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Mar 14, 2012 | 14:33 GMT

10 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Potential Weakening of a Sinaloa Ally

Stratfor

CJNG Leader Arrested 

The Mexican army detained Erick "El 85" Valencia Salazar, the leader of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), on March 9 in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. Two of Valencia's lieutenants were arrested with him. Soon after Valencia's capture, gunmen hijacked several vehicles, including buses and trucks, and established roadblocks in at least 16 different points in Guadalajara. A subsequent firefight between gunmen and security forces lasted several hours, ending in the arrest of 16 additional members of CJNG.

The loss of its leader will likely affect CJNG's expanding operations, conducted on behalf of the Sinaloa Federation, against Los Zetas in other states. Because Sinaloa uses CJNG against Los Zetas aggression, Sinaloa probably will need to adjust — either through the use of its own members or those of allied groups — in Guadalajara. But Valencia's arrest will also present Sinaloa with an opportunity to reassert control over CJNG, which has been steadily increasing in strength.

According to authorities, Valencia succeeded Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, the former leader of the Sinaloa Federation's faction in Guadalajara, after Coronel's death in July 2010. Coronel's faction split apart after this succession, leaving Valencia to consolidate power over his own separate group, CJNG. Under Valencia's leadership, CJNG oversaw drug trafficking through Jalisco state and expanded its operations into several other states.

In July 2011, CJNG announced in a video that it had formed groups, labeled "Mata Zetas," (Zetas Killers), focused on eliminating members of Los Zetas. Two months after the video's release, the bodies of 35 suspected Los Zetas members were dumped along a street in Boca del Rio, Veracruz state. According to authorities, Valencia was the mastermind of this operation. While CJNG appeared to have declared war against all of Mexico's cartels in early 2011, at some point that year CJNG aligned with the Sinaloa Federation, as evidenced by CJNG's incursion into Guerrero and the subsequent emergence of narcomantas signed "CJNG at the service of Chapo," a reference to Sinaloa leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The expansion of CJNG operations into other Mexican states was in part a result of CJNG agreeing to serve as an assault force for the Sinaloa Federation. CJNG acts as a counter to Los Zetas in states such as Veracruz, Guerrero, Morelos, Michoacan and CJNG's home turf of Jalisco. In all of the regions where CJNG operates it is engaged in turf wars (including with the far larger Los Zetas organization), placing significant pressure on CJNG.

Jalisco state, and especially the city of Guadalajara, is an important transportation hub for drug smuggling. As such, the state has seen significant violence carried out by several organized criminal groups, such as La Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar, CJNG, Los Zetas, La Resistencia and the Sinaloa Federation. CJNG has helped Sinaloa to prevent its rivals in Los Zetas from establishing a stronger presence in the state — a situation that would adversely affect Sinaloa's smuggling operations. Should the arrest of Valencia degrade CJNG's ability to counter Los Zetas, Sinaloa would likely be compelled to respond in Guadalajara either through use of its own members or aligned organizations such as La Barredora or Gente Nueva.

While the consequences of Valencia's arrest are uncertain, it is important to consider not only how the arrest will affect CJNG and Sinaloa's operations against their rivals, but also how it will affect CJNG's relationship with Sinaloa. Sinaloa has moved its allied organizations around and forced some of them to operate in the same regions in order to mitigate the risk that one group could grow too large to control. Since CJNG is an important asset for the Sinaloa Federation, it is possible that Sinaloa would use Valencia's arrest to bring CJNG further into its fold.

The Sinaloa Federation has a vested interest in fighting Los Zetas in areas where CJNG activity is more commonly seen, such as in Veracruz state; Guadalajara, Jalisco state; or Guerrero state. Regardless of the consequences of Valencia's capture, Sinaloa will continue to exert force on its rivals' territories. Should CJNG suffer significantly in operations against Los Zetas, Sinaloa will continue to confront Los Zetas with any additional forces needed. Consequently, the arrest of Valencia alone is unlikely to change the level of violence in areas where CJNG operates.

March 6

  • Gunmen shot and killed a man sitting in a car before lighting the car on fire in northwest Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Federal police discovered a dismembered body in several bags in the back of a pickup truck in Acapulco, Guerrero state. A narcomanta left with the body attributed the killing to CJNG "at the service of El Chapo Guzman." The banner said, "This is going to happen to those who are against the boss."
  • Authorities discovered 15 bodies in three unmarked graves in Ciudad Benito Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. Mexican authorities have discovered a total of 113 bodies in unmarked graves since June 2010.
  • Mexican police engaged gunmen in a firefight on Highway 57 in Piedra Negras, Coahuila state. After the firefight, blockades were reported throughout the city, including on the highway connecting Piedra Negras to Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state. One police officer was killed, nine individuals were injured and two gunmen were arrested.
  • Three decapitated bodies were left in black bags on a street in Veracruz, Veracruz state. A narcomanta signed by CJNG Mata Zetas was left with the bodies. The message stated that individuals who entered CJNG's port territory would suffer a similar fate.
  • Federal police arrested Manuel "El Pony" Montano Silvestre, a financial operator for La Barredora, in Guerrero state. The arrest was the result of a follow-up investigation after the Feb. 14 arrest of Montano Silvestre's boss. Montano was responsible for storing and distributing drugs, as well as collecting fees and handling financial transactions, for La Barredora.
  • The Mexican military seized 35 kilograms (77 pounds) of marijuana, an undisclosed amount of cocaine, several rifles, a grenade launcher and a rocket launcher at a cartel hideout in La Antigua, Veracruz state.

