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The CJNG Winter Offensive: An Interview-Opinion by David Saucedo

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By: David Saucedo

-What is the reason for the increase in the number of massacres, violent murders and, in general, the rebound in the number of homicides that are committed in Guanajuato at the beginning of this year?

There is a new offensive by the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG) in Guanajuato. Since the end of December of last year, the General Command of the CJNG ordered its cells stationed in the entity to “advance lines”, that is, to conquer more municipalities in the power of rival criminal groups. Currently the troops of Nemesio Oceguera, alias “El Mencho”, leader of the CJNG, control more than half of the territory of the state of Guanajuato, but there are still areas under the control of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL), Unión de León ( UL),  Carteles Unidos (CU) and Gulf Cartel (CG).

After the capture of “El Marro”, the CSRL lost some municipalities that it had under its criminal control. This is due to the fact that several of its chiefs of the plaza changed sides and joined the ranks of the CJNG. The Jaliscienses gained more territories thanks to pacts and negotiations with rival plaza chiefs, than due to military conquests. Their strategy has been to fight and negotiate. But since late last year the CJNG launched a “WINTER OFFENSIVE” to try to deliver a fatal blow to rival cartels.

-Why don’t the authorities give explanations or report on this alleged offensive by the CJNG, nor do they give an account of the territorial movements of the cartels?

In part, so as not to alarm the civilian population. Partly so as not to call into question his triumphant speech about the supposed decrease in violence. But sometimes it is also due to real flaws in the intelligence apparatus of the state and federal forces. On many occasions the authorities do not know what is happening on the battlefield, since they are essentially reactive. The war is conducted by the cartels. On the other hand, in Guanajuato a military logic prevails, the declarations of all the parties in dispute, both the criminals and the authorities, are typical of a “war propaganda.” Most of the statements are not to inform, but to confuse, hide and intimidate the adversary. They do not report. They misrepresent and manipulate facts and figures.

-Could you give us concrete examples of some of the movements of this alleged offensive by the CJNG?

The massacre at a wake in Celaya was perpetrated by a CJNG cell against an alleged CSRL cell of drug dealers. The massacre that occurred the next day in which 4 people died, one of them a baby less than one year old, was the response of the CSRL, against other people identified as members of the CJNG. The attacks in Irapuato, the metropolitan area of ​​Uriangato-Moroleón, in San José Iturbide, in San Luis de la Paz, etc., have the same logic. The CJNG makes the first blow and then comes a reaction from the CSRL. “El Mencho’s”  troops offend and Santa Rosa’s defend.

We are in a different war scene. In the past, the CJNG had already launched offensives against the CSRL, but “El Marro” responded by launching rearguard attacks on the CJNG strongholds, which slowed down the attacks. Sometimes he set out to conquer new municipalities to replace those he had lost. On this occasion, the CSRL cells are entrenched and crouched in their municipalities, containing and holding up the Jalisco attacks. In a sense, they are under siege in various regions and municipalities.

The incursion of the CJNG into the emblematic community of Santa Rosa in Villagrán was to plant its flag in an area still considered to be “El Marro” territory. From a military-tactical point of view, this community has no value. But for the CJNG it was important to occupy it because of the psychological effect and media blow that it was intended to inflict on the adversary. State forces prevented it.

-Why don’t the authorities put a stop to the violence in Guanajuato? Is it due to corruption and complicity with drug traffickers or is it simple incompetence?

Obviously authorities from the three levels of government were infiltrated by the drug cartels. And, of course, there was also a serious incompetence for having allowed the problem to grow, until it got out of control.

But I would like to mention an additional component. The problem of insecurity has not been properly addressed due to political calculations on the part of both the state and federal governments. The state government found that homicidal violence was only affecting levels of voting intention in favor of the PAN in some municipalities. Poll after poll, blue electoral strategists found that violence decreased their vote in just a dozen municipalities. That is why the investment that the state government will make this year in terms of security is not up to the challenge. The state budget is totally electoral, when a war budget had to be designed and to face the health emergency derived from COVID.

For his part, during the previous six-year term, President Enrique Peña, but most notably Miguel Osorio Chong, his Secretary of the Interior, reached the opposite conclusion. In other words, the cartel war would weaken the National Action candidates in Guanajuato. In sum, by underestimating its effects or by over-estimating its electoral impact, both the state and federal governments, at the time, did not apply the necessary measures to stop the cartels.

-So, only by losing or winning elections will there be a change in government positions against the cartels?

It would be an important catalyst. The electoral dynamics, added to the social and media pressure, little by little will force a true and real “turn of the wheel”. 

But there is still a long way to go. The divisions within MORENA make it difficult to form true electoral fronts with which the PAN’s dominance can begin to break down. The blue and white already only has a third of the vote in many municipalities, but the political forces that make up the remaining two-thirds do not agree to build winning coalitions (although the state government also operates to prevent it). On the social front, citizen collectives, the opposition press, human rights activists, student movements, etc., are still on their learning curve. They lack the skill and experience to transform their moral victories into political triumphs. It is difficult for them to jump into the field of political negotiation. They have not even considered the possibility of forging alliances with the moderate sectors of the state government. That will change over time. As it happened with the social activists of other entities of the country, who in the end were legislators, officials or governors: Rosario Ibarra, Amalia García, Mariclare Acosta, among others, jumped from social activism to the political arena to champion fair positions and necessary in terms of human rights, freedom of the press, educational reform, etc., to make them a reality, holding public office.

