By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security
While many people have heard of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán and the drug empire he used to control, the Sinaloa Federation, not nearly as many have heard of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). The name itself is a mouthful, but this organization that started out as a Sinaloa offshoot comprised of deserters from the now-defunct Milenio cartel is now the most powerful trafficking entity in Mexico.
Animal Politico explained that the CJNG distributes cocaine and methamphetamine along 10,000 kilometers of the Pacific coast in a route that extends from the Southern Cone to the borders of the United States and Canada. Information from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other U.S. and Mexican authorities indicated the CJNG also has distribution operations in Asia, Oceania, and Europe, and has an active presence in 14 Mexican states—almost half the country.
The Rise of the CJNG in Mexico
The CJNG got its start as the armed wing of the notorious Sinaloa Federation, originating in roughly 2010 and operating almost exclusively in the Guadalajara area. According to InsightCrime.org, the CJNG arose after the 2010 death of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, the Federation’s representative in Jalisco, which unleashed a fight for succession. The CJNG won in large part because of its solid ties with the Milenio Cartel, also known as the Cartel of the Valencia brothers, an old criminal structure that dominated Michoacán until the year 2000. However, it didn’t take long for their presence to expand to the areas of Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, Colima, Guanajuato, and Michoacán as part of the Federation’s seemingly never-ending war with rival Los Zetas.
In April 2012, security firm Stratfor assessed that the relationship between the Federation and the CJNG was very solid. However, it’s growth and regional dominance have allowed the CJNG to step away from the umbrella of the Federation and make a name for itself separate and apart. The group has fully injected itself into conflict with the Knights Templar in Michoacán and Guerrero, all while taking advantage of the logistical benefits of being based out of the megacity of Guadalajara. This gives the group access to maritime ports where methamphetamine precursor chemicals are brought in from Asia, as well as access to prime smuggling routes to the US border.
The Most Dangerous Criminal Group in Mexico
Some analysts have likened the CJNG’s tactics to that of a paramilitary organization, with the capacity to both engage Mexico’s armed forces directly and also infiltrate security forces and community organizations. They were responsible for a spring 2015 ambush that resulted in the death of 15 state troopers who were attacked on the orders of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera “El Mencho” Cervantes as retaliation for the arrest of 15 people involved in an assassination attempt March 30, 2015, in the municipality of Zapopan, according to local prosecutors. In June 2015, Mexican authorities reported that the CJNG is considered the most dangerous criminal group in Mexico.
As a result of their growth, the CJNG has expanded its presence globally, including along the U.S.-Mexico border. It has engaged in operations in Tijuana per an arrangement with the local Arellano Félix Organization, which has supplanted the former dominance of the Sinaloa cartel in this region. According to Annie Delisle, spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “Recent intelligence activities have established that the influence of Mexican cartels has increased and impacted the Canadian criminal markets.” The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University has also recorded the expansion of the CJNG into Australia and Southeast Asia.
DEA’s Challenge: Containing the Cartels
The DEA and U.S. Treasury Department continue to monitor and pursue the CJNG whenever possible, but history has proven that containing the natural expansion and evolution of Mexican drug cartels is difficult at best. In November 2014, the DEA designated the CJNG as “consolidated priority organization,” as it secured a presence in at least 12 US cities, and in October 2016, the U.S. Treasury described the CJNG as “one of the world’s most prolific and violent drug trafficking organizations.” U.S. counterdrug authorities can expect to become much more familiar with the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación in the coming years.