Unidentified gunmen coordinated roadblocks on major avenues throughout the Mexican city of Guadalajara, launching scattered attacks against police forces. The violence comes after the long-dormant Milenio Cartel wrote ominous warnings to public officials on banners and hung them around the city.
Starting around 9:00pm on Tuesday night, the cartel members began to hijack vehicles around the city, including public transport vehicles. After positioning the buses and cars to block major streets, the gunmen set fire to several of them.
Mexico’s El Investigador reports that at least seven such roadblocks had been set up around the city (a map of the roadblocks can be viewed here), and that the assailants also hurled grenades at a police station and police vehicles.
The violence continued for at least two hours, wounding a policeman and two transport workers. Local police, for their part, say they have two suspects associated with the attacks in custody, but have not released their identities.
The incident appears to coincide with a series of warning banners, or ‘narcomantas,’ that cropped up throughout the city last Friday, January 28th. On the banners, an organization identifying itself as the “Milenio Cartel” issued threats to the Jalisco Secretariat of Public Security (Secretaria de Seguridad Publica - SSP). The group called upon the Governor of Jalisco, Emilio González Márquez, to reign in the SSP’s office, accusing it of accepting kickbacks from rival criminals in exchange for political protection. If he does not comply, the message says, he risks turning Jalisco into “another Tamaulipas,” referring to the recent surge in violence in that state.
Although the Jalisco government has credited the attacks to “criminal elements,” it is unclear whether the banner and the roadblocks are indeed the work of the Milenio Cartel acting independently. Despite being a formidable organization in the early 2000’s, the Milenio Cartel was thought to have been decimated after the 2009 arrest of its leader Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia, alias ‘El Lobo,’ and the 2010 capture of his brother, Juan Nava Valencia, alias ‘El Tigre.’ Because of their weakened status, many believed that the remnants of the Milenio Cartel were simply rolled up into the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
However, the recent round of attacks coincides with the extradition of ‘El Lobo’ to the United States, and was signed by the initials “MFG” (an acronym for the Milenio, Familia and Gulf Cartels). As such, they could represent an attempt by the Milenio Cartel to disassociate themselves from the Sinaloa Cartel, positioning themselves as part of a regional threat to their local rivals in Jalisco, a group known as the Nuevo Cartel de Jalisco.