Saturday 9 February 2013

The Crown gang reshapes criminal alliances in Jalisco and Michoacán

They deserve better
An emergent gang called The Crown (La Corona) has made an alliance with The Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios) in order to open the door to lucrative criminal activity in Jalisco, according to Mexico’s Reforma newspaper.

Police sources have told Reforma that, previous to the alliance, Knights Templar had only been able to make incursions across state lines from Michoacán to Jalisco on their own.

Members of the Knights Templar were originally part of the Familia Michoacana (FM). However, after the death of FM’s leader, Nazario Moreno, known as “El Chayo”, in December of 2010, there was a split among members, some of whom then formed Knights Templar.

This left José de Jesús Méndez, “El Chango” (The Monkey), in charge of FM, whereas Enrique Plancarte Solís and Servando Gómez Martínez, “La Tuta” (The Teacher) formed the leadership of Knights Templar.

Before this split FM had formed an alliance, known as “La Resistencia” (The Resistance), with the Milenio Cartel and the Gulf Cartel in order to dispute the territory (la plaza)  of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (the “Jalisco New Generation Cartel”, also known as CJNG and Matazetas), which was then allied with the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, controlled by one of the most wanted men in the world, El Chapo Guzmán.

Although the alliance with The Resistance fell apart, partly due to the schism within FM that created Knights Templar, the CJNG had mostly stuck to its side of the Jalisco/Michoacán border, and for their part FM and Knights Templar were hesitant to stray into Jalisco from their strongholds in Michoacán. One reason was that the border area was still held by members of the Milenio Cartel, former allies within The Resistance.

But this fell apart when CJNG made its hostility to the Milenio Cartel official, giving notice that those members in towns within Michoacán close to the border with Jalisco were not only persona non grata, they were also enemies. Following the age-old cliché that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, rogue elements of the Milenio Cartel joined up with the ultra-violent Los Zetas.

Los Zetas is widely considered to be the second most powerful cartel in Mexico, after Sinaloa. The Los Zetas plaza extends from the northeastern border with the United States, down the Gulf of Mexico, to the Yucatan peninsula and into Central America. The cartel has tried to hop over the country to gain access to lucrative business in Guadalajara and up the Pacific Coast, particularly in the methamphetamines business, but has met with stiff resistance.

Enter “La Corona”

In November of 2011 The Crown (“La Corona”) made its appearance in the sprawling Zapopan suburb of Guadalajara when several members were arrested after a hit.

When interviewed by the State Attorney General’s office (PGR), the detained men said that they were members of The Crown and that they were being supported by El Chapo Guzmán.

From then on, The Crown didn’t waste any time in joining the open fight for control over the plaza in Jalisco.

But this begs the question: what does this mean for the alliance between CJNG and the Sinaloa Cartel? After all, the CJNG played an important role in fending off Sinaloa’s arch enemies, Los Zetas, in the Jalisco plaza. They even took on the nickname Matazetas (Zetas killers) after going down to the Los Zetas stronghold of Veracruz in September, 2011, and killing 35 rivals before dumping them on a busy street.  

It could be the CJNG – finding such success in Jalisco that they essentially ruled its capital, Guadalajara – were becoming too powerful and autonomous to do the bidding of the Sinaloa Cartel. Whatever the reason, The Crown, backed by Sinaloa, began to make waves in April of last year as it leveraged its partnership with Knights Templar. Suddenly, we were looking at a lasting alliance across the Jalisco/Michoacán border with major backing – something that had never been seen before.

We now have two violent criminal organizations on the sidelines, and that can’t last. CJNG, powerful in Jalisco, has lost its major backer, and FM (Familia Michoacana), weakened by its split with Knights Templar, is isolated in Michoacán. That said, it should be noted that FM, which was the organization that set the bar on cartel horrors in February, 2006, when it rolled five severed heads onto a dance floor, and which is accredited with being the organization that got former president Felipe Calderón to start the “war on drugs” over six years ago, has historically mostly been interested in Michoacán.

This evolving scenario forms the backdrop of two phenomena that occurred in late 2012 and into early 2013. The first was the extreme outburst of violence along Michoacán’s border with Jalisco in December, in which 27 people died. And the second was the murder of two police chiefs in Jalisco within the span of two weeks early in 2013, one on January 27, and the other on February 8.

In La politica’s view, the border violence is due to conflict between CJNG and Knights Templar. The CJNG has been pushing deeper into Michoacán in response to threats on its home turf.

As well, the murder of the two police chiefs is a clear sign of the emergence of another power structure, and a move against CJNG, which may have previously secured those plazas. The chiefs, unable to serve two masters, were removed to make way for competing interests. Previously, with the CJNG in control, Sinaloa may have expected some pay off. With that now gone, they need to move in on their own with their new clients, The Crown.

The good news, such as it is, is that Jalisco’s state police are well aware of the threat that The Crown presents, as recent arrests suggest.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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