Cartel Confrontations Explode in Chiapas with Mass Kidnapping

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While the southern Mexican state of Chiapas – which notably contains 270 kilometers of Pacific coastline and strategically sits on Mexico’s border with Guatemala – has been under control of the Sinaloa Cartel for more than two decades, new inroads made by the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) to claim Chiapas as their own across the past year has caused violence in the state to explode, culminating in the CJNG kidnapping 16 agents from the Chiapas Secretariat for Security and Citizen Protection (SSyPC) on Tuesday, June 27.

According to a video released by the CJNG addressed to Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escandón, the mass kidnapping was made in revenge for the Sinaloa Cartel’s own kidnapping of singer Nayeli Cyrene Cinco, the reported partner of a CJNG leader, as allegedly ordered by the Sinaloa Cartel’s Chiapas plaza boss, Jesús Esteban “El Güero Pulseras” Machado. 

In exchange for the safe return of the 16 agents, the CJNG requested the Sinaloa Cartel’s release of Cyrene Cinco, as well as Rutilio Escandón’s dismissal of a three Chiapas security commanders the CJNG has purported are colluding with the Sinaloa Cartel, with a deadline given for 11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29; no updates from the CJNG have been publicly released since.

Relatives of the 16 missing agents staged protests in front of both the SSyPC facilities and at a major toll booth in Chiapas in demand of their return on the morning of Thursday, June 29, pleading for the firing of the three commanders in questions and the return of Cyrene Cinco.

“16 lives are worth more than three jobs,” read one of the relative’s protest signs.

Still, even if the exchange of hostages does come to pass, security experts warn that this incident may only be the beginning of a violent “war scenario” between the rival gangs for control of Chiapas, especially given its growing reputation as a hub for human trafficking by organized crime groups.

“I do not see it as easy for the Sinaloa Cartel to abandon a plaza that it has had under its control for a long time, but the CJNG seems determined to seize the territorial control the Sinaloa Cartel has in the area,” public security consultant David Saucedo told daily Mexican newspaper El Universal.

“The CJNG knows territory war well and it has previously implemented its strategy with great success in other entities of the country, which is a franchise system; to strengthen itself, the CJNG sends groups of hit men from Jalisco, makes alliances with local mafias, co-opts public security authorities from the three levels of government, and participates in electoral processes,” added Saucedo. “That is how CJNG strategizing its takeover of Chiapas.”

Despite the growing tension between the cartels in the key southern state, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) maintains claims that “in general, there is peace and tranquility in Chiapas.”


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