Jalisco New Generation Cartel

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has evolved from a minor faction into Mexico’s leading criminal organization, posing significant challenges to security both nationally and internationally. This essay delves into the methodology underlying the rise of the CJNG, focusing on its historical roots, operational expansion, and confrontation tactics. Through analyzing strategic decisions, territorial ambitions, and the multifaceted nature of its criminal activities, we aim to understand the factors contributing to the CJNG’s current dominance. The analysis not only traces the cartel’s evolution but also sheds light on the broader implications of its rise for Mexico and the United States, especially regarding fentanyl trafficking. This comprehensive methodological approach allows us to grasp the complexity of the CJNG’s development and its impact on regional security dynamics.

Origins and Fragmentation

The origins of the CJNG trace back to the aftermath of Mexico’s “war on drugs,” which began in earnest under President Felipe Calderón in 2007. With support from the United States through the Mérida Initiative, this period marked a significant escalation in the fight against drug cartels, characterized by a strategy focused on dismantling cartel leadership. However, this approach led to the fragmentation of existing cartels, creating power vacuums and opportunities for the emergence of new groups. The CJNG’s birth is a direct consequence of this dynamic, initially forming as an armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Milenio Cartel, known as Los Matazetas, to fight against Los Zetas. The unintended consequence of the strategy was the proliferation of smaller, more violent factions, among which the CJNG managed to establish itself as a formidable force through strategic alliances, territorial control, and adaptation to the changing drug trafficking landscape.

Formation of Los Matazetas

The transition from Los Matazetas to the independent entity known as the CJNG is a crucial moment in the cartel’s history. Originally tasked with combating the influence of the Zetas, Los Matazetas took advantage of the weakening of rival cartels due to government actions and internal disputes. This period of turmoil allowed the CJNG to consolidate its power, especially in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán, and begin to assert itself as a dominant actor in the Mexican criminal underworld.

Territorial Expansion

The CJNG’s expansion strategy was marked by a combination of military-grade violence and strategic alliances, allowing for rapid growth across Mexico. Exploiting the voids left by rival cartels and leveraging local conflicts, the CJNG extended its reach to major drug trafficking routes and strategic locations, including key ports and border areas. This expansion was not only territorial but also operational, as the CJNG diversified its criminal portfolio to include activities such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking, alongside its main business of drug trafficking.

Diversification of Activities

The diversification strategy has been a key component of the CJNG’s success, allowing it to exploit multiple revenue sources and reduce dependency on a single illicit activity. This approach has also enabled the cartel to embed itself more deeply into the social fabric, complicating efforts to combat its influence. The expansion into non-traditional criminal activities, such as hydrocarbon theft and human trafficking, has further demonstrated the CJNG’s operational versatility and adaptability.

Military-type Operations

The use of paramilitary tactics and high-level violence by the CJNG has distinguished it from other criminal organizations. Notable incidents, such as the shooting down of a Mexican military helicopter, underscore the cartel’s willingness to engage in direct confrontations with state forces, showcasing its military capabilities and audacity. These tactics have not only allowed the CJNG to defend its territories but also to project power and intimidate both rivals and the civilian population.

Financial Operations

Money laundering and financial operations have been crucial for the growth and sustainability of the CJNG. By establishing a complex network of businesses and financial transactions, the cartel has effectively integrated its illicit gains into the legal economy. This financial sophistication has allowed the CJNG to maintain and expand its operations, despite efforts by Mexican and international authorities to dismantle its financial infrastructure.


The rise of the CJNG is a multifaceted phenomenon, based on strategic decisions, operational adaptability, and an unrelenting focus on confrontation. Through historical analysis, examination of its territorial expansion, and evaluation of its confrontation tactics, this methodology provides a better understanding of the factors driving the cartel’s success. Understanding the evolution of the CJNG offers valuable lessons for policymakers and law enforcement facing the challenges posed by transnational organized crime in the 21st century.