Things That Matter

Mexico Has A New Cartel Leader: His Name Is ‘El Mencho’ And He’s Targeting Police And Instilling Fear In Communities

In recent years, as drug cartel leader after drug cartel leader has been either killed or arrested by authorities (or rival gangs), violence has continued to soar out of control in many parts of Mexico.

With the capture of El Chapo, and his subsequent extradition to the US, a major power vacuum was left in his wake. Various drug cartels and organized crime groups have been fighting for control over territory vacated by his former cartel. One leader to seemingly be rising to the top is Nemesio Cervantes – leader of Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel.

His cartel has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 14 police officers this week.

Members of an ultra-violent Mexican cartel killed at least 14 police officers on Monday, after ambushing a convoy with armored vehicles and opening fire with high-powered rifles. 

At least 9 other officers were wounded in the attack, according to the federal public security ministry.

The attack took place while police were on an operation to carry out a court order in the small town of El Aguaje, in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, which has seen a significant uptick in violence since Obrador took office last December.

Monday’s police murders are just the latest in a series of high-casualty attacks conducted by the CJNG cartel, which is headed up by 53-year-old Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes. Known as “El Mencho,” he lived in the U.S. illegally in the 1980s and served three years in prison there for selling drugs, before being deported to Mexico in 1997.

He is currently among the DEA’s “most wanted” fugitives, with a $10 million bounty on his head.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, claims his security policies are working.

At a press conference on the morning of the massacre, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed his efforts to end Mexico’s gang violence problem were working. “You can’t fight fire with fire,” he said. “You can’t fight violence with violence… You have to fight evil by doing good.”

Minutes later, over a dozen police officers had been massacred.

Obrador had hoped to address Mexico’s spiraling murder rate by tackling the root causes of the violence, including corruption and poverty, but as his first full year in office draws to a close, he’s on course to presiding over a record number of killings.

Nemesio Cervantes – leader of Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel – has quickly risen to become one of Mexico’s most wanted.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official who leads the investigation to capture him told Univision Noticias that El Mencho also has found his best hideout in mountainous areas of three Mexican states controlled by his crime organization.

“He hides in mountainous parts of Jalisco, Michoacán and Colima. We believe he’s not in the cities any more,” said Kyle Mori, the DEA special agent in Los Angeles who leads the team tirelessly trying to track down the Michoacan capo also known as ‘Lord of the Roosters.’

Trying to avoid compromising the investigation started eight years ago, when the DEA noticed the JNGC’s fast growth in Mexico, Mori paused when asked specifically whether El Mencho is hiding in luxury cabins, humble homes or even caves.

“I’ll say this: It’s a combination of a lot of things. I don’t believe he spends a lot of time in the same place, or in the same type of home. It’s a combination of everything that you can imagine,” he said. “He’s definitely moving constantly.”

DEA intelligence reports suggest that Oseguera Cervantes has created his own “Golden Triangle.”

In fact, he’s been claiming refuge in the same general area where El Chapo Guzman once hid for many years, a region fertile for the cultivation of poppies and marijuana that covers parts of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa.

The El Mencho bastion, however, covers a large region where narcotics are cultivated and clandestine laboratories operate and includes two major seaports – Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan and Manzanillo in Colima – where his cartel receives shipments of precursor chemicals for making synthetic drugs. The region also includes Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, Mexico’s third-largest city and home to a vigorous economy that allows it to hide its money laundering operations.

Not only has he risen the ranks as Mexico’s most wanted, El Mencho has already entered Mexican pop culture.

Credit: DEA

A traditional Mexican song known as a corrido by the group Los Plebes del Rancho already noted his rise as the new “Lord of the Mountain” – “Few know his face/He rarely comes down to towns/He moves between the mountains/From up there he runs everything.”

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