This article was written by Iñigo Camilleri De Castanedo and originally published on Grey Dynamics.

Starting life as the armed wing of the Cartel de Sinaloa, the CJNG formally separated from its parent organization and has exponentially evolved to be one of the major organized crime players in Mexico. Despite early success, the group is facing rival organizations, splinter groups, and the Mexican and U.S. government:

  • It is likely that the CJNG has deterred governmental efforts to tackle organized crime. A lack of governmental aid combined with humanitarian efforts by the CJNG has likely increased the social roots and legitimacy of the group amongst communities.
  • The targeting high-government officials will likely increase. The pandemic has limited the governmental capability to counter organized crime, and the CJNG has an opportunity to signal intentions and expand with a reduced risk of resistance.
  • Violent clashes between the CJNG and local organized crime groups will highly likely increase. A damaged criminal economy will push groups to compete for territory and sources of revenue which are controlled in their majority by the CJNG or the Sinaloa Cartel.

Why Is This Important?

The arrival in office of AMLO in December 2018 promised a crackdown on organized crime and the pandemic of violence that Mexico suffers from. In 2019 there were 34,582 murders, a 2.5 percent increase from 2018. Just in March 2020 alone, there were 2,585 homicides, the highest homicide rate since AMLO took the presidency.

In 2019, the DEA declared the CJNG as the largest crime organization in Mexico. In June 2020 the DEA and Mexican Intelligence announced the seizure of money-laundering companies belonging to the CJNG worth $600 million. On June 17th, the CJNG murdered a judge who was responsible for the extradition and arrest of the son of the head of CJNG, “El Mencho.” On the 22nd of June, the police chief in the capital Mexico City was also targeted; the attempt failed by there were three casualties. With homicide rates rising for the past two years, a recent increase in violence signals the capability of adaptation to the pandemic by the CJNG. COVID-19 has challenged criminal economies as well as governmental efforts to curb organized crime.

Tactics, Techniques & Procedures

Based in Guadalajara, Jalisco, the group uses violent and rapid attacks to achieve its objectives. The CJNG attacks its targets with high-speed vehicles, making surprise and speed essential for its success. On the 22nd of June attack against the Mexico City police chief, three vehicles were used to assault the target’s convoy. Members of the CJNG were armed with assault rifles, Molotov cocktails, grenades, and a .50 caliber sniper rifle.

Another 26 people were murdered at a rehabilitation clinic in Guanajuato on July 1st. This last attack is allegedly due to the conflict with the Cartel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) over the oil-theft industry in the region. On the 18th of July, the CJNG announced through social media its control over Guanajuato, threatening the CSRL and “El Marro” to abandon the territory. Attacks are common against rival organizations like the CSRL or the Familia Michoacana (FAM) to seize their territory.

Still, recent attacks against high-value targets also display the willingness of the group to maintain pressure on the government. In 2019, 12 policemen were killed in Michoacán with the signature of the CJNG left on the scene as a way to draw a boundary between government presence and illicit activities.