Jalisco New Generation might sound like a Mexican boy band, but in fact it's a violent cartel that now has the dubious distinction of being considered the Mexican government's public enemy No. 1, high-ranking officials tell me. The cartel might not be an international household name yet — and certainly doesn't sound as menacing as Pacific cartel cell “The Artististic Assassins” or Zeta cartel subgroup “Zeta Blood” — but don't be fooled by the name. Intelligence reports claim the splinter group created by notorious and incarcerated kingpin Joaquin ‘Chapo’ Guzman is now Mexico’s most powerful and rich criminal enterprise.
The group has mainly profited from the production of methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as kidnappings and the South American cocaine trade. Their rise to prominence was also made possible by authorities significantly weakening the cartel's main rival, the Knights Templar. Today, the New Generation cartel is Mexico’s biggest national security threat.
Jalisco New Generation was born in 2010, after the Mexican army killed Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, one of the top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel. Chapo commissioned the group as a Sinaloa branch specialized in the elimination of Zetas in Jalisco. Consequently, the cartel became commonly known as Los Matazetas, The Zeta Killers.
Eventually, Jalisco New Generation became a sort of Sinaloa Frankenstein, growing its own brain and ambitions, which it used to dispute the Michoacan territory with the Knights Templar cartel.
The capture of el Chapo helped aid the continued rise of the New Generation cartel, which has benefited from the fragmentation and internal disputes among rival groups. Turf wars between members of the Sinaloa cartel and its allies have deterred attempts to establish a new head within that organization. Intelligence reports determine that in Tijuana, an urban hotspot for Sinaloa thugs, those who are still loyal to el Chapo are disputing leadership with those who want the alleged No. 2, Ismael “Mayo” Zambada, assume leadership. The power struggle even has a popular billing on the border, where people refer to it as “Chapitos versus Mayitos.”
U.S. deportations are adding fuel to the fire. Approximately 100,000 Mexican undocumented immigrants are being sent back Tijuana on a yearly basis. These people find themselves trapped in economically depressed border towns and inevitably become a direct supply for cartel armies. The situation could intensify the conflict in Tijuana.
The meteoric rise of the Jalisco New Generation cartel is surprising considering the group was forged only four years ago. Their emergence is the indirect result of a government strategy to eradicate cartel heads, leading to organizational fragmentation and the creation of diverging subgroups.
And now that Chapo is in prison, authorities are organizing to go after the monster he created.
Carlos Loret de Mola is an award winning Mexican journalist and popular news anchor of Televisa’s “Primero Noticias.” He has served as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Syria and Libya and writes for a number of news outlets on issues ranging from the drug war to international politics. Carlos has broken many influential stories about the operations that led to the capture of some of Mexico’s most wanted criminals. In 2001 he wrote the book "The Deal. Mexican economy trapped by drug trafficking." He is a frustrated chef, runner and guitar troubadour… but he keeps trying.