Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) has become one of the most feared paramilitaries in Mexico over the last decade. Images of the group have become the standard depiction of the Mexican cartel writ large. Their propaganda videos often feature groups of masked men bristling with enough small arms to make them formidable against even conventional armies.

Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (Twitter)

In an interview aired on Mexico’s Telemundo network in May 2019, a former CJNG soldier described his experience at a training camp and claimed that the cartel employed U.S. special operations forces (SOF) to train their recruits. According to the former hitman:

There were Marines, there were Navy from the United States, there were Delta Force, there was everything there.

The cartel dropout’s account is consistent with years of reports which show that U.S. special forces training is diffusing into the service of paramilitaries in Mexico.

Los Zetas were the highly-trained enforcers of the Gulf cartel made up of supposed deserters from the Mexican special forces known as the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE). The GAFEs were formed in 1986 as an elite quick reaction force specializing in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare. When the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994, the GAFES received combat experience in the brutal fight with the leftist Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) in Chiapas. According to reporting by Carlos Marin, the army sent the GAFEs to Chiapas to create paramilitaries and displace the population in order to break the support of the people for the EZLN, an approach which would be used against organized crime years later. In Ioan Grillo's book El Narco, he describes how the mutilated bodies of rebels captured by the GAFEs were dumped along a riverbank in the Las Margaritas municipality with their ears and noses sliced off, the sort of spectacular violence that Los Zetas would later standardize in the Drug War.

2005 FBI memo about Los Zetas

Some of the original members of Los Zetas are said to have been trained by the U.S., although accounts vary about exactly who, where and when. Some say it was at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning in Georgia, others at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, while other rumors suggest it was at Ft. Hood in Texas. According to Lt. Col. Craig Deare (retired), the former Academic Dean at the intellectual center of gravity of U.S. defense policy in Latin America since 1997, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS), it was likely that more than 500 GAFEs received training from U.S. special operations forces (SOF).

According to reporting in Al Jazeera:

Some of the cartel’s initial members were elite Mexican troops, trained in the early 1990s by America’s 7th Special Forces Group or “snake eaters” at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, a former US special operations commander has told Al Jazeera.

“They were given map reading courses, communications, standard special forces training, light to heavy weapons, machine guns and automatic weapons,” says Craig Deare, the former special forces commander who is now a professor at the US National Defence University.

“I had some visibility on what was happening, because this [issue] was related to things I was doing in the Pentagon in the 1990s,” Deare, who also served as [Mexico] director in the office of the US Secretary of Defence, says.

The 7th Special Forces Group (SFG) specializes in the approach the U.S. has taken with Latin America since the end of the second world war: unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency and, more recently, counterterrorism. During the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the 7th SFG trained, supported and fought with some of the most brutal and repressive special operations and unconventional forces in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela.

A U.S. special forces Soldier assigned to 7th SF Group, oversees a group of Guatemalan Special Forces "Kaibils" conduct pistol marksmanship training Jan. 28 in Poptun, Guatemala (DVIDS)

Between 1996 and 1999, 3,200 soldiers, including at least 500 GAFEs, were reportedly trained by the 7th SFG in the U.S. to create elite "counternarcotics" forces for fighting on behalf of the post-Cold War U.S. national security agenda.

Framed as an ironic consequence of the corrupting influence of the cartels, the training from the U.S. special forces diffused into the service of one of Mexico's oldest drug trafficking organizations. In 1997, the same year that the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies was founded, Arturo Guzmán Decena, a GAFE better known by the alias "El Zeta-uno", defected along with other elite Mexican soldiers to work for the Gulf cartel in Tamaulipas. Trained by the U.S. in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare supposedly to fight drug-trafficking, the GAFEs would become one of the most infamous and brutal drug-trafficking organizations in history: Los Zetas.

Los Zetas execute four women

Los Zetas application of advanced training in insurgency and terror justified President Felipe Calderón's (2006-2012) decision to deploy the military to prosecute the War against Drug-trafficking in his first month in office. The consequences of that decision have been devastating for Mexico.


According to a 2009 DEA memo, Los Zetas also recruited other U.S.-trained SOF in Latin America, like the Kaibiles. The Kaibiles and other Guatemalan security forces were trained by the U.S. in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare before, during and after Guatemala's 36-year genocide. After a 1999 report commissioned by the United Nations determined that the 200,000+ people killed and disappeared by the Guatemalan Army was, in fact, a genocide, the School of the Americas closed briefly before reopening a year later as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). According to testimony from Major Joseph Blair, a former instructor at the school, the changes were only superficial and an identical curriculum was taught using the same instruction manuals. Between 1999 and 2010, 3,555 Guatemalan soldiers, many of them Kaibiles, were trained by the U.S. through WHINSEC and other programs.

