A former policeman-turned-hitman has replaced the infamous El Chapo as the most wanted drug lord on the planet.
Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán headed the Sinaloa Cartel and, in 2003, became Mexico’s top drug kingpin after the arrest of his rival, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, of the Gulf Cartel. He was then considered the ‘most powerful drug trafficker in the world’ by the United States Department of the Treasury.
Guzmán was even named as one of the most powerful people in the world by Forbes, as well as the most powerful drug trafficker. He was also the first person to be branded ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ since Al Capone, by the city of Chicago.
However, since his most recent arrest in 2016, it seems El Chapo has been knocked off the top spot by a criminal whose cartel has surpassed the Sinaloa Cartel as the dominant force in Mexico.
Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, a.k.a El Mencho, is now at the top of the list. Leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Cervantes is a notorious and feared cartel leader.
El Mencho dropped out of primary school to work on his family’s avocado farm. As a teenager, he illegally emigrated to the US before a series of arrests meant he was deported back to Mexico.
According to Rolling Stone, Cervantes spent a brief time as an officer with the Jalisco state police before being lured into the Milenio Cartel. After rising through the ranks, Cervantes eventually broke off and started his own group, fighting their way to power.
Cervantes and his cartel once shot down an army helicopter as authorities attempted to capture him.
Last week, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Mexican security officials – the same group who captured El Chapo – met in Chicago to announce a series of joint initiatives against El Mencho and his criminal underworld, reports New York Post.
Paul Craine, a security consultant who headed the DEA in Mexico, during the arrest of El Chapo in 2016, said:
[Cervantes] is public enemy number one, and he’s got an army of thousands of bad guys.
Craine added how, after El Chapo’s arrest, rival cartels had battled to take the top spot. The Sinaloa Cartel is now headed by El Chapo’s former partner, Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada. However, his control is said to be slipping.
If you look at El Mayo, most of his family is in jail in the US. He is increasingly isolated.
Now, with Sinaloa’s leadership in the country quickly declining, El Mencho’s group has emerged as the most ruthless, but organised, force.
According to a State Department press release, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel specialises in producing ‘multi-hundred kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and heroin, and traffics in multi-ton quantities of cocaine’.
The members of the cartel are well-trained hitmen, armed with assault rifles, who wear black balaclavas and t-shirts with the cartel logo on them.
Unlike the other cartels, they function like a paramilitary organisation. They are like an iron hand taking control of Jalisco, and have set up carjackings and roadblocks to show their power.
I have no doubt El Mencho will be caught, but the violence won’t end until the Mexican government gets serious about strengthening the rule of law and ending corruption.
More than 200,000 people have been killed since Mexican authorities announced their war on drugs 12 years ago. The country experienced a 16 per cent rise in the number of murders in the first half of this year.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.