A bloody cartel war raging in the state of Baja California Sur hints at the new strategies and alliances forming as Mexico's fragmented underworld reorganizes.
A Zeta magazine investigation into drug war violence in the city of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, has revealed how a spate of macabre murders is connected to a campaign waged by a new alliance between the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) and the remnants of the Tijuana Cartel against Los Dámaso, a network connected to the Sinaloa Cartel.
According to Zeta, the CJNG and Tijuana Cartel factions are operating under the name the Tijuana Cartel – New Generation (CTNG) and have been kidnapping, torturing and murdering rivals in an attempt to seize control of local drug sales and distribution.
Their targets, according to a Zeta source from the local Public Security Coordination Group (Grupo de Coordinación de Seguridad Pública), are rival hitmen, operatives that have switched sides, plaza chiefs linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and local drug distributors. Their aim is not only to remove these people but also to obtain information on the large scale Sinaloa distributors that continue providing drugs to the region.
However, the source said, identifying the relationship between the local criminal cells and larger cartels is difficult due to the fragmented nature of the current underworld and the constantly shifting allegiences of local networks.
InSight Crime Analysis
The battle for La Paz reflects a new dynamic in the Mexican underworld, as fragmented remains of once all-powerful cartels confront or ally themselves with new players as they compete for control of local as well as transnational criminal markets.
The relatively new CJNG has been one of the most expansionist groups in Mexico in recent years, and it is little surprise that it has now moved into Bajo California Sur. It was once believed to be in alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel, but there are now growing signs the organization is looking to capitalize on what appears to be a fragmentation of the Sinaloa Cartel in the wake of the capture of the cartel's most prominent leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
SEE ALSO: Jalisco Cartel - New Generation Profile
In contrast, the Tijuana Cartel has been in long term decline, and so an alliance with an up-and-coming group such as the CJNG represents the remaining cartel factions' best chance of clinging on to some level of criminal power.
Los Dámaso, meanwhile, have long been operatives for the Sinaloa Cartel. However, there have been numerous reports suggesting the network has been in conflict with other Sinaloan factions.
As highlighted by Zeta's source, these national actors are increasingly dependent on alliances with local criminal cells that have more autonomy and less loyalty to larger organizations than in the past. This makes for a much more complex and often chaotic dynamic in this latest generation of Mexico's cartel wars.