The Kaibiles are taught to kill without mercy or thought. In training, recruits are given a puppy to look after and bond with for several weeks before they're ordered to kill the animal with their bare hands and consume the blood and flesh, a method which reportedly has since diffused to the Mexican GAFEs and other forces that train with the Kaibiles. Like the 'snake eaters' of the U.S. 7th SFG, the Kaibiles kill to eat. Their motto is: "Si avanzo, sígueme. Si me detengo, aprémiame. Si retrocedo, mátame! / If I advance, follow me. If I stop, urge me on. If I retreat, kill me!"

In 1982, the Kaibiles massacred 226 people in the Dos Erres village in Guatemala. According to the United Nations Truth Commission Clarification and reporting by ProPublica, they arrived in the middle of the night and accused the residents of being guerrilla sympathizers. The smallest children were reportedly killed by smashing their heads against trees and buildings, while older children were killed with a hammer. Adults were interrogated and tortured individually and the women were raped. The Kaibiles also reportedly cut fetuses out of pregnant women. After the interrogation, the adults were killed with a hammer and the corpses were dumped in a well.

A few years after the massacre, one of the Kaibil officers who had supervised the atrocity, Pedro Pimental Rios, became an instructor at the School of the Americas. He was extradited from the U.S. in 2012 and sentenced to more than 6,000 years in prison for his involvement in the atrocity.

In 1983, Raymond Bonner reported on a classified summary of an April 1982 meeting between foreign policy advisers in the Reagan administration. The advisers proposed a series of secret and overt programs to contain the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and prevent revolutionary movements from spilling over into El Salvador and Guatemala. One of the proposals included a $2.5 million budget for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for arms interdiction in Guatemala. According to journalist Leslie Gelb, the arms interdiction program was managed by Argentina rather than by the U.S. directly. The Argentines and even U.S. intelligence service personnel allegedly worked directly with paramilitary death squads during the Guatemalan genocide. In one anecdote, former Delta Force operator Stan Goff describes a conversation with a fellow special forces veteran working for the CIA's paramilitary division in Guatemala in 1983:

The CIA man began spontaneously relating how he had participated in the execution of a successful ambush “up north,” two weeks earlier.

“North” was in the Indian areas: Quiche and Peten, where government troops were waging a scorched-earth campaign against Mayans considered sympathetic to leftist guerrillas.

He was elated. “Best fuckin’ thing I got to do since Nam.”

According to a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) memo from 1994, intelligence sources reported clandestine graves outside of a Guatemalan military facility. The memo also described Guatemalan soldiers flying captives over the ocean before pushing them out of helicopters to their deaths, a technique also used in Argentina. In 2015, former Chilean military officer Jaime Garcia Covarrubias was arrested for torturing and executing seven people in 1973. He had been a faculty member at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies for 13 years.

After the end of the Cold War, the Kaibiles were repurposed to fight the United States' new greatest threats to national security: drugs and later terror. From 2007 to 2014, U.S. SOF training tripled in Latin America, mostly in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the U.S. Department of Defense's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The U.S. military continues training the Kaibiles to this day.

U.S. soldiers training the Kaibiles, July 2019 (DVIDS)

While the Mexican military was fighting a war nominally against violent drug-trafficking organizations like Los Zetas, the U.S. military was developing and spreading a new doctrine for waging a regional war on terror throughout Latin America. A 2007 academic paper outlined a new distributed operational model for command and control (C2) for Special Operations Command in the U.S. SOUTHCOM AOR (SOCSOUTH) based on the approach of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). The authors recognized the USMC approach as "better suited for counterinsurgency and non-combat environments, where the objectives are more ambivalent." According to the authors:

In standard military maneuver operations where missions such as “attack that position,” are clearly defined, the [conventional] definition of C2 is sufficient. However, in an ambiguous environment where SOF often operates, the mission (e.g., plan and execute UW [Unconventional Warfare]) is not as clearly defined. As a result, a special operator in the field must be able to operate with maximum authority, flexibility, and agility to respond to immediate changes emerging from dynamic situations. The USMC definition reflects precisely how SOCSOUTH’s staff currently approaches C2 in its theater of operations.

