The latest in a series of clashes between Mexican authorities and a powerful, fast-growing drug cartel turned into the deadliest confrontation in recent memory, with 42 suspected gang gunmen and one Federal Police officer killed during a three-hour firefight at a remote western ranch.
The battle on Friday followed two other recent unprecedented attacks by the cartel, one that killed 15 state police officers and another that shot down an army helicopter with a rocket launcher for the first time in Mexico’s history. The death toll from all three is at least 76 people at a time when the Mexican government claims crime is falling dramatically and the interior minister recently insisted the country “is not in flames.”
The suspects were members of “a criminal organization whose main operating zone is Jalisco state,” National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said. He did not specifically the Jalisco New Generation cartel, but the drug gang dominates the area where the battle erupted and has grown rapidly in recent years to become one of Mexico’s biggest organized crime groups.
Remember that the New Generation cartel previously shot down a police helicopter.
Promoting themselves as ‘guardians of the people’ the gang, based in Guadalajara in Jalisco state, is one of the first cartels to communicate directly with the public by hanging banners around the city with messages of solidarity and posting videos online of vigilante justice.
Following a coordinated attack on a police convoy last month which caused the deaths of 15 police officers, the New Generation hung banners around Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city, proclaiming that ‘the cartel wishes to aid and defend the citizens against The Zetas, The Knights Templar [two other major cartels and rivals] and the abusive authorities’.
The Knights Templar are a drug cartel? I smell a new Dan Brown novel in the works…