The Jalisco Cartel - New Generation has released a video asking the government not to hinder their efforts to drive a rival drug gang out of south Mexico, in order to bring "peace" to local people.
The video, featured on Blog del Narco, features purported members of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) promising to attack the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) in the states of Guerrero and Michoacan.
The video’s speaker proclaims:
All you Caballeros Templarios are a bunch of dirty bandits along with your leaders, the people deserve peace and we, the warriors of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation have come to give it to them, and do away with these degenerates that have invaded the tranquility of the people of Guerrero and Michoacan. Because we dedicate ourselves to trafficking drugs, not to robbery or kidnapping like those dirtbags from the Caballeros Templarios.
The speaker goes on to promise the government that the group will take down the various Caballero leaders, and asks state agencies to allow them to go about their work unhindered. He assures viewers that the CJNG has no problem with the government, and that its only enemies are rival gangs (watch video below).
The video is noteworthy for a number of reasons. One is that it demonstrates that the CJNG is not on the verge of disappearing, despite the arrest of big shot Erick Valencia Salazar earlier this month in Guadalajara. Indeed, it evidently feels strong enough to take the fight to two long-simmering states where the Caballeros (and their criminal progenitors, the Familia Michoacana) are deeply entrenched.
With this latest gambit, the CJNG is continuing past tactics. The declaration of their move into a foreign territory calls to mind last year’s videotaped announcement that they would take Veracruz from the Zetas. The subsequent incursion put Veracruz among the states with the biggest rises in violence in 2011, with massacres carried out in Boca del Rio and Veracruz city. In both videos, the CJNG has used paramilitary-style language, promising to do away with their enemies in order to "protect" local people.
The video also demonstrates how Mexico's criminal groups have begun to utilize public relations techniques, claiming to be motivated by the wish to protect the people. Various gangs have grown accustomed to proclaiming their intentions and justifying their actions with public banners, often called "narcomantas," videos uploaded to the Internet, and even interviews with major media outlets. More often than not, the groups try to take the moral high ground against their enemies, as the CJNG does in its latest video, tarring the Caballeros as kidnappers and thieves.
It’s not always clear what is motivating this tendency for gangs to paint themselves as the good guys and their enemies as the villains. Sometimes, it’s clearly in a group’s interest to distance themselves from a particularly heinous crime or assuage fears that they might seek to overthrow the government, to try deflect the attention of the authorities. But most citizens, to say nothing of the government, will put little stock in any group’s proclamations that they are the noblest of the gangsters.
The video is also interesting for what it says about the Caballeros. The fact that the CJNG targeted them rather than the Familia indicates that the Caballeros have consolidated themselves as Michoacan’s foremost gang, definitively displacing the older organization. It seems unlikely, however, that they have such a firm hold over Guerrero. Acapulco in particular has been contested by a bevy of different groups in recent years, from the Zetas to the Sinaloa Cartel, the South Pacific Cartel, and the Barredora. The Caballeros, and now the CJNG, are just one group among many trying to win control.
Finally, the speaker alleges that Nazario Moreno, who was reported killed in December 2010 in a shootout with government forces, is still alive and remains at the head of the Caballeros. The same claim was made by a captured Mexico City gang boss last year, and previously in posters signed by the Familia. Given that his death was a major success for the government and precipitated the collapse of the Familia, this allegation would be a bombshell if it proved true.
Such conspiracy theories are common in Mexico. One popular tall tale is that Amado Carrillo, the Juarez Cartel founder who died in plastic surgery in 1997, faked his own death and remains at large. Anabel Hernandez, in her muckraking 2011 book "Los Señores del Narco," claimed that the deceased Sinaloa boss Ignacio Coronel was also still alive. There's not much evidence to support any of these allegations, and there’s little reason to believe any of them are accurate.
However, it is also true that while the Hernandez had a clear interest in winning publicity with scandalous stories -- a tactic that has landed her in legal trouble with former Attorney General Jorge Carpizo, who was attacked in the book -- it’s not obvious what the CJNG would have to gain by falsely claiming that Moreno was still alive.