some areas to the west and southwest of the city.

Prospects

The fragmentation of numerous criminal groups in Mexico has allowed the CJNG to continue gaining power in recent years. The group relies on several factions and elite wings to exert control in the different regions in which it is present or contesting control.

The CJNG’s biggest challenge has come in the Cuinis, the group’s financial and money laundering arm once run by the González Valencia family. Many of its leaders have now been arrested, but the CJNG has managed to continue its international money laundering operations.

El Mencho’s children have also been targeted. His son, Rubén Oseguera Gonzáez, alias “El Menchito,” was extradited to the United States in February 2020, while his daughter, Jessica Johanna Oseguera, was detained that same month. US prosecutors sentenced her to a little less than three years in jail, but she was released early in April 2022.

Mexican authorities have also attacked the group’s finances. In June 2020, around 2,000 bank accounts linked to the group were frozen and a number of front companies used to launder money in Jalisco, Quintana Roo, and Mexico City were shut down. In the United States, the Treasury Department has also targeted several companies the CJNG allegedly uses to move illicit funds between the United States and Mexico.

Despite these blows, the CJNG’s operations have appeared to remain intact and it has continued its expansion.

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