-Would the political alternate in Guanajuato help combat insecurity?

Of course, but I’m not under any illusions either. Basically, reproaching the governor or the president of the republic for the lack of capacity to stop violence, using the old postulate of liberalism, which indicates that the first obligation of the state is to guarantee the property and security of citizens, constitutes a great theoretical reflection, but a terrible practical position.

Guanajuato is the battlefield of national cartels (CJNG, Sinaloa Cartel) and local mafias (CSRL, Unión de León, CU) that surpass governments. State and federal forces are supporting actors. The true protagonists of this drama are the cartels. Asking the authorities to stop the violence is like asking the sun to shine all day. Our societies incubated criminal organizations within them. Among the many common places that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says about security, on this specific point, he is right. The dominant economic, political and social model produces cartels.

They are Frankensteins that come to life and become independent. Therefore, the authorities are not at the helm. Those who lead the war are the drug lords. The state and federal forces are in the back seat (or if you like, they are only co-pilots, in a complicity scheme) and the citizens are below, between the wheels of the car, trying to survive.

-Should the authorities continue to be singled out for their incompetence and complicity? 

Of course. There are many things that governments are failing to do and it must be said. But the Guanajuato press (independent and official) must take a conceptual turn. In the Bajío Cartel War it is no longer so important what the authorities do or do not do. They may be praised or criticized, but their own incompetence or complicity sets limits for them. The cartels, their leadership rotation, their troop movements, their alliance strategies, their forays into politics, etc. must be analyzed in the foreground. As they have done several masters of journalism in other latitudes.

What actions would the authorities have to take to truly reduce homicidal violence?

These are measures that would generate controversy because they imply restriction of civil liberties and the explicit recognition of the inability to confront crime with the rule of law. Some time ago I mentioned the need to ask for international help and for DEA agents to have a more active role in Guanajuato. I know that there are already some of their bloodhounds working in the area, since I have found them at the Bajío International Airport itself.

But unfortunately there are municipalities where the only real option to pacify them is through military occupation and the adoption of some measures such as curfews. That, in fact, the inhabitants of Celaya, Salamanca and Irapuato begin to carry out of their own accord, knowing that at certain times drug trafficking cells occupy the streets, while the security forces withdraw. Of course, it would be necessary to disappear municipalities within municipalities co-opted by the drug traffickers, where mayors and police departments are at their service.

The Mexican state has already carried out this type of intervention, in some states, cities and municipalities such as Michoacán, Matamoros, Ciudad Juárez or Iztapalapa, in Mexico City itself. They have never made the decrees, nor the corresponding declarations, but de facto, what we witnessed in these areas was a military occupation. But unless the state government suffers a severe setback in the midterm elections, I doubt there will be a change in strategy.

-But why would the CJNG attempt a “final offensive” against CSRL at this point?

Because of the upsurge of the war in Michoacán. The Michoacán mafias, united in the self-proclaimed  Carteles Unidos, have dealt severe setbacks to the CJNG cells in Purépecha lands. The confederation of Michoacán cartels drove “El Mencho’s” troops back. They halted his offensive and forced him to retreat. The Michoacán front is inducing the CJNG to concentrate more men, arms and ammunition in that region. One option to achieve this is to annihilate once and for all the local mafias of Guanajuato. It has not been easy to take over Guanajuato, but it is a fact that the CJNG continues to advance. ”El Mencho’s” generals have been wrong and on many occasions they have claimed victory ahead of time. It is likely that they are wrong again in their calculations.

In any case, the narco-war for control of Guanajuato is no longer just a function of what happens in the state. Now we depend on the results of the combats waged by the  Carteles Unidos and the CJNG in Michoacán. The end of the violence in Guanajuato is not in the hands of the authorities. In fact, it never has been. We depend on the geopolitical movements of the drug cartels.

-What’s next?

Guanajuato is regressing. It is not particularly complex to generate scenarios, even with the profile of the next targets of the cartels. Aldermen, a former municipal president (Israel Morales) and an elected president (Rogelio Sánchez Galán) have already been assassinated. 

-What’s next? 

As the cartels increasingly aim higher in the pyramid of officials, the next step is to attack municipal presidents in office. There have already been murders of police officers, police chiefs, councilors and a local deputy (Toño Acosta). Little by little the cartels attack higher-level political leaders. In other states, drug mafias have even assassinated former governors such as Aristóteles Sandoval de Jalisco and Silverio Cavazos from Colima, or former leading candidates for state governments such as Rodolfo Torre Cantú, from Tamaulipas. 

Therefore, what continues in Guanajuato are attacks against members of the state cabinet, against former governors and candidates for governor. It is a real nightmare.

Source: PortalBajio 

For More David Saucedo, Check out the Archives on this link: Portal Bajio or FB and Twitter


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