The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG and Matazetas) is one of the most recent and fastest-growing criminal groups in Mexico. They currently fight Los Zetas for control of the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, and in Veracruz. The CNJG also operates in the states of Nayarit, Michoacán, Colima, and Guanajuato. While this cartel is best known for its fights against the Zetas, it has also been battling La Resistencia for control of Jalisco and its surrounding territories.
Jalisco New Generation Cartel expanded its operation network from coast to coast in only six months, making it one of the criminals groups with the greatest operating capacity in Mexico as of 2012. The Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín Guzmán Loera (a.k.a. El Chapo), has been using the Jalisco New Generation Cartel as its armed wing to fight off Los Zetas in Guzmán's turf and to carry out incursions to other territories like Nuevo Laredo and Veracruz.
Through online videos, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel has tried to seek society's approval and tactic consent from the Mexican government to confront Los Zetas by posing as a "righteous" and "nationalistic" group. Such claims have stoked fears that Mexico, just like Colombia a generation before, may be witnessing the rise of paramilitary drug gangs.
After the death in July 2010 of drug lord Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, his followers suspected the Sinaloa cartel had betrayed him and broke away to form the CJNG. Others left the Sinaloa cartel and formed the group La Resistencia, and formed a brief alliance with Los Zetas drug cartel. Some members of the Milenio Cartel, then a Sinaloa Cartel branch, splintered and formed this cartel. The original founders were Nemesio Oseguera Ramos (El Mencho), Erick Valencia (El 85) and Martín Arzola Ortega (El 53).
In spring 2011, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel declared war on all other Mexican cartels and stated its intention to take control of the city of Guadalajara. However, by midsummer, the group appeared to have been reunited with its former partners in the Sinaloa Cartel. In addition to maintaining its anti-Zetas alliance with the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel in 2011 affiliated itself with the Knights Templar in Michoacán; to counter Los Zetas in the state of Jalisco, the Sinaloa Cartel affiliated itself with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
On June 2009, inside an abandoned truck in a residential neighborhood in Cancún, Quintana Roo, the Mexican authorities discovered the corpses of three men. Along with their remains was found the following message:
"We are the new group Mata Zetas and we are against kidnapping and extortion, and we will fight them in all states for a cleaner Mexico."
— Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Los Mata Zetas)
The men killed were then linked to the same ones who had been shown in a video on YouTube while being interviewed by masked men armed with assault rifles. A number of videos online confirmed the existence of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which was dedicated at that time to kill Gulf Cartel and Zeta members alike. In the interrogatory videos done by the Mata Zetas, the captured cartel members confessed their criminal activities and gave out the names of police commanders and politicians who provided them with protection. According to Terra Networks, the government agency of the SIEDO received a phone call on 1 July 2009 by an unidentified man who said that the cartel members of Los Zetas were going to be "kidnapped and eliminated" from Cancún and Veracruz.
On 20 September 2011, two trucks containing 35 dead bodies were found at an underpass near a shopping mall in Boca del Río, Veracruz. All of the corpses were alleged to be members of Los Zetas, but it was later proven that only six of them had been involved in minor crime incidents, and none of them were involved with organized crime. Some of the victims had their hands tied and showed signs of having been tortured. According to El Universal, at around 17:00 hours an undetermined number of vehicles blocked a major avenue in Boca del Río. Once the traffic stopped, armed men abandoned two trucks in the middle of the highway. They opened the doors of the trucks and pulled out the thirty-five corpses, leaving a written message behind. Other gunmen pointed their weapons at the frightened drivers. The cartel members then fled the scene. Consequently, the stunned motorists began to grab their cellphones and post messages on Twitter warning other drivers to avoid the area. The message left behind stated the following:
No more extortions, no more killings of innocent people! Zetas in the state of Veracruz and politicians helping them: This is going to happen to you, or we can shoot you as we did to you guys before too. People of Veracruz, do not allow yourselves to be extorted; do not pay for protection; If you do is because you want to. This is the only thing these people (Los Zetas) can do. This is going to happen to all the Zetas-fucks that continue to operate in Veracruz. This territory has a new proprietor.
