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Mexico Security Memo: CJNG Activities in Michoacan and Cancun

10 MINS READApr 18, 2012 | 13:02 GMT
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CJNG Turf War in Michoacan

At least 16 individuals have been found dead since April 10 in Zinapecuaro, Tancitaro, and Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, with narcomantas attributing the killings to the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). If the claims are correct, the killings represent a new campaign by CJNG in Michoacan. The violence follows a warning issued March 21 in a video of masked men claiming to be part of CJNG. The video stated CJNG would clean Guerrero and Michoacan states of all ills, referring to their rivals the Knights Templar (KT).

The groups, which have expanded their areas of operation since last year, had announced they were in conflict with each other in February and March 2012. Until now, any CJNG-KT conflict had been largely rhetorical, confined to dueling messages.

CJNG hails from Jalisco, and its operations in Michoacan began sometime last year. CJNG's expansion of operations into territories where the Sinaloa Federation and the Knights Templar peacefully coexist suggests CJNG may be pursuing its own interests despite its close relations with the Sinaloa Federation.

Michoacan, a state valued for smuggling routes as well as the production of illicit drugs within the region, is the home state of both La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the KT. The KT has taken over much of LFM's operations and turf, putting it and the Sinaloa Federation into the state's strongest criminal groups. If violence between the KT and CJNG continues to escalate, the conflict could draw an expanded Mexican government response.

Such additional attention — the deployment of additional military forces, for example — would hamper Sinaloa operations throughout the state. This suggests CJNG probably is not operating in Michoacan at the request of Sinaloa Federation — as it likely did in Veracruz, Veracruz state, and Acapulco, Guerrero state.

Independent CJNG efforts to expand its area of operations do not necessarily mean CJNG is at odds with their Sinaloa allies. Either way, violence in Michoacan between the CJNG and KT probably will continue. Whether this rivalry will affect either group's relationship with Sinaloa remains unclear.

CJNG in Cancun 

Gunmen in two trucks opened fire on a taxi April 13 in the Region 92 area of Cancun, Quintana Roo state, killing two people in the cab and injuring a third. The passengers were later identified as members of Los Zetas. Then on April 16, authorities in Cancun discovered the body of a man who had been executed — the coastal city's sixth execution in less than a week. The body was accompanied by a narcomanta reportedly signed CJNG. The presence of CJNG in Cancun helps explain recent organized crime-related violence in the city. A turf war has escalated in Cancun, where it appears Los Zetas are facing increasing conflicts between Los Pelones, a street gang operating in Cancun, and now CJNG.

CJNG's presence in Cancun remains unconfirmed. Still, the spike in violence coupled with Los Pelones' inability to assault the far larger Los Zetas suggests a larger criminal organization has stepped in on Los Pelones' side. Sinaloa Federation ally CJNG would be an appropriate ally for Los Pelones in fighting Los Zetas in Cancun. CJNG has demonstrated the ability to expand operations over large geographic regions quickly and is experienced at fighting Los Zetas in Zetas strongholds. If the CJNG is in fact operating in Cancun, violence in the resort city should escalate as the turf war continues.

Currently, Los Zetas control Cancun, occasionally coming into conflict with independent local drug dealers, such as Los Pelones. If CJNG is seeking to pressure Los Zetas for control of Cancun in alliance with Los Pelones, it may have chosen an opportune time to strike. Los Zetas — already under intense pressure in the critical border plaza of Nuevo Laredo and pulling forces from other places to solidify their position there — may struggle to defend Cancun from their rivals, thus presenting an opportunity for CJNG to  control. 

As we noted in our annual cartel report, increased border security on the U.S.-Mexican border has caused Mexico's transnational criminal organizations to expand into Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic in pursuit of alternate, easier smuggling routes into the United States. Cancun's location makes an ideal starting point for Mexican criminal cartel operations in the Caribbean. In addition to its value for air and maritime shipments, Cancun's tourism sector makes retail sales of illicit drugs; extortion on businesses that profit from the tourism; and other criminal enterprises, such as gambling and prostitution, more lucrative.

April 10

  • Gunmen opened fire on a man in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state, and left him for dead. However, the victim survived and, while being transferred from a hospital in Cadereyta to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, gunmen intercepted the ambulance and kidnapped the victim. Authorities later discovered the victim dead in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Police in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, detained two Zetas members responsible for kidnapping and scouting, according to state authorities. Authorities said the subjects admitted to nine murders and nine kidnappings.
  • Authorities discovered a man's body in Tuncingo, Guerrero state, along with a message directed at Guerrero's governor. Authorities have not revealed the contents of the message.
  • Authorities discovered three male bodies in Zinapecuaro, Michoacan state, that appeared to have been tortured and executed. A message left with the bodies said, "The New Generation supported by Chayo Guerrero and Macho Prieto, we are here and we are going to begin cleaning. Atte. CJNG" — likely referring to Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion.
  • Authorities discovered the bodies of six men in Tancitaro, Michoacan state, along with messages signed CJNG.