Officers from the Colombian military studying at the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College at the Marine Corps University quickly recognized the advantages of the U.S. approach. According to a 2008 academic paper from a Colombian Major:

The enemy's ability to disperse in small units employing guerrilla tactics against conventional forces compels the regular armies to seek changes in doctrine. One of the alternatives to counter this opponents' advantage is to incorporate the use of distributed operations.

Distributed Operations describes an operating approach that will create an advantage over an adversary through the deliberate use of separation and coordinated, interdependent, tactical actions enabled by increased access to functional support, as well by enhanced combat capabilities at the small-unit level.

Special Operations Forces are small units that work alone or in combination with one another in both direct and indirect military operations, often using tactics of unconventional warfare. The use of unconventional tactics is essential in modern warfare. The enemy employs different types of unconventional tactics and the only way to gain advantage against him is to do the same.

In another academic paper from the United State Marine Corps Command and Staff College from March 2010, a USMC officer elaborates his thesis as follows:

The best support the Department of Defense (DoD) can provide to help the Mexican government strengthen their security institutions are the skills of the U.S. Special Operations Forces.


U.S. military experience in El Salvador, Columbia [SIC], the Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan would be of great value to the Mexican military. The 'Columbia plan' … was executed by the U.S. Southern Command and is an excellent template for counterdrug/security building in Mexico. In Columbia [SIC], SOF personnel were used to "teach intelligence collection, scouting, patrolling, infantry tactics, and counterterrorism." The SOF role in Columbia [SIC] was that of advisors and the U.S. units were, "forbidden to participate in counterinsurgency operations." While utilizing SOF units in Mexico, the same restriction would more than likely be in place. Another outstanding example of the use of SOF in an advisory role took place in El Salvador in 1981. The U.S. congress approved the use of 55 soldiers to train and advise the El Salvadorian army. In 5 years, that army grew from 20,000 to 56,000 troops. A training facility created in El Salvador ensured the police became a better force and cut down on human rights violations.

According to an internal email from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, an operational detachment from U.S. 7th SFG began training Kaibiles and other special forces units from the Guatemalan police and military on 20 March 2009 in Petén. The 7th SFG operation in Guatemala has been acknowledged in a publication from the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). According to the Stratfor email:

It has also been reported that the Green Berets [7th SFG] have also taken part in actual operations, possibly illegally as it is not in their official rules of engagement.

On 27 March 2009, the security forces in Guatemala claimed they found a training camp used by "Los Zetas" at a ranch in Quiché. Everyone fled when the security forces arrived and got away apparently. A month later, after a deadly shootout in Guatemala city, security forces seized thousands of small arms, grenades and ammunition purportedly from "Los Zetas" which were all traced back to the Guatemalan military.

Three months into the deployment of the U.S. 7th SFG in Guatemala, the "Mata-Zetas" made their debut on 19 June 2009 in Cancún, Quintana Roo. They executed 5 people, and dumped the bodies in a public place with their heads and faces wrapped in duct tape. They left a note with the victims, which read:

We are the new group 'mata zetas' and we are against kidnapping and extortion, and we are going to fight against them in all the states for a cleaner Mexico

True to their word, the Matazetas began making appearances all over Mexico from 2009 to 2011, in Guanajuato, Veracruz, Michoacán and Guerrero, among other places.

According to another internal email from Stratfor on the possible involvement of the U.S. Marine Force Recon (MFR) in Mexico, a confidential human source in Mexico referred to only as MX1 stated that the U.S. Marines were secretly operational in Mexico. According to reporting from Bill Conroy, MX1 was likely Fernando de la Mora Salcedo, a diplomat who worked at the Mexican consulates in El Paso and later Phoenix. According to MX1:

Information about US military involvement in Mexico is provided only as a need to know basis. The Americans have been adamant about this, and we agree even more. Therefore, I can confirm that there is Marine presence, but I don't know if it is MFR.

The exact date of the email is unknown but would have been sometime between 2008 and 2011 according to reporting. It's unclear why Stratfor was interested in the possible involvement of MFR in Mexico.


In June of 2010, U.S. Marines and Navy forces travelled to Manzanillo, Colima for the Partnership of the Americas and Southern Exchange program to train with the Mexican Marina. The U.S. Marines were from Charlie Company, 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division. The Navy forces were not specified. The U.S. Marines taught military operations in urban terrain (MOUT), which essentially means room clearing, as well as knife-fighting and hand-to-hand combat.

