The United States Embassy has issued a travel alert for the state of Guanajuato in the wake of a wave of attacks perpetrated by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
“Following numerous confirmed acts of violence on August 9, including arson of buildings and vehicles, U.S. citizens are reminded to reconsider travel to Guanajuato state due to crime,” the alert issued Wednesday said.
The United States Department of State has for some time advised U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state.
The publication of the embassy alert came a day after the CJNG went on a rampage in Jalisco and Guanajuato Tuesday evening in response to a military operation that was reported to have resulted in the arrest of criminal suspects, including Ricardo Ruiz Velasco, an alleged CJNG leader in western Mexico and the Bajío region.
President López Obrador said Wednesday that leaders of the CJNG had been apprehended but on Thursday clarified there had been no arrests after all.
In Guanajuato, scores of businesses — including at least 25 OXXO convenience stores and three pharmacies — were torched, 50 vehicles were set on fire and two people were murdered, according to the newspaper El Sol de Irapuato, which also reported that 11 presumed criminals were arrested in the state. One of the murder victims was the driver of a tractor-trailer who attempted to evade armed men who tried to stop his truck on the Irapuato-Abasolo highway. He and a passenger fled after the men opened fire, wounding both. The driver died later in hospital.
In Jalisco, at least 11 vehicles were torched, a 7-Eleven store was attacked, five people were arrested and a presumed criminal was killed, the newspaper said.
The embassy alert also said that “until further notice, U.S. government employees have been restricted from traveling on highway 45 from Irapuato to the cities of Silao and León in the state of Guanajuato.” In addition, the alert informed U.S. government employees that they “may not travel to the area south of and including Federal Highway 45D, Celaya, Salamanca and Irapuato.”
“Gang violence, often associated with the theft of petroleum and natural gas from the state oil company [Pemex] and other suppliers, occurs in Guanajuato, primarily in the south and central areas of the state. Of particular concern is the high number of murders in the southern region of the state associated with cartel-related violence.”
The United States Consulate General in Guadalajara issued a security alert on Tuesday due to what it described as “multiple road blockades, burning vehicles, and shootouts between Mexican security forces and unspecified criminal elements in various parts of the Guadalajara metropolitan area.”
The consulate said it had instructed employees to shelter in place but advised Wednesday that the instruction was no longer in effect.
FEMSA, a Coca-Cola bottler and owner of OXXO, said that of its 25 convenience stores affected in Guanajuato, all were either completely or partially burned. Twenty are in Irapuato alone, while three are in Celaya and two are in León.
FEMSA said that none of its employees or customers were injured in the attacks.
President López Obrador confirmed Wednesday that the violence in Jalisco and Guanajuato was triggered by an army operation in the former state.
“There was a meeting of two [criminal] groups, and the Defense Ministry arrived, soldiers arrived … and there was a confrontation, there were arrests. This is what caused the protests, the burning of vehicles, not just in Jalisco but also in Guanajuato,” he said.
Arson attacks — including the torching of vehicles to create fiery narco-blockades — occurred in two municipalities in Jalisco and 14 in Guanajuato, according to El Sol de Irapuato. David Saucedo, a Guanajuato-based security analyst, said that Guanajuato is the CJNG’s second bastion after its home state of Jalisco.
He recently published a “cartel war map” that showed that the CJNG has strongholds in Guanajuato city, León — the state’s largest city — and other important cities, such as Irapuato, Salamanca and San Miguel de Allende.
The cartel, led by Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, is believed to have a presence in at least 25 of Guanajuato’s 46 municipalities and 28 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities.
Saucedo told El Sol that Irapuato is the cartel’s operational epicenter in Guanajuato because its location is convenient for receiving drugs from Jalisco and moving them to other parts of the state. He attributed Tuesday’s narco-blockades in Jalisco and Guanajuato and the attacks on OXXO stores to various cells of the CJNG.
In his cartel war map, Saucedo noted that the CJNG’s “invasion” of Guanajuato began in 2014. Its main rival in the state is the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, which began as a fuel theft gang but has diversified into other criminal activities.