08/28/12 (written by cmolzahn) – The state of Jalisco suffered a wave of roadblocks on August 26, mostly centered in Guadalajara, which may have spread to neighboring Colima. Local and national media reported that the roadblocks were sparked by the arrest of Nemesio Oceguera, “El Mencho,” a leader of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG), but the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) later denied those reports. Nevertheless, in a two-hour span that followed, seven cartel-perpetrated roadblocks (referred to as narcobloqueos in Mexican press) were registered on main thoroughfares in Guadalajara, the state’s capital. Narcobloqueos also appeared in other parts of the state, totaling 28 in all.
Federal Police also came under fire in Guadalajara after responding to reports of cartel presence in the Amacuautitlán district. The officers were attacked when they traveled to the scene in five Black Hawk helicopters and one Mi-17 helicopter. The Public Security Ministry (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) released a statement that agents returned fire, killing six presumed members of the CJNG. The agency added that three Federal Police agents suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the exchange. Police at the scene seized two M-60 rifles, four AK-47 assault weapons, an AR-15, four rocket launchers, and a variety of ammunition. Meanwhile, criminals were busy setting up narcobloqueos at several strategic sites around the city, using 36 stolen cars, trucks, and trailers, setting at least 26 of them ablaze. The blockades began in Guadalajara around 2:00pm on August 26, and quickly extended to surrounding areas as well as the interior of the state. Media outlets initially reported that there were no civilian casualties, but it was later revealed that a stray bullet killed a young male in the town of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga. Such demonstrations have been employed before in Guadalajara, often in response to police action against cartels operating in the area. The city has been shaken from relative tranquility in recent months, as rival cartels have moved into territory long controlled comfortably by the Sinaloa cartel. Similar demonstrations have also occurred in Monterrey, Nuevo León, on several occasions paralyzing the city where the Zetas and Gulf cartel are fighting for dominance. Cartel-related killings, or ejecuciones, in Jalisco this year are roughly on par with 2011, reaching 478 as of August 24, as compared with 501 at the same point last year, according to data compiled by Grupo Reforma.
On the day of the events, police detained only two people in connection with the blockades who were transporting six barrels with diesel residue, another with gasoline residue, and another container with 200 liters of gasoline. They claimed to work for a contracting company. Jalisco Public Security Secretary Luis Carlos Nájera told the press that there had been no arrests due to the fact that his agency was not notified of the cartel activity until the injured Federal Police agents arrived at the Guadalajara airport. The following day, the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) detained four presumed members of the CJNG, believed to be closely affiliated with El Mencho.
El Mencho is considered in Michoacán to be one of the principle traffickers of methamphetamine in the region. He once belonged to the Milenio cartel in Michoacán, where he fought against the La Familia cartel for control over the methamphetamine trade there. According to sources in the Federal Police and the Mexican Army (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional, SEDENA), Oceguera then picked up the pieces left following the death of Ignacio Coronel, who ran the Sinaloa cartel’s methamphetamine operation, and formed the CJNG to combat the presence of the Zetas in Jalisco and also to make inroads into Veracruz, which is largely controlled by the Zetas.
Later on in the day on August 26, Mexican media reported that more narcobloqueos had appeared in neighboring Colima in four separate locations, involving at least six burned vehicles. It is not clear, however, if they are related to the blockades in Jalisco. René Rodríguez Alcaraz, the secretary general of the Government (secretario general de Gobierno) of Colima, rejected all the reports that there were narcobloqueos in his state, insisting that they were instead simply burned vehicles on a number of highways that caused minimal blocking, and that the situation was “under control.” He did, however, acknowledge that a possible link to the Jalisco blockades is one line of investigation. He added that police operations have intensified since the incidents on August 26, in order to protect the population. Colima has seen an elevated level of cartel-related violence as compared with last year, recording 140 ejecuciones as of August 24, after just 88 during all of 2011.
Because of the apparent involvement of organized crime in the blockades, Jalisco’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) has handed the investigation over to the Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). Jalisco Attorney General Tomás Coronado said that his agency has opened 31 preliminary investigations into property damage claims related to the events, all of which will be turned over to the PGR. He added, though, that the PGJE will continue with the investigation into the death of the young male, as well as tending to the 36 damaged vehicles used in the blockades. Meanwhile, Jalisco remains in “code red,” with state and local police departments operating under the command of Jalisco’s Public Security Ministry (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, Prevención y Readaptación Social).