One month later, in July 2010, the Mexican Marina killed Sinaloa cartel boss Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, the "King of Crystal", in a raid in Zapopan, Jalisco. Nacho Coronel smuggled multiple tons of cocaine from Colombia through the Pacific. His niece, Emma Coronel, was married to Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. The death of Nacho Coronel was said to have caused the Guadalajara-based Milenio cartel to split into two factions, one of which ("Los Torcidos") was supposedly led by Nemesio Oceguera Cervantes, better known as "El Mencho".

In September of 2010, 40 U.S. Marines from Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. traveled to Poptun, Guatemala to train with the Kaibiles as a part of the Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) program. According to a press release about the SMEE on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service website:

Poptun Kaibil Training Camp is where the Guatemalan Army trains its regular Army soldiers to become Kaibiles, or elite warriors specializing in jungle warfare and counter-insurgency operations.
U.S. Marines training with the Kaibiles 12 September 2010 DVIDS

One of the strangest sequence of events involving the "Matazetas" came after an incident where 49 bodies were left in the streets of Boca del Rio, Veracruz on 23 September 2011. A day later, a group claimed responsibility for the killings and apologized to the public in a video message. They did a brilliant but long-winded impersonation of the "Matazetas".

"Los Matazetas" claiming responsibility for the 47 bodies on 24 September 2011

On 27 September 2011, three days later, the "Matazetas" made another appearance, this time heavily armed in the fashion that "CJNG" would later standardize in their propaganda. According to reporting from Animal Politico:

In that statement, the hitmen of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel assure that 'since 2006 we have been fighting for the tranquility and safety of each and every one of our Jarocho [Veracruz native] countrymen,' whom they asked to denounce any Zeta they are aware of, but not before the police, but only before the Army and the Navy, the only corporations that 'to date have not been corrupted with their money offers in this state,' while, they clarified, 'for what corresponds to us, we will in our own way: we have given the sample by killing each one of the Zetas that we grab.'
"Los Matazetas", 27 September 2011

The incident led to widespread speculation in the media that Mexico could be experiencing the phenomenon of paramilitarism similar to Colombia and Guatemala. On 16 October 2011, "anonymous military sources" in Colombia reportedly confided to El Tiempo (english synopsis from Insight Crime) that four "former" Colombian SOF soldiers were training, advising and assisting Los Zetas. The El Tiempo article also mentioned that the services of the former Colombian military were in demand as soldiers of fortune all over the world, as confirmed by reporting in the New York Times from May 2011 which described a "secret army" of Colombian mercenaries created in the United Arab Emirates by Erik Prince, the former Navy SEAL and founder of the private military contracting firm Blackwater.

Over time, "Los Torcidos" in Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán and "Los Matazetas" in Veracruz and Quintana Roo were recognized as a single entity: the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.


In August 2012, it was reported that 200 U.S. Marines were sent to Guatemala to patrol along the Pacific coast in the ongoing Operation Martillo which began on 15 January 2012. The U.S.-led operation involved military personnel and/or law enforcement agents from Belize, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain. Operation Martillo was also apparently about fighting Los Zetas. According to reporting in Wired:

The war on drugs just got a whole lot more warlike. Two hundred U.S. Marines have entered Guatemala, on a mission to chase local operatives of the murderous Zeta drug cartel.

The Marines are now encamped after having deployed to Guatemala earlier this month, and have just 'kicked off' their share of Operation Martillo, or Hammer. That operation began earlier in January, and is much larger than just the Marine contingent and involves the Navy, Coast Guard, and federal agents working with the Guatemalans to block drug shipment routes.

It's a big shift for U.S. forces in the region. For years, the Pentagon has sent troops to Guatemala, but these missions have been pretty limited to exercising 'soft power' -- training local soldiers, building roads and schools. Operation Martillo is something quite different.

According to an article from Marine Times which was first published on 7 July 2014:

U.S. Marines have worked closely with their Colombian counterparts for generations — particularly over the past decade — and the Colombians are now sharing that expertise with friendly nations across the Americas

"Right now, we are already developing training activities with allies like Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic," Maj. Gen. Hector Pachon Cañon, the Colombian marines' commanding general, told Marine Corps Times. "In those countries right now are Colombian marines, spreading training we received from the United States Marines."

