Not a great deal has been written or said in the U.S. media about the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. However, especially in light of events over the past month, the cartel has begun to emerge as the foremost paramilitary force in Mexico.

The cartel itself appears to have arisen from the disintegration of the Sinaloan capo Ignacio Coronel’s network in southern Mexico that included the Milenio Cartel, headed by Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia. After Coronel was killed and Valencia captured, the CJNG emerged as the successor to the Sinaloa-run network, following the shaking out of at least two different factions—La Resistencia and Los Torcidos. Los Torcidos came out on top, and became the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion under the apparent leadership of Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, alias ‘El Mencho.’

The group has been extraordinarily violent even by the standards of the Mexican narco-insurgency. Homicides have risen following their rise, and they have embarked on a systematic offensive against Los Zetas. There is some disagreement as to whether the term “Mata-Zetas,” or Zeta-Killers, refers to the entire cartel, or a direct-action sub-cell of the organization, but it is a term that has been widely used in reference to the CJNG.

Los Zetas hasn’t been the only rival cartel targeted by CJNG. The Cabelleros Templarios have also felt the pressure, as the CJNG has extended its influence into Michoacan. There have been conflicting stories coming out of southern Mexico about the autodefensas, the self-defense militias formed over the past couple of years to fight the Templars (which organization, ironically, got started as just such a self-defense militia to fight Los Zetas).

To some, the autodefensas were simply ordinary people fed up with being preyed upon by the Templarios. To this end, some of them were actually formally inducted into the Rurales, the rural irregular arm of the Mexican Army, which has existed, at least on paper, since the ’20s. But there were those in the Mexican government who claimed that the autodefensas were in fact irregular arms of the CJNG. From what little can be discerned from open sources, there is a little bit of truth in both stories.

Under increasing pressure from the autodefensas and CJNG’s expansion, the Caballeros Templarios have been eroded to the point that, by the time ‘La Tuta‘ had been captured in February of this year, the Knights Templar Cartel had, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be. La Tuta was an isolated fugitive whose capture was more of a mopping-up operation than a real coup. However, the mopping up appears to have been finishing CJNG’s work, not the Mexican government’s.

As with most such disintegrations, the majority of the Templars didn’t actually go anywhere; they defected to the strong horse, in this case CJNG. And in just the past month, the CJNG has started to flex its muscle even more in Jalisco.

On April 6, a Mexican police convoy en route from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara was ambushed by CJNG sicarios, who had apparently been waiting for some time. They blocked the road with a burning vehicle, then opened fire when the convoy stopped to investigate. Fifteen officers were killed. The video below is of the aftermath. (Warning, it is graphic.)

On May 1, elements of the CJNG ambushed and shot down a Mexican Army Cougar helicopter with RPG-22s, marking the first shoot-down of a Mexican helicopter in the history of the war. Accounts have steadily shifted and changed since the attack, as the Mexican government has (depending on the source) either been issuing statements before having all the facts, or trying to conduct damage control. This is the biggest blow struck against Mexican forces in combat yet.

What appears to have happened was, during the early morning of May 1, the helo was moving to attempt to intercept and capture El Mencho. Whether the CJNG had been tipped off, or was simply better prepared than expected, they reacted as soon as the paratroopers aboard the helicopter began to rappel down.

Reportedly three soldiers made it to the ground before the shooting started. At least one report, according to Borderland Beat, said that the pilot was shot first, before the RPG fire began. (Note that the image in the the Borderland Beat story shows an RPG-7, while the authorities at the scene found a discarded tube from an RPG-22, a 72.5mm rocket essentially identical to the US M72 LAW.)

Image courtesy

The initial Mexican government statement said that the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing, but it definitely crashed in flames. In response to the shoot-down, the Mexican Armed Forces have moved into Jalisco en masse, patrolling openly in French-made Panhard armored cars.

How this will play out remains to be seen. The CJNG has proven to be far more sophisticated tactically than the Mexican authorities were prepared for. The fact that no further arrests or large-scale dismantling of the network have been reported suggest that it’s going to be a long haul for the Mexican Armed Forces trying to pacify Jalisco and Michoacan. The ever-present shadow of corruption and cartel penetration of the Armed Forces and the government will likely make it even harder.

Featured image courtesy

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