The Blog del Narco reported on 21 September 2011 that the message was supposedly signed by Gente Nueva, an enforcer group that works for Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the top boss of the Sinaloa cartel. Nonetheless, on 27 September 2011, the CJNG released a video claiming they had carried out these attacks; they apologized for the massacres in Veracruz but reiterated their efforts to fight off Los Zetas, who they claim "are not invincible." In the video of the CJNG, five men wearing ski-masks and completely black clothing are shown sitting behind a table. Then the man with the microphone stated that the Matazetas are "warriors without a face, but proudly Mexicans," and that their objective is to eradicate Los Zetas. They claimed in the video that they allegedly respect the Mexican Armed Forces and understand the government's stance against the drug cartels. In fact, the men in the video stated that they understand and respect the government's decision of refusing to negotiate with the cartels. They also criticized the politicians who have protected Los Zetas. In addition, they claimed that the Matazetas are "prohibited to extort, kidnap, steal, abuse, or do anything that will affect the national patrimony," and that they are the "armed wing of the Mexican people."
On 6 October 2011 in Boca del Río, Veracruz, 36 bodies were found by the Mexican authorities in three different houses. The Navy first discovered 20 bodies inside a house in a residential neighborhood. While searching at another house they found 11 more bodies. The third and final house contained one body. Four other bodies were confirmed separately by the state government of Veracruz. A day later, Reynaldo Escobar Pérez, the State Justice Attorney General, stepped down and resigned due to the drug-violence. And a day after his resignation, 10 more bodies were found throughout the city of Veracruz. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel was also responsible for 67 killings in Veracruz on 7 October 2011.
By 9 October 2011, in only eighteen days, the state of Veracruz reported 100 killings.
In response to the multiple executions between the drug cartels, the federal government launched a military-led operation in the state of Veracruz, known in Spanish as Operativo Veracruz Seguro. In October 2011, the state of Veracruz was a disputed territory between Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel.Francisco Blake Mora, Secretary of the Interior at the time, said that the operation was implemented to serve the five following goals: (1) Deploy the Armed Forces and the Federal Police throughout the Veracruz to "recuperate the areas controlled by the cartels." (2) Establish intelligence agencies to not only capture the cartel members, but to also dismantle their financial and operative networks; (3) Evaluate and inspect the police forces in Veracruz for any possible correlation with the cartels, "in order to count with loyal" police officiers; (4) Increase the federal and state funding to improve security measures; (5) Ensure that the government is the only entity that carries out law and order.
Continued attacks and 2012 Veracruz massacres
Despite the strong military presence, the authorities discovered 7 bodies inside a Ford Lobo on 8 October 2011 in Veracruz. On 22 December 2011, three public buses were attacked by drug cartel members on Federal Highway 105 in Veracruz, leaving 16 dead. Three U.S. citizens were among those dead. Soon after the shootouts, which happened in the early morning, the authorities carried out an operation to find those responsible, killing five gunmen. The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros asked Americans to avoid traveling on highways between cities in late hours of the night.
In Tampico Alto, Veracruz, on 23 December 2011 the Mexican authorities found 10 dead bodies after an anonymous call from a citizen. The corpses were dumped on a dirt road, and all of them were handcuffed and presented signs of torture. Nine out of the ten bodies were decapitated. Earlier in February 2011, Saturnino Valdés Llanos, the mayor of the municipality of Tampico Alto, was kidnapped in February 2011; his body was left in a garbage dump with 10 more bodies a week later. On 25 December 2011 near Tampico, Tamaulipas, a city on the border with Veracruz, 13 bodies were found inside an 18-wheeler truck. According to officials, the truck had license plates from Veracruz. Authorities indicated that this massacre was related to the other mass murders that had occurred in Veracruz. On 9 February 2012, the Mexican authorities exhumed 15 bodies from clandestine mass graves in Acayucan, Veracruz. According to government sources, by March 2012, the homicide rate in Veracruz and its surrounding territories has decreased.PresidentFelipe Calderón attributed the low homicide rates to the Operation Veracruz, the military-led operation implemented in October 2011.
On 3 May 2012 in Boca del Río, Veracruz, 3 photojournalists who covered the crime events in Veracruz were slain and dumped in several plastic bags in a canal. Press freedom groups indicated that the three journalists had "temporarily fled Veracruz after receiving threats [in 2011]." Over the past eighteen months, 7 journalist have been killed in Veracruz alone. There are only a few journalists reporting on crime-related stories in the state. Upon the arrest of several members of the cartel, the authorities confirmed on August 2012 that the CJNG was responsible for killing 5 journalists in Veracruz.
On 23 November 2011, a total of 26 bodies—16 of them burned to death—were located in several abandoned vehicles in Sinaloa. The incident began at early hours of the morning in Culiacán, Sinaloa with the discovery of a vehicle on fire. When the police forces managed to put down the flames, they found inside the vehicle a dozen of bodies burned to death, and with wood remains on top of them. All of the victims were handcuffed. Later on at 07:00 hours, anonymous calls from civilians notified the police that another vehicle in the northern city limits of Culiacán was on fire. The vehicle on fire was a Ford Ranger, and inside of were four bodies with bulletproof vests and handcuffed. During the night, 10 more bodies were found throughout several different municipalities.