The influence of the U.S. Marines is apparent in everything the Colombians do, from their boot camp and uniforms to the importance they place on ethos and noncommissioned officers' leadership traits…

"Senior U.S. officials in State and Defense will tell you that the mil-to-mil relationship between the United States and Colombia is the best they have ever seen anywhere in the world"

That sentiment was apparently shared by General John F. Kelly, USMC, the Commander of U.S. SOUTHCOM from 2012-2016. At a Congressional hearing on 29 April 2014, General Kelly expressed his gratitude to Colombia for serving as proxies for training personnel the U.S. is prohibited from working with because of their records of gross violations of human rights. According to Gen. Kelly:

"We’re not focusing in the same way on countries that are, today, very close to going over the edge, where Colombia was in the 90s. They’re just a few inches away from falling off the cliff. Yet we’re restricted from working with them, for past— ‘sins,’ in the 80s.

The beauty of having a Colombia—they’re such good partners, particularly in the military realm, they’re such good partners with us. When we ask them to go somewhere else and train the Mexicans, the Hondurans, the Guatemalans, the Panamanians, they will do it almost without asking. And they’ll do it on their own. They’re so appreciative of what we did for them. And what we did for them was, really, to encourage them for 20 years and they’ve done such a magnificent job.

But that’s why it’s important for them to go, because I’m–at least on the military side–restricted from working with some of these countries because of limitations that are, that are really based on past sins. And I’ll let it go at that."


In May of 2015, an operation purportedly to capture "El Mencho" failed catastrophically when a helicopter was shot down (supposedly) by the elite "praetorian guard" protecting the cartel's leader near Villa Purificación, Jalisco. In a prelude to the spectacle in Culiacán four years later, forces supposedly loyal to "El Mencho" mobilized simultaneously in four states, burning vehicles and erecting blockades. According to a column in Estado Mayor about the incident:

The criminal group in charge of the security of Nemesio Oceguera Cervantes, leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, is a mixture of mercenaries of different origins. They are “stateless”, as General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Secretary of National Defense, called them. They are responsible for the death of eight elite soldiers and a Federal Police agent, who died after the downing with an RPG-7 grenade launcher of a troop transport helicopter. This group demonstrated a level of training rarely seen in the country, unprecedented on a geographical scale that covered four states. How was it possible that more than a hundred simultaneous offensive actions were not planned in advance? Why did the military intelligence fail and the narco set up a deadly ambush only possible with inside information?

In the early hours of Friday, May 1, Major General Miguel Gustavo González Cruz could not believe the reports he received in real time. The commander of the fifth military region, which encompasses the military zones of five western states of the country, was in constant communication with his colleague, fellow divisional Roble Arturo Granados Gallardo, chief of the National Defense Staff. A command that acted as the first “ring” of protection for Nemesio Oceguera Cervantes, leader of the criminal organization calling itself the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), had made contact with the aircraft that was at the forefront of the operation launched that morning to arrest him.

The outfit in charge of capturing [El Mencho] was not just any army unit. It was a section, around 40 troops, of members of the GAFE (Special Forces Aircraft Group) of the High Command, belonging to the Special Forces Corps of the Mexican Army and Air Force, a unit commanded by Brigadier General Miguel Ángel Aguirre Lara. The elite soldiers had been attacked from the ground by RPG-7 rocket launchers and had been targeted by assault rifles from different points. The support aircraft managed to target several of the attackers, but as the minutes passed, the criminal leader's "ring" of protection had managed to cover his flight after shooting down the helicopter that was in the vanguard and that was carrying the troops that would specify the detention. This blow would ruin the operation.

That was one of the reasons that made Generals González Cruz, Granados Gallardo and Brigadier Aguirre Lara extremely concerned. The troops had made contact with a special corps that guarded Oceguera Cervantes, the group had been identified for some time, it was known that it consisted of deserters from the Mexican army, who acted supported by former Guatemalan soldiers and some former US Marines who offered their services to the drug cartels via their contacts in Central America. Members of this group were those who allegedly trained the so-called “matazetas”, the paramilitary body that appeared in Veracruz three years ago and who are known to operate in areas of the Gulf, the State of Mexico and Michoacán where their enemies are present.

Military sources consulted in Jalisco and Mexico City agreed that the idea of ​​maneuver, reaction capacity, planning techniques and the use of more sophisticated weapons was something that some of the members of the group were known to be prepared for that guarded "Mencho". Those protecting him would be "latest generation" mercenaries, "soldiers of fortune", some with experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, retired and others discharged, who offer their services as praetorian guard of the leader of the CJNG, said a military source in the capital of the country.

This group was identified in recent days by journalists Raymundo Riva Palacio and Salvador García Soto, who separately recorded in their columns the possible participation of former US Marines in the reaction operation that shot down the helicopter and cost the lives of eight members of the GAFE of the High Command as well as a federal policeman, and has between life and death as many.

