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Dec 22, 2011 | 11:58 GMT

7 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: The Evolution of a Sinaloa Enforcer Group

Mexico Security Memo

CJNG: Regional Threat with a National Reach?

On Dec. 13, unknown gunmen in Ecuandureo, Michoacan state, ambushed another criminal group (some media agencies have reported that the targeted group was from La Familia Michoacana). The ambushed group's leader reportedly was killed in the attack, and the assailants are said to have fled the scene after the assault. Mexican military personnel and federal police were deployed to the area. Additional security personnel were sent to border crossings between Michoacan and Jalisco states. Authorities later detained five individuals near the scene of the attack. One detainee reportedly confessed to being a member of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), a Sinaloa Federation enforcer group from Jalisco state. Authorities also seized three AK-47s with 480 rounds of ammunition, two AR-15s with 690 rounds of ammunition, five pistols with 41 rounds of ammunition and various unidentified tactical gear. Two vehicles — a truck and an SUV — were also seized. The vehicles were reportedly armored, though the level of armor is not known and some media reports indicate only one vehicle was armored. That authorities deployed to the Michoacan-Jalisco border in response to the attack suggests that they suspected the attackers might attempt to cross into Jalisco. That fact, combined with the suspect's confessed membership in Jalisco-based CJNG, indicates a connection between the attack and the arrests, though media reports did not link the two. If CJNG were responsible for the Dec. 13 ambush, it would mean that the group is expanding its geographic reach. CJNG obviously has been active in Jalisco, and its subgroup, known as the "Matazetas," or Zeta killers, has claimed the killing of dozens of suspected Zetas in Boca del Rio, Veracruz state. (CJNG not only struck Los Zetas on their home turf in Veracruz, but remained there for an extended period of time.) Now, with the possible CJNG attack in Michoacan, it seems CJNG is evolving from a regional organization into a hit squad with a national reach.

Shallow Graves in Jalisco State

A man and four University of Guadalajara students were found dead in Jalisco state Dec. 14-15. Media reports vary widely in describing the sequence of events, the cause of death, the number of casualties and other details — while new details emerge every day. What statements from the Jalisco state attorney general do make clear is that the victims were found buried in shallow graves in the courtyard of the Federation of Guadalajara Students' (FEG) headquarters. Originally a student organization at the University of Guadalajara, the FEG is one of many informal groups at Mexican universities that extort money from food and drink vendors in exchange for the right to sell goods on and around campuses. The FEG no longer has any formal ties to the university and instead operates with high schools affiliated with the university. There are no prior reports of the group engaging in this degree of violence. According to reports, a fried-dough vendor named Armando Gomez, his son and three other University of Guadalajara students went to FEG headquarters Dec. 9 to complain about the amount of protection money the FEG was charging them. Family members of Gomez and of the students reported that the victims never returned home after the confrontation. On Dec. 14, three bodies were found at the FEG headquarters, and the remaining two bodies were found nearby the following day. According to the attorney general, the families identified the bodies as those of Gomez and the students. The Jalisco Institute of Forensic Science reported that Gomez and his son died of gunshot wounds to the head, while the remaining three victims had been stabbed. The events do not necessarily portend an overall escalation of violence in the Jalisco capital, nor do they suggest a growing trend within the FEG. More importantly, the killings serve as a reminder that drug cartels, while responsible for an overwhelming amount of crime and death in Mexico, are not the only ones capable of crime and violence. (click here to view interactive map)

Dec. 13

  • Gunmen driving in two vehicles ambushed a government convoy in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua state. The city clerk of Gran Morelos, Chihuahua state, was killed, and the head of the Public Security Secretariat in Chihuahua state was wounded. All of the gunmen managed to escape.
  • Gunmen murdered the prison director of the Centro de Readaptacion Social at an intersection in Saltillo, Coahuila state.
  • A criminal cell was ambushed by gunmen in Ecuandureo, Michoacan state, resulting in the deaths of the cell's leader, Javier Guerrero, and three of his men.
  • Five members of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) were arrested as a result of a Mexican military operation in Ecuandureo, Michoacan state. Authorities seized five rifles and five pistols as well as 27 kilograms (about 60 pounds) of marijuana.

Dec. 14

  • Gunmen ambushed a convoy of police vehicles in Tepic, Nayarit state, that was carrying the state's attorney general. Some of the gunmen reportedly were wounded in the ensuing clash, but all of them escaped.
  • Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, arrested two Sinaloa Federation operators, who confessed to working in a cell led by a man known as El Neto.
  • Gunmen opened fire on the main entry of a hospital in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. No one was wounded in the shooting and no arrests were made.

Dec. 15

  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of Juan "El Juancho" Guzman Rocha, cousin of Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, on the side of a highway in Aguaruto, Sinaloa state. Guzman Rocha's body was bound, bore signs of torture and had sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
  • Nine gunmen and one soldier were killed in a confrontation between the Mexican military and an armed group in Saltillo, Coahuila state.

Dec. 16

  • Members of the Sinaloa Federation attacked municipal police and civilians who were thought to be Zetas drug distributors in the cities of Fresnillo, Jerez, Rio Grande, Sombrerete and Zacatecas, Zacatecas state. Four individuals were killed and eight were wounded in the attacks. After the confrontation, gunmen went to a hospital and removed three of the wounded who had been admitted in the aftermath of the attack.

Dec. 17

  • Mexican authorities arrested eight members of the Knights Templar in Leon, Guanajuato state. Two kidnapped individuals were rescued as a result of the operation.
  • The Mexican military seized a weapons cache in Tayahua, Zacatecas state, and arrested one individual connected to the seizure. Among the weapons seized were various assault rifles, magazines, ammunition, high-caliber rifles and a grenade launcher.
  • Thirty-six gunmen attacked Mexican military personnel in Caracuaro, Michoacan state. Six gunmen died and two soldiers were injured.

Dec. 18

  • The Mexican military rescued 21 undocumented Central Americans who had been kidnapped from a safe house in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. Authorities also detained three armed individuals.

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