The killings were allegedly carried out by Los Zetas as a response to the massacres done by the Matazetas (CJNG) in Veracruz.Stratfor believes that this major move by Los Zetas into the territory of the Sinaloa Cartel demonstrates the Zeta's ability to attack the "heart of those cartels' territories."
On 24 November 2011, three trucks containing 26 bodies were found in an avenue at Guadalajara, Jalisco. All of them were male corpses. At around 7:00 pm, the Guadalajara police received numerous anonymous calls from civilians reporting that "several vehicles with more than 10 bodies had been abandoned" in a major avenue. Upon the arrival of the police forces, they found a green Dodge Caravan in the middle lane of the highway, along with a Nissan Caravan just 66 feet (20 meters) away; on the farthest right lane was a white van. Reports state that Los Zetas and the Milenio Cartel are responsible for the massacre of these twenty-six alleged Sinaloa Cartel members. In addition, on November 2011, three men from the Milenio Cartel were arrested and linked to the massacre of the twenty-six people. The authorities concluded that only six of the twenty-six that were killed had criminal records, and another ten of those dead were reported as disappeared by their family members. Among those killed were small-business entrepreneurs; a cook; a mechanic; a dentist; a truck driver; and a house painter, among others.
According to the testimonies of several family members, a group of heavily armed men abducted several people by force. One of the witnesses said that some teenagers were "drinking soda in front of a store when armed men" in two trucks abducted them. The family of one of the kidnapped victims confessed that their loved one was "a teenager without vices or problems," and that the versions of him being part of a cartel are unjust and false. Other families claimed that their loved ones did not have any problems with anybody and were honest workers. Nevertheless, when the cartel members arrested were interrogated by the authorities, they claimed that those killed in the massacre were not innocent, and formed part of Los Torcidos (another name for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel). When asked if they had tortured them, the cartel members replied that they did not. One of the killers confessed that he had plans of leaving the criminal organization but was threaten to death by his own organization if he decided to do so.
Authorities concluded that this massacre was almost a "replica" of what happened two months earlier in Veracruz, and investigators mention that this massacre is a response to the killings done by the Matazetas against Los Zetas in the state of Veracruz.
2012 Jalisco massacres
The chopped-up remains of 18 bodies were found inside a Toyota Sienna and Ford EcoSport near the U.S. retiree communities in Chapala, Jalisco, just south of the city of Guadalajara. Eighteen heads were found along the dismembered bodies; some had been frozen, others were covered in lime, and the rest were found in an advance state of decomposition. An anonymous call alerted the police to the abandoned vehicles, which were found by the side of a highway early in the morning on 9 May 2012. They were consequently towed to government offices to unload the bodies. The authorities confirmed that a message was left behind by the killers, presumably from Los Zetas and the Milenio Cartel. The attorney general of the state of Jalisco, Tomás Coronado Olmos, stated that this massacre was a revenge attack for the 23 killed in the 2012 Nuevo Laredo massacres. In addition, 25 people were rescued after being kidnapped in Tala, Jalisco on 8 May 2012; the killers had plans to kill and "throw" them for public display. Another 10 people managed to escape their capture by members of Los Zetas that same day, and alerted the local media of the situation. Upon the arrest of the four alleged killers, one of the cartel members confessed that they had plans to "repeat" what had happened in the 2011 Guadalajara massacre, where 26 bodies were dumped in a major avenue for public display.
According to Proceso magazine, Los Zetas were planning to kill 50 people on 9 May 2012, a day before Mother's Day.
On 21 March 2012, the Matazetas uploaded a video on the Blog del Narco. The recording, which is slightly over four minutes, shows several men dressed in black, with ski-masks and heavily armed; some of them (apparently the leaders) were sitting down at a table—like it has been observed in other videos of the CJNG. In the communiqué, the men said that they will "clean up the states of Guerrero and Michoacán," and informed the federal government, the Armed Forces, and the Federal Police that the CJNG has no problems with them. Then they went on to say that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel was going to start a turf war "against the Knights Templar Cartel, who were reportedly "abusing of innocent people" and operating through "kidnappings, extortion, protection racketeering, property theft, and rape."
2012 Michoacán massacres
Following the message of the Matazetas to eradicate the Knights Templar Cartel in the state of Michoacán, 21 bodies have been found throughout several different municipalities of the state as of 12 April 2012. At the location of the executions, the authorities discovered cardboards signed by the CJNG.
