When a major Mexican drug lord is arrested and imprisoned, his organization’s woes are only just beginning.
Larger cartels like the Sinaloa Federation usually have some sort of succession plan in place for implementation after the death or capture of top leaders, and this was the case after the arrest of Federation leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán in late 2015. Filling this organizational gap tends to prevent a good amount of violence derived from internal power struggles or external attempts to take control of territory.
El Chapo Family Ties
But despite the Federation’s rapid reorganization after Guzmán’s capture, at least one rival cartel believes the time is ripe to make a move against the drug-trafficking giant. On August 15, seven gunmen stormed the upscale La Leche restaurant in the Mexican coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta. Those gunmen then seized six individuals who were inside the restaurant — including Guzmán’s son, Jesus Alfredo Guzmán Salazar. Mexican authorities later said the gunmen were members of the Federation’s rival, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).
To call this move bold would be an understatement. The Sinaloa Federation is widely considered the largest and most powerful drug cartel in Mexico, although the organization is showing some cracks. The CJNG used to be a subsidiary of sorts for the Federation and engaged in many enforcement activities for the Federation in addition to trafficking drugs. But in 2014, the CJNG saw fit to exploit the networks and logistical resources it acquired during that time by going out on their own. In the past two years alone, the CJNG has expanded from its home base of Jalisco state to control large swaths of neighboring states and reach out as far as Baja California and the Yucatán peninsula.
The CJNG has already become notorious for its violent ways, intentionally targeting police and military personnel for ambushes and executions, rather than battling them in defensive mode. The CJNG also derives income from the kidnapping and extortion of innocent people who have nothing to do with the drug trade and doesn’t hesitate to inflict violence on the family members — including children — of their targets.
Emergence of New Drug War
Of course, Jesus Alfredo Guzmán is hardly an innocent bystander. He is heavily involved in his father’s drug empire and is wanted by the U.S. government. However, the CJNG is fully aware that history shows their actions will demand a response by El Chapo’s people — his imprisonment notwithstanding. And tragically for the Mexican people and security forces, that response may very well ignite a new battle in a drug war that shows few signs of abating.
In the meantime, Mexican authorities continue their search for Jesus Alfredo and the other five men who were abducted with him. A senior Mexican law enforcement told CNN police are searching for the kidnapped men in Michoacán, Nayarit, Jalisco, and a fourth state he did not name. Jalisco Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer said at a news conference Tuesday that all of the individuals who were kidnapped had ties to organized crime, although two of the six had yet to be identified. No ransom demand has been issued, and no contact has yet been made with the kidnappers.
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