Nemesio Oseguera, alias ‘El Mencho’, has led the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel “CJNG” to the top of the new map of violence in Mexico, with tentacles throughout almost the entire country and in any criminal activity
In Mexico it is said that when a narco begins to be famous outside his homeland, the end of his career begins. Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias El Mencho or El Señor de los Gallos, had done everything possible to prevent this from happening. Until very recently. No capo, no matter how powerful, had dared to deploy high-caliber rifles and fire more than 100 times at a police chief in the capital in an emblematic street. The massacres in the provinces and even the offensives against the Army, no matter how tragic, were part of the everyday terror of the drug war in which the country has been involved for 14 years. But the attack against police chief Omar García Harfuch Last June, he moved all the spotlights back to this drug dealer, who has become the most wanted by Mexico and the United States, head of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel. And in the group’s latest show of force, through some videos, a hundred men armed to the teeth warned: he is “the boss”, the last heir to the criminal empire in Mexico.
Despite the trail of blood that follows him, Oseguera it does not respond to the image of the narco known to all inside and outside the Mexican borders. There are at most three images of him, released by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA, for its acronym in English) and some details about his beginnings in the world of crime. He was born in Michoacán —traditional land of poppy and marijuana cultivation, as well as the headquarters of other drug groups—, a border state with Jalisco, in the center of the country, in 1966. He measures 1.70 meters and weighs about 68 kilos, according to the DEA file. Son, like almost everyone, of a poor family. At the age of 14, some articles in the local press and the narcocorrido that praise him say, he went from wet (illegal) to the United States. There he was arrested at age 20 for drug possession and was deported. Like many others, he tried again. In 1994, at the age of 28,
He is the most wanted capo. US offers 10 million reward
It is in Jalisco where its history begins. In 2010, he founded the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG). And it becomes the armed wing of the Sinaloa cartel, then at war for control of the Gulf of Mexico with Los Zetas, the group led by elite ex-military men and whose terrifying mutilations went around the world. In September 2011, the emerging cartel left in an exclusive area of Boca del Río (Veracruz), in the heart of the Zeta territory, its letter of introduction: 35 corpses on the asphalt of Avenida de Ruiz Cortines. The massacre earned them the nickname of matazetas. And in 2015, after a failed operation to stop Mencho, they shot down a military helicopter with a rocket launcher.
The Mencho organization has been growing in the shadow of others better known such as Sinaloa, Los Zetas or Los Caballeros Templarios. While the security forces focused on breaking the backs of the big mafias during Felipe Calderón’s war (2006-2012) against drug trafficking, which Enrique Peña Nieto continued until 2018, the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, relatively young, was taking over, like a reptile from the niches left by its enemies.
Presence of drug traffickers by states
Today the cartel has extended its tentacles to practically the entire Mexican territory, except Sinaloa. That state in the north of the country is the last bastion of the cartel that bears his name and was inherited by the children of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán associated with the historical founder, Ismael El Mayo Zambada, the only capo of the old guard, with more than 40 years of experience, who has never been arrested. There is not a corner in the country, except for the aforementioned one, in which some criminal cell has not allied itself with those of the Mencho and they presume in their executions to be of the four letters, as they are also known. And this major expansion has made his group the most powerful. And to him, the most wanted boss, for which the DEA increased the reward for his capture in March to 10 million dollars (8.4 million euros), the highest in the history of the agency.
Silver or lead
The key to its tremendous progress lies, according to security expert Eduardo Guerrero, in its ability to corrupt authorities at all levels of government and, in addition, the use of extreme violence when its proposal is not complied with. “They handle the silver and lead law to perfection. They are very good at corrupting and very good at intimidating. Before, we only had the profile of Sinaloa, very political, negotiator; or Los Zetas, which was very extreme in the use of violence. But we did not have a sign that was placed in the middle of these two extremes. And that is why it has been so successful in penetrating bureaucratic and governmental spheres. Either threatening them or buying them, ”Guerrero explains.
New Crime Dynamics Explain Record Rise in Murders
The cartel is also the protagonist of the new logic of violence in Mexico, where until a few years ago organized crime and drug trafficking were synonymous. Well, the objective is the monopoly of crime, of any kind and in any place: theft of fuel (gas or gasoline), human trafficking, extortion of businessmen, kidnapping, assault on freight trains or trucks. It is no longer necessary to control production or traffic areas, such as borders. Now the business is in any corner of the country.
The recent dynamics of organized crime, driven by the spraying of the large cartels into dozens of cells after the arrest of their main leaders, also explains the figures: almost 100 homicides a day in the country. Bloodier rates than during the worst years of the drug war. With entities like Colima, whose murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants (46.36) is higher than that of Honduras, one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Previously prosperous places like Guanajuato are now very dangerous
Until recently, Mencho’s men were waging open warfare in the traditionally safe and prosperous region of Guanajuato. A land far from the internal battles of the narcos from the north, with the lowest homicide figures in the country until three years ago. The dispute over control of extortion and fuel theft in an area sown with Pemex pipelines and which also has one of its most important refineries, Salamanca, made the State one of the most violent in Mexico: with 4,422 murders as of May of this year. Figures bloodier than those recorded in Sinaloa, Tamaulipas or Michoacán.
The arrest, last week, of Mencho’s main rival in the area, José Antonio Yépez, El Marro, leader of the local Santa Rosa de Lima (Guanajuato) cartel, seems to open the way for those from Jalisco in this region. And many critics of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador questioned whether this blow to crime would not be strengthening the most powerful in the country.
The business goes beyond drugs: human trafficking, robbery, extortion …
But the capture of Mencho is not an exclusive objective of Mexico. The pressure of his neighbor to the north seems to mark the fate of the cartel and Nemesio Oseguera has made him his public enemy number one. The United States recently named the group it leads as one of the “fastest-growing transnational criminal organizations that is among the most prolific manufacturers of methamphetamine in the world.” And since 2019 it has undertaken an important operation called Project Python, which in its Mexican version, Blue Agave, led to the arrest in March of the largest number of collaborators in the history of the group (more than 600) in the United States and the freezing of some 1,900 accounts, with more than 20,000 million pesos, slightly more than 757 million euros, as announced by the Mexican Ministry of Finance in June.
The siege of the most powerful criminal in Mexico is getting closer and closer. In February, his son, Rubén Oseguera, El Menchito, was extradited after three unsuccessful attempts to capture and prosecute him in Mexico. The cartel took revenge for the extradition with the murder of one of the Mexican judges linked to the process, Uriel Villegas, shot in Colima with his wife. And a few days after Menchito stepped onto US soil, her sister, Jessica Johanna Oseguera, who had attended her hearing in Washington, was captured on charges of money laundering.
The videos released in mid-July of some 80 hitmen from the Jalisco cartel cheering the patron with the Mexican flag stamped on the front of a military suit, high-caliber weapons, and armored trucks, were the last show of force by the great Mexican narco. El Mencho, as a state within a state, with the ability to wander such arsenal with impunity. The latest challenge from a drug dealer to a fragile country that repeats that it is “no longer at war.” “Hugs, not bullets,” the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, repeats like a mantra.