March 7

  • Gunmen shot and killed a woman in her car in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. The woman had just dropped her daughter off at school when gunmen stepped in front of her vehicle and opened fire into the windshield.
  • A criminal organization ambushed another group in Tlalchapa, Guerrero state, leaving four gunmen and one bystander dead and five gunmen injured.
  • Mexican authorities arrested two drug traffickers linked to Cartel del Norte del Valle, a Colombian organized crime group, in Mexico state. The individuals coordinated the shipment of cocaine and heroin to New York from Mexico via air transport. The arrests were the result of an investigation following the capture of a La Familia Michoacana plaza boss and seizure of two drug labs March 4 in Morelos state.
  • Mexican authorities seized a collection of firearms, ammunition and drugs from a Social Rehabilitation Center (CERESO) prison in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Authorities seized a total of 22 rifles, 23 handguns, 22 homemade shotguns, 51 magazines, 5,123 rounds of ammunition, 568 knives, 82 cellphones, cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The contraband was discovered in concealed compartments in the prison walls.
  • A firefight between police and gunmen near a municipal police station in Encarnacion de Diaz, Jalisco state, left one police officer and two bystanders injured. 

March 8

  • Individuals placed several narcomantas along multiple vehicle and pedestrian bridges in Morelia, Michoacan state. The banners, signed "Knights Templar Michoacan Guard," stated that the group was not looking for war and was only defending the land.
  • A shootout between gunmen and the Mexican military left 10 individuals dead in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state.
  • Federal police reported the arrest of 22 members of the Knights Templar in a spa resort in Morelia, Michoacan state. The individuals were detained after a police patrol spotted armed men near the spa.
  • Gunmen kidnapped the municipal clerk of Teloloapan, Guerrero state, from his home in Oxtotitlan, Guerrero state. The gunmen demanded 3.5 million pesos ($280,000) for his release.
  • In a failed assassination attempt, gunmen attacked the public security secretary in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, on the Apodaca-Juarez Highway. While the gunmen attempted to flee, several roadblocks were established using large vehicles, some of which were set on fire.
  • The dismembered bodies of four students were found in bags in Cuernavaca, Morelos state, along with a message signed "El Chuky." Two of the victims were 17 years old, one was 16 years old and the fourth was 13 years old.

March 9

  • Gunmen killed four men sitting at a table in a bar near the municipal police station in Zumpango del Rio, Guerrero state.
  • Authorities discovered a human head in a cooler in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. A narcomanta was also left inside the cooler, though authorities did not reveal the contents of the message.
  • Gunmen killed a police commander in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, after he dropped his daughter off at school. The gunmen, driving a stolen vehicle, opened fire on the police commander, who managed to escape and take refuge in a nearby police station. He later died in the hospital.

March 10

  • A grenade explosion injured two individuals in Saltillo, Coahuila state. The grenade exploded near a hospital during a firefight between state police and gunmen.
  • Three bodies were hung from a bridge in Vista Hermosa, Michoacan state, near the Michoacan-Jalisco border. Authorities did not say if a narcomanta was left with the bodies.
  • Authorities discovered eight decapitated bodies along with a narcomanta in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas state. The message, signed by the Gulf cartel, indicated that the dead individuals were Los Zetas members.
  • Authorities discovered a body in an unmarked grave in Zapopan, Jalisco state. The statements of 16 CJNG members arrested earlier that day led to the discovery.
  • Mexican authorities discovered a decapitated body and a narcomanta signed "Knights Templar, Michoacan Guard" in Apatzingan, Michoacan state. The message stated that a similar fate would befall those who did not respect the "code."

March 11

  • Mexican soldiers captured 10 Knights Templar members who were holding a meeting in Tzurumutaro, Michoacan state. The Knights Templar members operated in Patzcuaro, Michoacan state, and were meeting with their plaza boss when the military surprised them. The plaza boss was also detained.
  • Two separate firefights between police and gunmen in Saltillo, Coahuila state, left two gunmen dead and four other individuals wounded.
  • Four gunmen in a vehicle shot at a police patrol in San Nicolas de los Garza, Nuevo Leon state, injuring one police officer.
  • In addition to operations on March 10, Mexican authorities detained 35 individuals connected to the murder of a police commander in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state. The individuals operated as halcones, or scouts, during the murder. According to authorities, two fugitives from the Apodaca CERESO prison planned the murder.

March 12

  • Four CJNG members were arrested in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, as a result of the investigation into the March 9 firefight between authorities and CJNG.
  • Gunmen in a truck shot and killed a police commander in Saltillo, Coahuila state.
  • Three gunmen killed five individuals at a beauty salon in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. Two gunmen entered the salon and killed a barber and two customers who were waiting for a haircut. The third gunman killed two individuals as they fled the salon.
  • An organized crime group hung at least three narcomantas from bridges in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The banners were critical of the Chihuahua state governor.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of two executed individuals along a dirt road in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

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