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Feb 8, 2012 | 18:14 GMT

10 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Mitigating the Threat of Affiliate Groups


Remobilizing Forces

Two narcomantas signed by the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) were found Feb. 3 in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Through the messages, the CJNG vowed to "clean" Acapulco as it did Veracruz, referring to the multiple mass killings of Los Zetas there in late 2011. It specifically called out such criminal groups as the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA), Los Zetas and residual elements of the Beltran Leyva Organization, all of which are known to operate in Acapulco. The message also noted that the CJNG had no quarrel with Mexican authorities — the federal police, the Mexican navy and the National Defense Secretariat were all named — but rather with the cartels that are "terrorizing" Acapulco.

The CJNG is now the third known major criminal organization aligned with the Sinaloa Federation to operate in Acapulco — La Gente Nueva, Sinaloa's longtime enforcer unit, and La Barredora are the other two. A relatively nascent criminal group, La Barredora has been fighting CIDA for control of Acapulco for some time, and it aligned with Sinaloa in the latter half of 2011. Acapulco is a valuable plaza, so these groups are not interested in sharing power or territory. While La Barredora will continue to direct its efforts toward CIDA, the CJNG will continue its stated intention of fighting Los Zetas and other elements in Acapulco.

Larger cartels often use smaller affiliate groups — enforcer units or regional gangs — to assert their control in places far from their home turf. Backed by a powerful and resourceful patron, these affiliate groups become more powerful than they would be on their own (though it is unclear how much autonomy affiliate groups maintain). But this practice poses an inherent danger: If left unchecked, smaller groups could become too powerful, thereby threatening the authority of the patron. Such was the case with Los Zetas, who began as an enforcer unit with the Gulf cartel but have since become the largest cartel, in terms of areas of operation, in Mexico.

Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera understands this dynamic, and in utilizing affiliate groups, he is careful not to allow any one group to become so powerful that that it could jeopardize his power. One way he keeps these groups in check is by constantly remobilizing them.

This may indeed explain CJNG's recent itinerancy. Hailing from Guadalajara, Jalisco state, the CJNG conducted operations in Jalisco, Michoacan and Veracruz states before being deployed to Guerrero state. Meanwhile, La Barredora, which originated in Acapulco independently of Sinaloa, reportedly was operating in Guadalajara by December 2011. In reshuffling the CJNG, La Barredora and other groups to different territories — and at times consolidating them into one territory — Guzman is ensuring that no one plaza is the exclusive domain of any one group.

NCJ Attacking Soft Targets in Chihuahua

For the past month the New Juarez Cartel (NCJ), the new iteration of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization's (VCF) enforcement arm, La Linea, has been actively killing municipal police officers in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. But now it seems the group has begun to target police officers in Chihuahua, a city the VCF used to own before the Sinaloa Federation largely took it over.

In the past week, three municipal police officers and a brother of an officer from a joint police force were killed in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. In one instance, gunmen shot an off-duty police officer while he was at a bar. Following the deaths, narcomantas signed by the NCJ were found in Chihuahua city. The messages contained threats to the city's law enforcement, which the NCJ believes is supporting Sinaloa.

Specifically, the narcomantas threatened the Policia Unica, a task force composed of municipal, state and federal law enforcement officials. While the threats are credible, it should be noted that the NCJ generally has not engaged on-duty police officers. Typically, the NCJ targets off-duty officers or small groups of on-duty officers rather than heavily armed groups. The killing of police officers shows the NCJ is trying to loosen Sinaloa's grip on the city. That it is targeting relatively soft targets reflects the weakness of the NCJ.

Jan. 31

  • The Mexican military had multiple confrontations with gunmen in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. Gunmen used public buses to establish roadblocks near several of the firefights. During the confrontations, gunmen reportedly stole a tiger from a Matamoros circus.
  • Two U.S. missionaries were found dead in separate areas of their home in Santiago, Nuevo Leon state, each with electrical cords wrapped around their necks. A safe, dug out of a wall in their home, and the couple's SUV were missing.
  • The Mexican military arrested police chief Leocadio Cabrera Delgado and 32 municipal police officers in Guasave, Sinaloa state, after they failed to respond as back up in a firefight in which three soldiers were killed.
  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police station in General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.

Feb. 1

  • U.S. Customs seized 26 kilograms (57 pounds) of methamphetamine hidden in a shipment of cucumbers at a border crossing near McAllen, Texas.
  • Mexican authorities found the body of a man who had been shot in the head in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The body was in front of a wall with a narcomanta signed "Los Z Zona Centro."
  • Gunmen ambushed a federal police patrol in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Three gunmen were killed.
  • Gunmen opened fire on two women at a gas station in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, killing one and injuring the other.
  • Several hooded men robbed the Casino Caliente in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. They fired at least two shots before taking $300,000 from the casino's safe.
  • Gunmen shot and killed a police officer in a bar in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. The officer was an escort for the city's police chief.
  • Mexico state's attorney general and Department of Public Safety announced the arrest of La Familia Michoacana's main operator for drug sales in Chimalhuacan.

