Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel has turned to al-Qaeda and Taliban-inspired guerrilla tactics in a bloody new phase of their battle to wipe out their rivals.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel, known by their Spanish-language acronym CJNG, is using landmines and explosives-laden drones to kill other gang members, cops and soldiers in a savage campaign of murder. The gang is also working with Middle East jihadi “technical advisors,” according to Mexican law enforcement and security sources.
“Their philosophy is basically if you are not with us, you are against us,” said Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and expert on Mexican cartels.
“That includes the police that refuse to be on their payroll, local communities and their rivals. It doesn’t surprise me that they are consulting with terrorists because what they are engaging in are acts of terrorism.”
The Mexican army defused 12 handmade landmines last week in Tepalcatepec, in Michoacan state, where the CJNG is dominant, according to Milenio, a national newspaper based in Monterrey. One powerful explosive damaged an armored vehicle and injured 10 soldiers, the paper said.
The state is heavily controlled by the Jalisco cartel and is among the most dangerous areas in the country, with 200 homicides reported this year. Last year, the state recorded more than 2,700 murders, according to law enforcement data.
Mexican security experts cited by Milenio described most of the CJNG explosives as metal pipes filled with gunpowder and attached to a battery and detonator. The devices are buried underground and explode upon contact with a vehicle.
“Jalisco Nueva Generacion was the first to use drones with explosives attached to them, so it doesn’t surprise me that they are now using landmines and taking a page from al Qaeda,” Almonte told The Post.
“The mines are something new for them,” he said. “They appear to be similar to the ones used against US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Last month, the Jalisco cartel used a drone to drop explosives on an encampment of displaced people in a Michoacan forest, according to El Universal newspaper. The video footage, taken from the drone, shows dozens of people running for their lives as the explosives ignite trees in a fiery blaze near the municipality of Tepalcatepec.
The municipality is at the crossroads where the CJNG is fighting a turf war against its main rival, the Carteles Unidos, a criminal organization made up of gangs, including Cartel de Tepalcatepec, Los Viagras and other groups bent on destroying the CJNG, according to InSight Crime.
“We’ve now had four months of insecurity,” said Tepalcatepec Mayor Martha Laura Mendoza last month. “But nobody turns around to see [what’s happening]. This is the only municipality where there are more than 3,000 displaced people. Four months and no one provides a solution.”
In September 2021, five men who were guarding a checkpoint to keep cartel members out of the region were decapitated by CJNG, according to reports. The Jalisco cartel also warned local residents in audio recordings to keep out of their way.
Led by Nemesio Ruben Oseguera Cervantes (aka El Mencho), CJNG is among Mexico’s most violent cartels, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The cartel is particularly known for its bold attacks on Mexican security forces. A 2015 ambush by the cartel left 15 officers dead. The group was also behind an assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch in 2020, when the top cop was shot at 414 times but wasn’t hit, though two bodyguards and one passerby were killed.
El Mencho is the most wanted man in Mexico and among the most wanted in the US, with a DEA bounty of $10 million for information leading to his capture.
In November, Mexican security forces arrested El Mencho’s wife Rosalinda Gonzalez, who headed up the criminal organization’s finances. She was released on $78,000 bail.