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Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Insurgency Overview

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG) is one of Mexico's largest and most powerful cartels. It first appeared in 2009 as a splinter group of the Milenio Cartel. The CJNG is mostly recognised for its aggressive tactics and growing influence throughout Mexico. Kidnapping, drug and human trafficking, extortion, and other illicit operations are all methods employed by the group to maintain its effective control over the areas it occupies. Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, "El Mencho," one of the world's most sought-after drug lords, is the organisation's current leader and is based in the Mexican state of Jalisco. For any information that will lead to his arrest, the Mexican government is offering $30 million pesos, while the US government is offering $10 million (1).

History & Foundations

The CJNG rose from a power vacuum caused by a split of the Milenio Cartel. Once a close ally of the Sinaloa cartel, the Milenio Cartel acted as an armed wing as well as aiding in their drug movement operations, starting around 2003. It mainly operated in the provinces of Jalisco and Michoacán. Óscar Nava Valencia, “El Lobo”, was the leader of the Milenio Cartel and, in 2010, was captured and extradited to the United States on drug charges. Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, “El Nacho”, was a Sinaloa leader who played a large part in the alliance between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Milenio Cartel. He was killed by Mexican forces in July 2010. With these leaders, “El Lobo” and “El Nacho,” gone, the Milenio Cartel faced severe internal problems, causing the cartel to split into two different groups: “La Resistencia” and the “Torcidos” (“The Twisted Ones”) for control of the Jalisco region. La Resistencia claims that the Torcidos gave up El Lobo to the Mexican police, and it is due to this accusation that they are referred to as the Torcidos. The Torcidos would become what is now the CJNG.

Nemesio Oseguera Ramos, “El Mencho,” is the current leader and is also labeled as the founder of the CJNG. Other founding members of the CJNG are Martin Arzola Ortega “El 53” and Erick Valencia “El 85”. All of them share the same experience of operating within the Milenio cartel (1).

In 2009, the CJNG began operating under the name Matazetas (Zeta Killers), and they made it their mission to hunt down opposing cartel members of the Los Zetas cartel. Later on, the CJNG would be recognised as it is now. Three bodies were discovered inside an abandoned truck in a Cancun neighbourhood. At the scene, a message read: “We are the new group Mata Zetas (Zeta Killers), and we are against kidnapping and extortion, and we will fight them in all states for a cleaner Mexico”. The deaths were linked to an earlier video published online, which shows these three individuals being interviewed by six masked men carrying assault weapons. The three interviewed were cartel members who admitted to their crimes, as well as the names of officials who had aided them (2).

The spring of 2011 marked the date that the CJNG would announce its declaration of war on all of the other cartels in Mexico. This year would be infamous for the massacres that would occur. On September 20, 2011, 35 dead bodies were found in two different trucks in Boca del Rio, Veracruz. These bodies are all claimed to belong to members of Los Zetas (3). Over time, the CJNG would make the news more frequently for their violent attacks, which oftentimes included civilians, police, and other cartel members. Interestingly, their current largest rivals are their former partners, the Sinaloa Cartel.

Ideology & Objectives

The CJNG has a broad range of goals, some of which are aimed at increasing its geographic influence and dominance, conquering rival cartels, and being the head of the drug trade. These goals are not largely different from the goals of rival cartels, as most of them are fighting for control and to dominate the drug trade. So far, the CJNG has made itself a top player in Mexico's drug trade, and it is mostly recognised for its production and transportation of cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin.

Currently, the CJNG is known to be operating in at least 27 of Mexico's 32 states. They mainly dominate the states of Jalisco, Veracruz, Colima, Nayarit, Mexico State, and Guerrero. Many of the territories they have a presence in are also heavily contested by other rival cartels such as the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, and the Pajaros Sierra. The border between Michoacan and Jalisco is a notable area of conflict. The Pajaros Sierra cartel operates heavily in that area to try and expand its reach into CJNG territory (4).

The Diversification of their activities is another important objective of the CJNG, as the CJNG does not only involve itself in drug trafficking. They also participate in kidnappings, extortion, and even oil theft. Their economic diversification solidifies their position, so if one revenue stream fails or is disrupted, they have more to fall back on.

