- Michoacán has become a hotbed of cartel violence.
- The CJNG is fighting local militia groups in Michoacán.
- The CJNG wants to take out El Abuelo.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel is among the biggest cartels in Mexico, only rivaling the Sinaloa Cartel in terms of assets and territorial presence. Headed by drug lord Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as El Mencho, the organization has expanded exponentially over the past five years.
Its initial growth was spurred by the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in 2016 and his subsequent extradition to the US.
The power vacuum that ensued after his removal allowed the CJNG to encroach more territory as the Sinaloa Cartel weakened.
Today, the CJNG syndicate is actively taking over towns and municipalities that are crucial to the drug trade and fighting their vigilante groups.
Michoacán de Ocampo is among the most contested regions. It has seen an escalation of clashes between the CJNG and local militiamen in recent months.
The vigilante groups, locally referred to as Autodefensas, aim to forestall the cartel’s takeover attempts.
CJNG Confrontations in Michoacán
In one documented confrontation in December, CJNG gunmen faced fierce resistance after trying to take over the town of La Bocanda, which is situated in Michoacán.
According to Dr Robert J Bunker, the Director of Research at C/O Futures, LLC, the Mexican government has basically left the villagers to defend their territories.
“The region has devolved into a Dark Ages-like situation with villagers taking up arms since the Mexican Federal government has failed in its duties to protect its citizens,” he said, while speaking to the Daily Star.
In the municipality of Tepalcatepec, major cartels such as the Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel have engaged in fierce turf wars over the years. The recent arrival of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has, however, triggered a new wave of violence.
The organization is currently looking to take out vigilante group leader, Juan José Farías, also known as El Abuelo. He currently leads a group of Michoacán autodefensas against the CJNG and has so far been successful in repelling the criminal enterprise.
The current conflict can be traced back to 2017, when he formed an alliance with the CJNG. This is after his faction took down the Knights Templar Cartel, the dominant gang in the region. Differences with CJNG leader, El Mencho, led to a clash that has dragged on for years
Tepalcatepec is of particular interest to the CJNG because it borders Jalisco and sits on a lucrative drug trafficking route. It also connects to the Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, which is used to bring in drugs and precursor chemical shipments. They transit through Guadalajara, Jalisco, and then smuggled into the United States.
CJNG Challenging the Mexican Government
While the Mexican government has made numerous concerted attempts to bring down the CJNG Cartel. They have unfortunately been ineffectual due to lack of coordination as well as systemic corruption.
Moreover, there have been instances where the CJNG has directly challenged the authorities. In one notable incident, the cartel shot down a police helicopter after the authorities attempted to capture its leader.
In June last year, Mexico City’s chief of police, Omar Garcia Harfuch, was attacked by CJNG gunmen. The move is believed to have been retaliation for non-compliance with the criminal organization.
Two of his bodyguards were killed during the dramatic incident. The police chief blamed the cartel for the attack.