Mexico: The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's Possible Independence

4 MINS READSep 18, 2012 | 11:30 GMT
Alleged La Resistencia leader Ramiro "El Molca" Pozos Gonzalez (C) on Sept. 12
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/GettyImages

In a recording of an interrogation by Mexican authorities released Sept. 13, Ramiro "El Molca" Pozos Gonzalez, a leader of the La Resistencia criminal group who was arrested Sept. 12, claimed that a war has broken out between the Sinaloa Federation and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which heretofore has served as Sinaloa's ally and enforcer group. La Resistencia is a rival of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, so Pozos could be spreading disinformation as a tactic to subvert the organization. However, several narcomantas displayed throughout Jalisco state over the past month suggest that the Sinaloa Federation has indeed been distancing itself from the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. 

If Pozos' allegations are genuine, a conflict with the Sinaloa Federation would signal an attempt by Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion to become one of Mexico's independent criminal groups with national reach. The cartel's rise would present new challenges for Mexico's security forces and potentially alter the country's polarized criminal landscape.

The Sinaloa Federation has used the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion since September 2011, if not earlier, to stage incursions into Los Zetas-controlled territories, including Veracruz and Quintana Roo states, and to defend the Sinaloa Federation's areas of operation. As Stratfor has discussed, allowing an allied organization to expand geographically in this manner can empower the enforcer group to eventually sever ties and operate independently — Los Zetas did so when they split from the Gulf cartel in 2010. Through its alliance with Sinaloa, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has followed suit, becoming one of Mexico's major criminal groups.

Mexico's Cartels April 2012

Mexico's Cartels April 2012

The Guadalajara-based cartel has expanded its reach beyond Jalisco state and into other high-value areas, including Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state; Manzanillo, Colima state; and Veracruz, Veracruz state. The cartel's operations have also contributed to increased levels of violence in Guanajuato state and Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The group has proved capable of fending off Los Zetas incursions into Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Guerrero states, where it has also fought with its principal rival and Sinaloa ally, the Knights Templar.

If the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion were to wage turf wars with the Sinaloa Federation, the former essentially would be operating independently of the latter while clashing with the other major Mexican criminal groups. This development would lead to spikes in violence wherever the cartel and the Sinaloa Federation struggle for territorial control, including key areas like Guadalajara. The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion is already highly active in Guadalajara, as demonstrated by its response to the arrest of Erick "El 85" Valencia Salazar in March 2012, when the cartel set up at least 16 roadblocks to disrupt traffic throughout the city. As the base of operations for Sinaloa's predecessor, the Guadalajara cartel, the city historically has also been valued highly by the Sinaloa Federation.

The Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion is also active in other cities crucial for Sinaloa Federation's drug trafficking operations, such as Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo — two port cities used for importing chemical precursors for manufacturing methamphetamines. A split between the two organizations would require Sinaloa Federation to use a different enforcer group to contain its rivals.

Challenges from Fractures

An independent Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion would also challenge Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto's stated goal of reducing drug-related violence throughout the country. Historically, inter-cartel violence and violence against civilians increases as the criminal landscape fractures. In contrast, a polarized drug war between two dominant criminal organizations, such as Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation, can eventually lead to reduced violence if one side defeats the other or if a peace agreement is reached, allowing federal forces to refrain from conducting military operations.

The emergence of a third independent organization that directly challenges both Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas would likely guarantee a continuation — and perhaps even an escalation — of violence regardless of government involvement. Still, even if the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion begins fighting for territory independently, the group's ability to protect its areas of operation and combat both the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas remains to be seen. While the cartel already has proved capable of conducting operations in Los Zetas territory, it likely did so with Sinaloa support. The loss of Sinaloa as an ally would cast doubt onto the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's ability to hold areas where it is currently engaged.

Recently, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion has been defending its home turf of Guadalajara against Los Zetas and against federal authorities targeting its leadership. The addition of the Sinaloa Federation as an adversary in Guadalajara will only complicate the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's control. If the group can endure such pressures without seeking support from Los Zetas, a new front in Mexico's drug war could open.

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