Intimidation over their territories is another key way in which the CJNG successfully operates. Journalists, civilians, police, opposing cartel members, politicians, and even ex-police officers are among those targeted. They use murder and other violent tactics to inspire terror in order to stop any resistance from citizens and security personnel. Among these are neighbourhood hangings of dead bodies and widespread beheadings, dismemberments, and beatings that result in death.

Law enforcement and other governmental agencies are among the institutions that the CJNG seeks to infiltrate. The cartel attempts to diminish the rule of law that is present in the aforementioned regions by using coercive techniques such as bribery and violent threats to ensure its ability to perform criminal activities without fear of reprisal.

Military Capabilities

As of today, the CJNG is one of the most powerful militarised crime syndicates in the world. They frequently post videos of their supply of weapons, and there are videos of sicarios carrying around military-grade weaponry such as .50-caliber rifles, varying types of assault rifles, grenades, and C4 explosives. Videos have also surfaced of the CJNG utilizing civilian drones to conduct surveillance and even aerial bombings on targets. In addition to their extensive arsenal, they have also used homemade armoured vehicles.

In a recently released video, the CJNG shows off a brigade of armoured trucks with makeshift turrets mounted on top and covered in plate-steel armour. Many masked men are seen in the video with bulletproof vests with the words CJNG on them. The weapons that they have access to have posed a large issue that Mexican security forces and civilians have had to contend with (5).

Approach to Resistance

To obtain its objectives, the CJNG utilises a variety of different intimidation techniques, which include torture, beheading, public executions, dismemberment, kidnapping, and reports of cannibalism, among others. These acts are used to intimidate rival cartels and others that could pose a threat to their rule.

Blockades and public confrontations with police and other cartels are common techniques that are used to establish themselves in whatever area they are in. They commonly upload videos of masked members carrying weapons to announce their arrival in an area; done to ensure that the public knows who 'runs the area'.

Threats are commonplace for any cartel to operate. This is especially true with the CJNG, which openly threatens people's families and others as a means of forcing recruitment or to simply maintain dominance.

Cases of cannibalism have recently surfaced. A video surfaced of a CJNG Sicario eating the heart straight out of an opposing sicario's chest. “Cannibal Schools,” which the CJNG operates, are recruitment centres that are given that title because of the methods of initiating members into the cartel. In these centres, they are taught how to cut flesh and are reportedly forced to eat the flesh in front of the boss (6).

International Relations & Potential Alliances

Although the CJNG mainly remains in Mexico, it has been known to operate in the U.S. and even has some traces in the European and African drug markets. The American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led a year-long operation from May 2022 through May 2023 called “Operation Last Mile”. This operation focused on tracking down cartel distribution networks all over the United States. The two main cartels targeted were the CJNG and their rivals, The Sinaloa Cartel, which was formerly led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The majority of the methamphetamine and fentanyl movement into the U.S. can be traced to these two cartels. The operation found street gangs and criminal organisations associated with the cartels across various American cities. “Operation Last Mile” seized nearly 44 million fentanyl pills, $100 million, 91,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 8,497 firearms, and 6,500 pounds of fentanyl, and made 3,337 arrests. The DEA states that all of the fentanyl powder that was seized would have equated to 193 million deadly doses of Fentanyl (7).

The violent and pervasive nature of the fight against cartels has led many conservative American politicians to call for using the American military in Mexico in order to fight the cartels. This is heavily debated but is becoming increasingly important as the fight against cartels in America has ramped up as a part of the war on drugs and has reached the American public in a way that has never been seen before (7).

Works Cited (Chicago-style)

(1) - InSight Crime. “Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG).” InSight Crime, August 7, 2022.

(2) - Ellmer, Michael. “CJNG: Out with the Old, in with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.” Grey Dynamics, November 10, 2022.

(3) - “Polarization and Sustained Violence in Mexico’s Cartel War.” Stratfor. Accessed July 2, 2023.

(4) - Actor profile: The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) - acled. Accessed July 3, 2023.

(5) - “Powerful Mexican Drug Cartel Shows off Troops with Military-Style Weapons and Armoured Vehicles.” The Independent, July 18, 2020.

(6) - Fitz-Gibbon, Jorge. “Mexican Cartel ‘Terror Schools’ Train Recruits in Cannibalism: Report.” New York Post, February 15, 2022.

Gallery and Videos

(7) - “Dea Operation Last Mile Tracks down Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel Associates Operating within the United States.” DEA. Accessed July 2, 2023.

Additional Resources


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