What the federal forces did not tell about was that the group that guarded the "Mencho" also received intelligence information in real time, which allowed them to act in advance, prepare the counterattack and shield the escape from the Villa Purificación area, the Jalisco municipality where the helicopter was shot down, leaving seven dead at the scene, and several wounded, one of whom later died in Mexico City.

Many immediately suspected the operation had "failed" due to leaks from the Federal Police, long suspected of ties to drug trafficking, who had participated in the operation. However, according to the column in Estado Mayor, an anonymous military official blamed Jalisco Governor Aristóteles Sandoval and Attorney General Luis Carlos Nájera for leaking information to the "CJNG".

On 3-5 April 2018, the Colombian Vice President, Óscar Naranjo, traveled to Mexico to "strengthen cooperation mechanisms." It was reported that the trip was to discuss operations of the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartels in Colombian territory with Mexico's Attorney General's office. The trip was kept fairly quiet and mostly unnoticed by the national media.

On 22 May 2018, Jalisco Labor Secretary Luis Carlos Nájera, the former Attorney General during Aristóteles Sandoval's administration blamed for the failed operation to capture El Mencho, was attacked by gunmen and injured in a failed attempt on his life. A child was killed and 16 people were injured. The attack had many similarities with the failed attack on Omar García Harfuch on 26 June 2020 and "CJNG" was alleged to be responsible for both incidents.

The attack on Luis Carlos Nájera was the first action attributed to "Grupo Élite", a mysterious special forces group in the service of "CJNG", supposedly the same inner circle in charge of protecting El Mencho.


After the attack on Nájera, Aristóteles Sandoval reportedly said in a press conference that "CJNG" recruited Colombians that “had experience and especially training on the subject of guerrillas or even the military." According to Sandoval, authorities in Jalisco had detected the presence of Colombian mercenaries or soldiers since sometime around 2013-2014. Sandoval stated that this information had been passed along to the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR), about the training camps belonging to the "CJNG" which had been discovered in the state. According to Sandoval:

We told the PGR about this four years ago [approximately 2014], we know what the training is like, what the operation is like and that is why it is important to find these camps that are generally installed in remote places like the mountains
We have reports for five years, we have indicated the spread of this cartel with strategy and above all with the inclusion of expert people, not only from Colombia, but from other parts of the world

On 1-2 June 2020, Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) in coordination with the U.S. Treasury Department froze over $1 billion USD in assets belonging to "CJNG" in Operation Blue Agave. Two days later, a photograph appeared on social media which showed a CJNG Grupo Élite logo with the Guatemalan Kaibiles famous slogan: Si avanzo, sígueme. Si me detengo, aprémiame. Si retrocedo, mátame!


On 17 July 2020, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that control of the port in Manzanillo, Colima would be handed over to the Mexican military. Later that evening, CJNG Grupo Élite released a propaganda video unlike anything ever seen before. The video showed an intimidating convoy of 22 armored and painted vehicles and 74 men dressed impeccably in matching uniforms.

The next day, we geolocated where the video was filmed to a spot right outside of Tomatlán, Jaliscó approximately 4 km from a military base and 2 km from a police station.

19°57'50"N 105°15'42"W, Google Earth

On 18 July 2020, 20 students from Guanajuato were kidnapped in Puerto Vallarta, a sister city of Tomatlán, in Jalisco. The case had eerie similarities to the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in Iguala, Guerrero in 2013. In January 2020, it was rumored that a recent wave of killings in Tomatlán had been related to a dispute in Puerto Vallarta involving several Colombian nationals associated with "CJNG".

In August 2020, the Colombian navy reported seizing a "narco-submarine" carrying more than a metric ton of cocaine off the coast of Tumaco, Nariño. They claimed that the vessel belonged to "CJNG" and was headed for Mexico.

Business Insider

On 18 December 2020, Aristoteles Sandoval was assassinated in a professional hit in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. According to the current Jalisco attorney general, the staff at the restaurant supposedly cleaned all traces of physical evidence at the crime scene and erased security footage of the attack. The killing was attributed to the "CJNG".

A Green Beret assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), right, observes members of the Colombian Compañía Jungla Antinarcóticos as they provide security while waiting for the detonation of emplaces an explosive door-breaching charge during a live-fire joint training exercise inside an Eglin Air Force Base shoot house Nov. 20. The Junglas, as they are known, are training with the Special Forces soldiers as part of the Western Hemisphere’s longest enduring security partnership formed to counter narcotic and human trafficking. (DVIDS)

To be continued…