Federal government to “rescue” Michoacán

Residents of La Ruana cheered as Mexican army soldiers enter the town to help defend them against a drug cartel. Photo: Marco Ugarte / Associated Press.

Residents of La Ruana cheered as soldiers in the Mexican army enter the town to help defend against drug cartels. Photo: Marco Ugarte, Associated Press

05/23/13 – After an increasing wave of violence and insecurity, the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the launching of a new operation to combat organized crime in the state of Michoacán. This major operation, the first of its kind since Peña Nieto assumed presidency in December 2012, started with the deployment of the Army and the Navy to the state in mid-May and with the appointment of a new public security chief, Army General Alberto Reyes Vaca. Although the number of troops deployed will not be disclosed, the federal government assured that the troops would not be withdrawn until the security situation in Michoacán improves.

Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, head of the Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB), indicated that this operation will deploy troops from the Ministry of Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and the Ministry of Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR), who will be supported by state and municipal governments. Michoacán’s interim governor, Jesús Reyna García,—who replaced Fausto Vallejo Figueroa for health reasons—argued that the operation will start in the municipalities of Apatzingán, Aquila, Buenavista, Chinicuila, Coahuayana, Los Reyes, and Tancítaro, most of which are in a region known as Tierra Caliente, or “Hot Land,” and will gradually progress to others.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Michoacán was probably chosen because it was fast spiraling into chaos.” The state has experienced a surge of violence and insecurity caused primarily by the criminal organization known as the Knights Templar, which is involved not only in drug trafficking, but also in extortion, and the targeting of businesses through arson and the killing of business owners if they refuse to pay for protection. According to inhabitants, this group has cut off the supply of fuel and food in some towns, and has forbid its residents from accessing it elsewhere. As a result, several “self-defense” groups (grupos de autodefensa), which are often referred to as community police forces, composed of unmasked town settlers have “increasingly banded together […] chasing off corrupt cops and setting up checkpoints along the highways to sniff out traffickers,” describes the Washington Post. Although the number of community forces appearing throughout Michoacán has increased, as seen in the municipality of Aria de Rosales in mid-May, some of the groups have begun to cede control over the municipalities to the federal troops, like in Buenavista, Coalcoman, and Tepalcatepec.

Coincidentally, former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) started his presidency with the launch of a major security operation on December 18, 2006, only days after taking office, to restore order and fight police corruption in Michoacán, his native state. Joint Operation Michoacán (Operación Conjunta Michoacán) included troops and agents from the Army, the now-extinct Federal Investigative Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigaciones, AFI), and the Federal Preventive Police (Policia Federal Preventiva, PFP)—now known as the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF). The operation followed requests for federal crime-fighting assistance from Michoacán Govenor Lázaro Cárdenas after high-profile drug violence threatened the rule of law in parts of the state. At the time, the state struggled with controlling internal conflicts between drug-trade organizations such as the Gulf Cartel, the Valencia Cartel, and the recently emerged organization, La Familia Michoacana (LFM). Calderón’s operation was the first movement towards a large-scale strategy to fight organized crime head on, and the first signal sent by the Calderón administration to criminal organizations. The strategy eventually led to the dismantling of the LFM, but also to the creation of the equally powerful Knights Templar from its splintered factions.


Rubí, Mauricio and Monroy, Jorge. “Michoacán con nueva estrategia a tres niveles.” El Economista. May 20, 2013.

“Autodefensas ceden el control de municipios al Ejército en Michoacán.” Univisión Noticias. May 21, 2013.

Wilkinson, Tracy. “Mexico launches military push to restore order in Michoacan state.” Los Angeles Times. May 21, 2013.

Miroff, Nick. “Soldiers re-occupy Mexico’s Hot Land.” The Washington Post. May 21, 2013.

Redacción. “De arranque, operativo de seguridad en Michoacán prioriza siete municipios.” Cambio de Michoacán. May 22, 2013.

Arrest of “El 85” generates chaos in Guadalajara

Photo credit: AFP.

03/10/12 – On Friday March 9, members of the Mexican Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) captured Erick “El 85” Valencia Salazar –alleged leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG)–, and Otoniel “Tony Montana” Mendoza, allegedly second in charge of the same organization. SEDENA confirmed that they conducted a precise operation in Zapopan –the wealthiest municipality of the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara– in the state of Jalisco, where the two leaders of CJNG were captured.  According to the information provided by SEDENA, upon their arrival a group of gunmen opened fire and launched grenades. After entering the dwelling, the military arrested the alleged leaders of the CJNG and seized more than 30 firearms, fragmentation grenades, and ammunition.

After the operation, a series of shootings and blockades occurred in the streets and highways of Guadalajara and surrounding areas. The roads were blocked with buses, some of which were burned. The governor of Jalisco, Emilio González Márquez, reported later in the day that 25 vehicles were burned at 16 different points of the state, 11 within the metropolitan area of Guadalajara. Authorities detained 16 people apparently involved in the incidents, two of them minors. According to news reports, the events caused fear among the population, generated chaos in the city, and resulted in the deaths of a 7-year old girl named Alexa, a 27-year old man named Ricardo Carvajal Amezcua, and a 49-year old bus driver named También Moisés Corona López.

As the Justice in Mexico Project reported last month, the CJNG emerged in 2010 after the killing of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel by the Mexican army. Coronel was an important leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, but apparently started to have issues with its leaders and began to create his own separate organization. The group known as “the Resistance” (La Resistencia) emerged from Nacho Coronel’s faction in June 2010, and was led by Ramiro Pozos González, “Molca.” Later that year, the death of Coronel led to the emergence of CJNG. The Resistance and CJNG have been in dispute since then, although the Resistance was weakened because of the February 2011 arrest of Victor Manuel “Papirrín” Torres García, one of its leaders. CJNG had not previously suffered significant arrests, was gaining influence in Jalisco, and had begun to expand to Veracruz in open conflict with the Zetas organized crime group. However, the most recent arrests apparently present a significant blow against the CJNG organization, while removing a key rival of the Zetas.


“Captura del máximo líder del cártel de Jalisco desencadena violencia en Guadalajara.” Proceso. March 9, 2012.

“Guadalajara vive crisis violenta; capturan a capo.” El Universal. March 10, 2012.

“Violencia y pánico tras captura del capo El 85 en Guadalajara.” La Jornada. March 10, 2012.

“Niña de 7 años, víctima inocente de los narcoataques en Jalisco.” Proceso. March 10, 2012.