Some 300 members of Mexico’s army, navy and federal police have begun combing the border between the country’s two Pacific states of Nayarit and Jalisco in search of the six men kidnapped on Monday in the upscale resort of Puerto Vallarta by the Jalisco Nueva Generación drugs cartel. Among the kidnap victims is the 30-year-old son of El Chapo Guzmán, the incarcerated head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Leading Mexican newspaper El Universal, citing unofficial sources, has reported that El Chapo’s other son, Iván Archivaldo, was also taken at the same time. This has not been confirmed by the authorities.
On Wednesday, Eduardo Almaguer, Jalisco’s chief public prosecutor, and the man overseeing the case, confirmed that closed circuit camera footage from the restaurant from where the men were taken showed a group of at least seven heavily armed kidnappers taking away six men from a table of sixteen. It has since emerged that one of the hostages is Juan Daniel Calva Tapia, a 53-year-old captain in the army reserve.
The two cartels are locked in a turf war for control of Mexico’s Pacific coast, the location for heroin production, and where chemicals from China and India are imported
Talking to reporters on Wednesday, Almaguer refused to comment on the reports in El Universal that El Chapo Guzmán’s son Iván Archivaldo was among the six men taken at gunpoint.
Anabel Hernández, a Mexican journalist who recently interviewed Rafael Caro Quintero, the head of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s and who has recently attempted to take over Sinaloa Cartel territory, says that Iván Archivaldo was at the dinner but managed to escape from the restaurant seconds before the gunmen burst in.
“This is a very powerful message from the Jalisco Nueva Generación,” says Gerardo Rodríguez, of the University of the Americas in the central city of Puebla. He believes the kidnapped men are still alive and will be used as bargaining chips in negotiations between the two cartels. “If they had wanted them dead, they would have killed them on the spot,” he says.
The two cartels are locked in a turf war for control of Mexico’s Pacific coast, the location for heroin production, and where chemicals from China and India are imported.
Rodríguez says Monday’s kidnapping will spark further violence in Jalisco. “This didn’t happen immediately after El Chapo’s arrest in January, but now that the family has lowered its guard, his rivals have attacked.” In June, gunmen attacked the tiny community of La Tuna, where El Chapo grew up, even entering his mother’s home there. El Chapo is now awaiting extradition to the United States.
The Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel downed a military helicopter in May 2015, killing six soldiers
In the first six months of this year, official figures show that 611 people have been murdered in Jalisco, a state with a population of 7.3 million. The figure is already higher than that for the whole of 2015. In nearby Colima, an even smaller state, 294 murders have been reported so far this year. In 2015, 189 people were murdered there.
The Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel has risen to prominence during the six-year mandate of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. “This is an organization that emerged after the crisis of the self-defense groups in Michoacán and that has taken advantage of the capture of the heads of other cartels,” says Rodríguez. In Michoacán, in the absence of the police and security forces, local people formed their own vigilante units to protect themselves from cartels. Eventually, Peña Nieto sent in troops to disarm the self-defense units.
The Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel downed a military helicopter in May 2015, killing six soldiers. It has also claimed responsibility for the murder of Jalisco’s tourism chief. US sources say that the cartel has bought large amounts of explosives and high-powered weapons in its bid to take over Mexico’s Pacific coast.
English version by Nick Lyne.