Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez, the controversial governor from the state of Nuevo León in Mexico, was dubbed the “Grinch of Mexico” after telling kids at a Christmas event that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Rodriguez, who was speaking at an event held for the families of police officers, addressed the children in the crowd with some spoilers:
“Let’s have a happy morning… a happy afternoon. Hug your father when you have a chance. Tell him that you love him very much. Because your father is Santa Claus. Did you know that?”
Upon hearing Rodriguez’s announcement, several people in the crowd groaned audibly. Others found it hilarious.
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Minutes after Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador told reporters that his new approach to curb cartel violence is working, Mexico’s fast-growing threat, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), killed 14 police officers and set their cars on fire during a deadly ambush. The police convoy was passing through El Aguaje, a small town in the state of Michoacan, to serve a warrant when 20 armed vehicles ambushed the officers. Fourteen officers were declared dead and another nine were injured.
As first responders arrived on the scene, they found handwritten messages, signed “CJNG.”
Families of the victims are angry that their loved ones weren’t more heavily armed to defend themselves against the thirty gunmen who attacked the police convoy from behind. One day after the attack, a memorial service became a town hall of sorts. Grieving family members shouted at Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles, “Like sheep to the slaughter!”
Five families refused to allow the coffins of their loved ones to be present in the company of those they feel were responsible for the deaths: the officials who didn’t adequately arm the police to defend themselves.
Obrador’s strategy to end cartel violence is two-fold: end corruption and provide resources to poverty-stricken regions.
“We are going to continue with our strategy,” López Obrador later said. “For us it is very important for there to be well-being, that peace with justice can be achieved … and also avoiding that authorities mix with crime.” Experts think Obrador’s strategy is smart for long-term success in stabilizing Mexico. Still, in the short-term, murders have only increased in Mexico. Last year, a record number of 29,000 murders were recorded, and 2019 may just break that record.
Falko Ernst, a Mexican analyst for the International Crisis Group, says Michoacán will continue to be “deep narco-war territory” until the state develops a strategy to de-signify the land.
In a Twitter thread, Ernst recalled the decades-long history of cartel conflict in a small, rural village called El Aguaje. It “sits on a key overland road connecting the Hot Land region with the Sierra Madre, and was once a stronghold of the Milenio Cartel, big-time coke runners in the ’90s/early 2000s,” Ernst tweeted. At the time, a young Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who would later become “El Mencho” and the boss of CJNG, was a member of the Milenio cartel.
Ernst was there in 2011 when Milenio drug lords were dragged out of their mansions and executed. “La Familia” then took over the town, until it split into two conflicting gangs. That’s when El Mencho broke away to form the Jalisco (or CJNG) cartel.
Now, El Mencho, personally ousted by La Familia, is warring for their territory, leaving civilians in the crossfire.
El Mencho lived in the U.S. at one point, without papers, and served three years in prison for selling drugs stateside. As soon as he was released in 1997, he was deported to Mexico, where he went on to serve on the Jalisco state police force. For some reason, he left the force to join the Milenio cartel. El Mencho was born just a few miles away from El Aguaje. Now, he’s leading CJNG to reclaim what they think belongs to them–la puebla del Aguaje.
The DEA has dubbed El Mencho one of their “most wanted,” and has offered a $10 million bounty for his arrest.
“El Chapo was violent, but El Mencho has taken it to a new level,” the lead DEA agent told Univision.
“Decapitations, dissolving bodies in acid, public executions, ripping out the heart, killing women and children, bombings against people. It happens almost every day,” DEA agent Kyle Mori told Univision. “El Chapo was violent, but El Mencho has taken it to a new level.”
In August, CJNG hung nine bodies from a bridge in Uruapan, Michoacán, and hung up a large banner that read, “Lovely people. Carry on with your day.” Ten other bodies were dumped on the road nearby.