Times have changed in the North American underworld. With El Chapo Guzmán out of the game and his old allies detained, hidden or diminished, the United States’ justice now points to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, CJNG.
The government’s anti-drug agency, the DEA, announced on Wednesday the capture of more than 200 alleged members of the organization on US soil over the last 24-hours. At the same time, the Justice Department has increased the amount of the reward it offers for information on the group’s leader, Nemesio Oseguera, aka El Mencho. As of now it offers up to $ 10 million for information leading to the capture of El Mencho.
At a joint press conference, the acting director of the DEA, Uttam Dhillon and the deputy attorney general, Brian A. Benczkowski, have reported that the arrests this Wednesday culminate an operation that has been brewing for the past six months. In that time, the number of detainees amounts to more than 700, only in the United States, and the number of drugs seized is more than 20,000 kilos, the majority are methamphetamines. Authorities also intercepted $22 million from the criminal group.
Dubbed the Python Project, the operation marks a change in the list of interests of the United States’ security agencies, all within a few months of the presidential elections.
The Jalisco Cartel now appears as the number one enemy of the government of US President Donald Trump, taking the place that the Sinaloa cartel once held.
After the conviction of Joaquín Guzmán last year and before Dámaso López, one of his main collaborators, the Sinaloa organization fell prey to an internal war. Factions that were once under the protection of Guzmán, López or the disappeared Ismael Zambada, alias El Mayo, have been fighting among themselves for years.
El Mencho thus becomes the most wanted person by the DEA, who accuses him of leading a criminal organization continuously since 2007, of conspiring to import and distribute cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States and using firearms, among other crimes.
Dhillon recalled that justice arrested El Mencho’s son, Rubén Oseguera, alias El Menchito, a month ago for drug trafficking and use of firearms. The DEA considers El Menchito to be second in command to the CJNG. In late February, he added, authorities captured his sister, Johanna Oseguera, who Dhillon has named as one of the organization’s main money launderers.
Both he and Benczkowski, from the attorney general’s office, have insisted on the danger of the CJNG. Dillon has even recalled the CJNG rocket launcher attack on an Army helicopter in Mexico in May 2015, which killed eight military personnel and a federal police officer. Then, the clashes between the Mexican Government and the El Mencho group were constant and violent.
Since May 1, 2015, criminals and authorities have clashed in different parts of Jalisco, including Guadalajara, the capital, in addition to the highway that connects to Puerto Vallarta, the main tourist point of the state.