HomeNewsArrest of Leader Shows Mexico's Rojos May Be Increasing Presence in Michoacán

Arrest of Leader Shows Mexico's Rojos May Be Increasing Presence in Michoacán


The municipality of Tepalcatepec in Mexico's southern state of Michoacán has long been one of the country's most violent areas, with the CJNG fighting off a range of rivals. The arrest there of the leader of the Rojos, a gang heavily tied to the neighboring state of Guerrero, suggests that yet more criminal groups may be entering the fray.

On April 16, Mexican authorities tracked down and detained Juan Miguel N., alias “El Johnny,” a leader of the Rojos in Tepalcatepec, according to a Defense Ministry press release.

El Johnny was allegedly the group’s main international trafficker of “drugs from South America,” likely meaning cocaine, which he imported into Mexico for onward smuggling into the United States. He now faces extradition to the United States.

SEE ALSO: Military-Grade Weapons in Michoacán Put Mexican Forces on War Footing

In a subsequent press conference, Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, Mexico's undersecretary for security and public protection, confirmed that the Rojos are based “in Morelos, Guerrero, Puebla and the State of Mexico,” but did not address what El Johnny was doing in Michoacán.

Last month, InSight Crime reported on how the devastating conflict in Michoacán continues to escalate, with crime groups now successfully using roadside bombs and grenade launchers. The municipality of Tepalcatepec, where El Johnny was captured, has emerged as a staging ground for drone warfare.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of a Rojos leader and apparent cocaine trafficker in the combat hotspot of Tepalcatepec is intriguing. The Rojos have traditionally been connected to the heroin trade, but may be looking for new means of criminal income as profits from this drug dwindle.

Moreover, Tepalcatepec is a key stronghold and drug trafficking route for the Cárteles Unidos (CU), a local criminal coalition formed to fight off the invasion of the state by the powerful Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).

The Rojos have also fought the CJNG, working with the rival Sinaloa Cartel in the states of Morelos and Guerrero. The CU and Rojos may be natural allies against the CJNG as the CU also control access to Michoacán’s Pacific coast, where shipments of synthetic drugs and, to a lesser extent, cocaine arrive for northward transit towards the US.

SEE ALSO: The Next Generation of Criminal Groups Driving Violence in Mexico

El Johnny may have been in Tepalcatepec to do business with the Cárteles Unidos, likely negotiating the arrival and transit of cocaine shipments, possibly in return for support against the CJNG.

A move towards Michoacán and the cocaine trade would make sense for the Rojos. Since 2016, the group has faced increasing competition in Guerrero and has been deprived of stable access to their local port of Acapulco. Meanwhile, the increasing supply of fentanyl in Mexico has slashed demand for the heroin trade.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Authorities in Argentina have disbanded a group linked to the Sinaloa Cartel that trafficked liquid cocaine from Argentina to Mexico,…

EL CHAPO / 9 FEB 2017

Internal struggles for power between factions of the Sinaloa Cartel may have led to an increase in violence in western…

MEXICO / 10 MAY 2013

Hydrocarbon theft in Mexico so far this year has nearly doubled in comparison with 2012, with the worst hit zones…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…