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A screenshot from the video of the cartel convoy. A screenshot from the video of the cartel convoy.

Cartel demonstrates its firepower with video showing convoy of armored vehicles

Analyst says it's a message to government: 'You come after us, we'll strike back'

A video showing heavily-armed Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) members alongside a long convoy of armored vehicles is under analysis to determine whether it is authentic, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said Friday.

An approximately two-minute-long video posted online on Friday shows some 75 masked gunmen dressed in military fatigues and wielding high-caliber weapons.

Filmed on a dirt road in a rural location, the frightening footage also shows about 20 armored vehicles – some of have been modified to include gun turrets – emblazoned with the CJNG initials and “special forces” or “elite group.”

As a camera films the lengthy procession of vehicles, gunmen shout “pura gente del señor Mencho,” or “only Mencho’s people,” among other remarks.

El Mencho is Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, the fugitive leader of the CJNG and Mexico’s most wanted drug lord.

As the camera reaches the 10th vehicle in the convoy, one gunmen repeatedly fires his weapon into the air.

The release of the video coincided with a visit to Jalisco by President López Obrador and came three weeks after gunmen allegedly contracted by the CJNG made an assassination attempt on Mexico City Police Chief Omar García Harfuch.

When and where the video was filmed is unclear but some social media users claimed that the gunmen were in Tomatlán, a coastal municipality south of Puerto Vallarta.

Following the release of the footage, Security Minister Durazo said on Twitter that the “propaganda video attributed to a criminal group” is being analyzed in order to confirm its authenticity and determine when it was filmed.

“Regardless of that, we declare that there is not any criminal group with the capacity to successfully challenge federal security forces,” he said in a second tweet, adding that the video only added credence to that assertion.

Nevertheless, Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, says the video sends a clear message to the federal government: “You come after us, and we will strike back.”

Release of the video comes after a visit to Jalisco by President López Obrador.
Release of the video comes after a visit to Jalisco by President López Obrador.

Ernst said on Twitter that the release of the video doesn’t necessarily change the nature of the relationship between the CJNG and the government, writing that “rather than a declaration of war … it’s primarily geared at guarding the status quo at a crucial time” when federal authorities have to define their “future posture” toward the powerful criminal group.

“It’s an episode in a much wider sequence of negotiation of power … Displays of violence in this context aren’t new. The degree of the production is.”

Gabriel Guerra, a political analyst and columnist for the El Universal newspaper, described the video as “truly worrying.”

“While its authenticity has to be established, it speaks of an armed capacity comparable to or greater than that of many guerrilla groups. Everyone will see different things; what I see is an enemy of the Mexican state and all of us,” he wrote on Twitter.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope told El Universal that the video “speaks of the state’s territorial control problem.”

“They [the CJNG] move about in large convoys announcing who they are because they don’t fear the authorities,” he said.

Hope noted that it’s not the first time that military-style vehicles with gun turrets and large numbers of sicarios, or hitmen, have appeared in cartel videos whose main purpose is to show off their significant firepower to both rival criminal organizations and the government.

Indeed, some videos have shown as many as 60 armored vehicles and between 100 and 150 sicarios, he said.

The CJNG is “not the biggest criminal group we’ve seen,” Hope said, adding that the Zetas – a cartel founded by former army commandos – used to be “more intimidating.”

However, the analyst said that the latest CJNG video – it has released many – is testament to the cartel’s immense firepower and manpower, and shows that it has militarized. Militarization of criminal groups, however, is not a new phenomenon in Mexico, Hope said, adding that emblazoning a cartel’s name on its vehicles is not new either.

Citing its ongoing turf war with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel in Guanajuato and the attack on García, the Mexico City police chief, Hope said the CJNG has shown in recent months that it is prepared to increase its aggression against both rival criminal groups and authorities.

The release of the video is part of the cartel’s “escalation of confrontation” approach, he said.

After the attempt on García’s life – which didn’t result in the police chief’s death but killed two of his security detail and a bystander – Hope said the government has an obligation to respond to such a “brutal” attack and charged that it should allocate “extraordinary resources” to “deal with the unprecedented security matter.” 

But López Obrador says his administration will continue with its non-confrontational security strategy, which aims to bring peace and tranquility to Mexico by addressing the root causes of violence, namely poverty and lack of opportunity.

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp) 

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