Dismembered remains of 14 men were found in several plastic bags inside a Chrysler Voyager in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on 17 April 2012. All of those killed were between the ages of 30 and 35. Officials stated that they found a "message signed by a criminal group," but they did not release the content of the note, nor if those killed were members of Los Zetas or of the Gulf Cartel.CNNMéxico stated that the message left behind by the criminal group said that they were going to "clean up Nuevo Laredo" by killing Zeta members.The Monitor newspaper, however, said that a source outside of law enforcement but with direct knowledge of the attacks stated the 14 bodies belonged to members of Los Zetas who had been killed by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, now a branch of the Sinaloa Cartel. Following the attacks, the Sinaloa cartel's kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán Loera—better known as El Chapo Guzmán—sent a message to Los Zetas that they will fight for the control of the Nuevo Laredo plaza. The message read the following:
"We have begun to clear Nuevo Laredo of Zetas because we want a free city and so you can live in peace. We are narcotics traffickers and we don't mess with honest working or business people. I'm going to teach these scums to work Sinaloa style—without kidnapping, without payoffs, without extortion. As for you, 40, I tell you that you don't scare me. I know you sent H to toss heads here in my turf, because you don't have the stones nor the people to do it yourself. Don't forget that I'm your true father."
Nuevo Laredo is considered a stronghold of Los Zetas, although there were incursions by the Sinaloa Cartel in March 2012. Consequently, Los Zetas responded two days later with incursions to Sinaloa, the homestate of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel's first attempt to take over Nuevo Laredo happened in 2005, when Los Zetas was working as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel.
InSight Crime analysis
The "40" in the message is a reference to Miguel Treviño Morales, a top leader of Los Zetas based in Nuevo Laredo, and longtime adversary of El Chapo Guzmán. The "H" is presumably Héctor Beltrán Leyva, the last remaining brother of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. The Beltrán Leyva organization, unlike the Zetas, has presence in Sinaloa state, and would probably have an easier time attacking the Sinaloa Cartel on its own turf. The message does not mention the fact that the Gulf Cartel is probably supporting the Sinaloa Cartel in carrying out the executions. In addition, the banner suggests that the alliance between Los Zetas and the Beltrán Leyva Cartel remains intact as of 2012 despite the losses it lived in 2008. The message also suggests the differences in the modus operandi of Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, because as authors of InSight Crime allege, the Zetas have a reputation of operating through extortions, kidnappings, robberies, and other illicit activities; in contrast, the Sinaloa Cartel is known simply for drug trafficking. (Both assertions are not wholly true, but often reflect a popular sentiment.) Guzmán attempted to take over Nuevo Laredo after the capture of the Gulf Cartel leader, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, in 2003.
Nevertheless, Guzmán retreated after a few years of bloody turf wars. The Sinaloa Cartel's return to Nuevo Laredo, however, was seen again on March 2012 after Guzmán reportedly left several corpses and a message heralding his return. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Nuevo Laredo is the busiest border crossing in terms of truck crossings with over 1.7 million trucks a year, more than double than any other crossing on the Mexico–United States border. Nuevo Laredo is the fourth-busiest border crossing in terms of passenger vehicles. Patrick Corcoran of InSight Crime believes that the turf war in Nuevo Laredo will bring a huge wave of violence, but also mentioned that the circumstances have changed since the split of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas in early 2010. The current alliance between Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel may successfully extract Los Zetas and give El Chapo the upper hand.
On 9 March 2012, one of the founders of the organization, Erick Valencia Salazar, alias El 85, was captured by the Mexican Army along with another high-ranking lieutenant in Zapopan, Jalisco. Their apprehensions prompted over a dozen blockades throughout the city. 26 public transportation buses were burned with gasoline and then used to block the city streets. More than 30 assault rifles, grenades, cartridges, and ammunition magazines were confiscated.Felipe Calderón, the president of Mexico, congratulated the Mexican army for the capture of Erick Valencia Salazar.
The Matazetas (CJNG) later apologized for the blockades by putting up several banners throughout the Guadalajara metropolitan area. They wrote that the blockades were "only a reaction for messing with their CJNG companion," who reportedly dedicated his work to "maintain tranquility in the state of Jalisco." On 18 March 2012, José Guadalupe Serna Padilla, another ranking lieutenant in the cartel, was captured along with another cartel member as well. On 15 April 2012, Marco Antonio Reyes, reported to be the head of the cartel's gunmen, was captured in Veracruz along with five of his associates. The arrests also led to the capture of three other cartel members, including the head of the cartel's operations in the Veracruz cities of Veracruz and Boca del Río.