Feb. 2

  • The Mexican military presented 13 sicarios who were arrested during military actions throughout Nuevo Leon state.
  • The Mexican army dismantled a communications network used by drug traffickers in Praxedis G. Guerrero, Chihuahua state. Soldiers seized various radio communication devices and four solar cells used to power the communication hub. No arrests were made during the operation.
  • The Mexican army seized 9.8 kilograms of opium gum in El Nayar, Nayarit state. Five rifles, a magazine, 69 rounds of varying calibers and an abandoned vehicle were also seized.
  • A firefight in Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas state, between gunmen and the Mexican military carried over across the U.S. border. One gunman was injured and two others were arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol.
  • Mexican officials announced the deployment of 4,000 soldiers to Morelia, Michoacan state, marking the largest deployment in the state since July 2009.
  • Unidentified attackers killed a man in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, by throwing him over a bridge and onto a city street below.
  • Gunmen in multiple vehicles opened fire on two bars in Colonia Obrerista of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, and launched Molotov cocktails that failed to detonate. Only one injury was reported, but some witnesses said four people were kidnapped. The gunmen spray painted a message to a rival gang on the wall of one of the bars.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a burned man tied to several car tires in Tulancingo, Hidalgo state. A narcomanta signed "La Gente" was left with the body and threatened a similar fate to rivals.
  • At least 10 municipalities in Michoacan state received threats from an unnamed criminal organization, prompting the closure of primary schools in several municipalities.
  • Mexican authorities found the bodies of three executed men in a ditch approximately 400 meters from an educational institution, between the municipalities of Juarez and Guadalupe in Nuevo Leon state.
  • Gunmen in multiple vehicles ambushed Miguel Angel Yunes Marquez, a state program coordinator, and his brother Fernando Yunes, a PAN candidate for the Senate, in Alamo, Veracruz state, while the two were traveling from Alamo to Castillo de Teayo in an armored vehicle. Neither were hurt.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a male La Resistencia member in Zapopan, Jalisco state. The man had been shot to death, and a narcomanta threatening other La Resistencia members was left with the body.

Feb. 3

  • Gunmen carrying sidearms killed three men, including two brothers, outside a residence in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen spray painted a message addressed to a criminal group on the wall near the bodies.
  • A gunman killed the brother of a State Unified Police commander outside a residence in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.
  • Mexican authorities found a nude, male body showing signs of torture in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The victim's hands and feet were tied and a black bag covered his the head. A message left with the body indicated the man was killed for being a member of Los Aztecas, a Ciudad Juarez street gang.
  • Gunmen traveling in a vehicle and carrying firearms ambushed and killed three men in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
  • Mexican authorities discovered a male body with five gun shot wounds, including two in the head, on a road in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Two narcomantas were placed on bridges in Acapulco, Guerrero state. They were signed "The C.N.G.J. warriors for the freedom of Acapulco," referring to the New Generation Jalisco Cartel. The banners said that CJNG plans to "clean the plaza" of CIDA, Beltran and Los Zetas.

Feb. 4

  • A gunman opened fire in Far West dance bar in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, killing nine and wounding seven. Witnesses said the gunman fired indiscriminately after entering the bar. The victims included a police officer and a member of the band playing at the bar.
  • Two men were executed by gunmen in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. Both bodies were left with a narcomanta addressed to a cartel.
  • Mexican federal authorities announced the arrest of Jose "El Marrufo" or "El Jaguar" Antonio Torres Marrufo, the leader of the Sinaloa enforcer branch Gente Nueva. The arrest was made in Leon, Guanajuato state.

Feb. 5

  • Gunmen shot a female municipal police officer several times in the head in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. According to witnesses, the gunmen were traveling together in a vehicle.
  • Several narcomantas signed by NCJ, or New Juarez Cartel, were hung from bridges in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. The banners blamed Sinaloa members for killing innocent people and accused the Policia Unica of supporting the Sinaloa cartel.
  • Mexican authorities found two decapitated women in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state. Left with the bodies were two narcomantas, the contents of which have not been revealed.
  • Mexican authorities found a male body that had been set on fire after the victim’s execution in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Gunmen entered a residence in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, and shot and killed a man before setting the house on fire. The victim's mother and a second man were wounded as a result of the fire. The gunmen spray painted a message on a wall of the residence.
  • The Mexican military killed Guillermo "Francisco Contreras" or "El Pariente" Rubio Castillo in Villa Ahumada, Chihuahua state. Rubio oversaw the transportation of drugs from mountain areas for the Juarez cartel.
  • The Mexican army seized a shipment of 7,900 kilograms of marijuana from a trailer in Monclova, Coahuila state.
  • Mexican marines killed Los Zetas leader Mario "El Comandante Chabelo" Alberto Cantu Cantu in San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state. According to media reports, Cantu may have been the plaza boss for Nuevo Leon state.

Feb. 6

  • Four gunmen killed two men who were talking to a woman on a residential street in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. The woman remains under investigation by law enforcement.

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