The arrest of a Mexican drug lord in Brazil sheds new light on the international operations of one of Mexico’s most powerful crime groups, and suggests that regional authorities may be ramping up cooperation to tackle the group’s growing power and influence.
On December 27, 2017, Federal Police in Brazil arrested José González Valencia, alias "La Chepa,” in a rented beach house in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, where he had joined his family for the holidays.
The capture, ordered by Brazil’s top court, followed an extradition request by the United States, which is seeking La Chepa on drug trafficking charges and allegations that he belongs to the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).
The González Valencia family is thought to lead one of Mexico’s richest criminal organizations, the Cuinis, which the US Treasury Department says acts as the money laundering arm of the CJNG.
La Chepa's brother, Gerardo González Valencia, was arrested in Uruguay in July 2016 based on accusations of money laundering. Last September, Uruguayan authorities approved a request for Gerardo's extradition from the United States, which was seeking him on drug charges.
InSight Crime Analysis
Recent arrests of top Cuinis leaders like La Chepa and his brother outside of Mexico suggest the group is expanding its international presence.
In Mexico -- where the Cuinis' parent group, the CJNG, is reportedly controling large areas of the country -- both organizations have been under pressure following arrests of top members as well as sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department and criminal prosecutions against them in US federal courts.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Jalisco Cartel New Generation
Given this context, the Cuinis might be seeking to expand international operations in order to escape the pressure they are facing at home. In addition to being physically distant from Mexico, both Uruguay and Brazil are key money laundering centers, providing the González Valencia brothers ample opportunities to continue their illicit business there.
At the same time, the arrests of La Chepa and his brother outside of Mexico also suggest that authorities in other countries in the region have stepped up joint efforts to disrupt the Cuinis’ operations. Indeed, as the CJNG has grown more powerful in recent years, the United States in particular has taken steps to target its financial infrastructure. The recent arrests of Cuinis members indicate regional authorities have been willing to cooperate.