April 11

  • Gunmen killed a man who was eating dinner in his home in Tonala, Jalisco state. According to the victim's neighbors, the victim had just moved to the neighborhood with another man.
  • Authorities discovered the bodies of two women outside a residence in Acolman, Mexico state.
  • Gunmen shot and killed a man while he was traveling in his vehicle in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.
  • A confrontation between state police and gunmen in the Praderas de San Juan neighborhood of Juarez, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in two gunmen killed and nine detained. The confrontation occurred at a safe house for the gunmen. Police later detained 12 other individuals linked to organized crime in a second safe house in the Urbi Villa neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez.
  • A firefight between the Mexican military and Zetas gunmen in Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in a Zetas leader's death. The leader, only identified by his alias "El Pato," was in charge of the region where the firefight occurred, according to authorities.
  • The Mexican army detained four hit men belonging to the Gulf cartel in China, Nuevo Leon state. The men said they were fighting a rival cartel in neighboring Tamaulipas state.
  • Federal police detained three members of La Barredora in Renacimiento, Guerrero state. According to authorities, the men were responsible for kidnapping and extortion.
  • A confrontation between the Mexican military and members of Knights Templar in Churintzio, Michoacan state, resulted in the death of five gunmen including Esteban "La Moneda" Hernandez Barajas, allegedly a leader of Knights Templar. According to authorities, Hernandez Barajas was in charge of seven municipalities in Michoacan state and two in Guanajuato state.

April 12

  • Gunmen shot and killed two men in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  • Authorities discovered seven bodies in bags in various areas of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. The bodies displayed signs of torture and were accompanied by messages signed CJNG.
  • Authorities discovered the body of an executed man in the El Sifon community of Santo Tomas de los Platanos, Mexico state. Authorities said the victim could be Orlando "El Calavera" Arzate Negron, the presumed La Familia Michoacana leader of the region.
  • At least five gunmen arriving in three SUVs opened fire on two vehicles, killing two individuals and wounding four in the Vicente Guerrero neighborhood of Culiacan, Sinaloa state. One of the dead was a woman who was six months pregnant.
  • Three individuals were killed in a shooting in the Division del Norte neighborhood of Torreon, Coahuila state.

April 13

  • Gunmen tortured and killed a man in his home in Renacimiento, Guerrero state.
  • Three gunmen ambushed and killed a police commander between Mexicanos and San Isidro, Guanajuato state. The police commander was traveling when a black SUV with a Texas license plate blocked the road and the three gunmen opened fire.
  • Gunmen shot and killed a taxi driver in the Loma Bonita neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  • Gunmen opened fire on a group of individuals, killing one and injuring six in the Arbolitos Xalostoc neighborhood of Ecatepec, Mexico state.
  • The Mexican army detained two hit men working for the Sinaloa Federation in Cardenas, Tabasco state. According to authorities, the men are responsible for four murders and at least 10 kidnappings.

April 14

  • Gunmen shot and killed two men traveling on a highway that connects General Teran and Montemorelos in La Cantera, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Masked gunmen opened fire on two female teenagers, killing one of them, outside a residence in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
  • Authorities discovered the bodies of four men on the side of a gas station in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The bodies showed signs of torture and their hands and feet were bound. The contents of a message accompanying the bodies have not been revealed.
  • A confrontation between the Mexican army and gunmen in Mina, Nuevo Leon state resulted in two gunmen killed.
  • A group of gunmen opened fire in the Dorado Saloon dance club in northern Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, killing five people. According to authorities, the attack was directed at the owner of the bar. Witnesses said other gunmen were waiting in vehicles outside the entrance and opened fire on those who escaped.
  • Authorities discovered four male dead bodies Acapulco, Guerrero state, along with a message signed La Barredora.
  • A confrontation between two groups of gunmen in San Dimas, Durango state, resulted in three dead and one injured. A four-year-old boy was injured in the crossfire.

April 15

  • A firefight between police and gunmen in the center of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in two gunmen dead and an unreported number of arrests.
  • Authorities discovered the body of a man in the trunk of a vehicle in Leon, Guanajuato state. A message, addressing an organized crime group, accompanied the body.
  • Authorities discovered the body of a man with a gunshot wound to the head left in a dry irrigation canal near Irapuato, Guanajuato state.
  • At least three gunmen, arriving in a vehicle, opened fire on a group of young men in Irapuato, Guanajuato state, killing one.
  • Federal authorities announced the arrests of at least nine CJNG members in Veracruz, Veracruz state, including a plaza boss, a financial operator and reportedly the organization’s leader of sicarios, or hit men, Marco Antonio "El Canelo" Reyes Leal. The arrests resulted from three separate operations by the Mexican navy as part of Operation Veracruz Seguro.

April 16

  • Authorities discovered the body of a man in a vehicle in the Los Pinos neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. The man was shot to death while sitting in his truck.
  • Gunmen opened fire on three members of Los Pelones gang in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, seriously wounding two of them.
  • Authorities announced the arrest of three presumed Zetas members in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state. The State Investigation Agency arrested the members and accused them of kidnappings and various homicides.
  • State police discovered the bodies of four executed men in a vehicle in Indaparapeo, Michoacan state.
  • Authorities discovered the body of an executed man along with a message threatening Los Zetas in Region 313 of Cancun, Quintana Roo state.
  • Two individuals walked into a community celebration in Irapuato, Guanajuato state, and opened fire on the crowd, injuring at least four individuals.

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