The story of "El Mencho", one of the most wanted drug traffickers

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, who is over 50 years old, has reached the pinnacle of his criminal career. Identified as the leader of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation, Oseguera, known as El Mencho, became the most wanted man in Mexico and the United States.

The story of "El Mencho", one of the most wanted drug traffickers
Who is El Mencho? And why is the U.S. government offering a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture? Image: Agencies

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, being over 50 years old, has reached the peak of his criminal career. Identified as the leader of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, Oseguera, known as El Mencho became the most wanted man in Mexico and the United States.

He is the second most wanted Mexican in the United States. The first is Rafael Caro Quintero, El Narco de Narcos, for the murder of Enrique Kiki Camarena, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent. But immediately afterward, on the list of the most wanted, is the face of Nemesio Oseguera, El Mencho, leader of CJNG.

The story of Oseguera Cervantes is extraordinary because the vast majority of Mexican narcos of his generation have been imprisoned or have died violently. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's indictment, El Mencho has led CJNG - or its embryonic version - at least since 2000 and has managed to expand it to most states in Mexico and several cities in the United States.

He took his first steps in the narcotics business, however, much earlier. In Naranjo de Chila - a town in southeastern Michoacán - Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes was born on July 17, 1966, one of six brothers from an avocado-growing family. It is said that he was baptized with the name of Rubén and he was called Nemesio in honor of his godfather.

They also say that his birthplace is the municipality of Naranjo de Chila and others that it was Uruapan or Aguililla. Perhaps it was the latter because there, just as a child who had just left school in the fifth year of elementary school, he was hired to look after the avocado fields, owned by the Valencia family.

From this family, first known as the Avocado Cartel (because it trafficked marijuana hidden in the shipments of that fruit), the Millennium Cartel was born when they jumped to the planting of marijuana and poppy. They were so powerful in their land that one of them, José, even became mayor in 1989, nominated by the PRD. With them, barely a teenager, El Mencho became a plantation watchman and later a trafficker. However, he must have dreamt of more than avocados, because in a few years he packed up and moved to Northern California, USA.

By the age of 20, by 1986, he had already immigrated to the United States. He lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, where he became involved with a heroin and methamphetamine trafficking gang and tried to build a network of clients as a dealer. The American journalist Josh Eells, in a report published in Rolling Stone magazine and based on information from U.S. authorities, states that Abigael González Valencia, El Cuini, brother-in-law of Oseguera Cervantes, trained him in the drug business.

He was arrested in 1986 when he and his older brother, Abraham Oseguera, sold heroin to two undercover police officers; in 1992 they were sent to federal prison and then deported. A backup photo of the incident shows the 19-year-old Mencho wearing a hooded sweatshirt with acne on his face. Two months later, his first daughter, Jessica Johanna Oseguera, was born.

Upon his release from prison in 1997, he enrolled as a municipal police officer in Tomatlán, Jalisco. There he became involved with the Nava Valencia brothers of the Millennium Cartel, and with Nacho Coronel of the Pacific Cartel, as the Chapo Guzmán criminal organization was also called. With them, upon leaving the police force, El Mencho became a sort of security advisor and a strategic piece in the trafficking of synthetic drugs to the United States thanks to his experience in that country, according to Eells.

Since the formation of CJNG in 2011, El Mencho soon managed to expand throughout most of Mexico and has an international presence in the United States, Colombia, and, unconfirmed, Canada, Argentina, Holland, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Russia, China, South Korea, Germany, Peru, Central America, Bolivia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland, Australia, and Cambodia, which would have surpassed the Sinaloa Cartel in drug trafficking by 2018, according to various reports.

Oseguera Cervantes supposedly hides in the mountains of Jalisco and, according to the local press, suffers from kidney failure, an illness that keeps him on dialysis and tied to a bed, so the organization would be run by his lieutenants. His alleged condition makes him vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2020, the governments of Mexico and the United States dealt the criminal a blow when Mencho's son, Rubén Oseguera González, El Menchito, was extradited, and his daughter, Jessica Johanna Oseguera González, was arrested while attending one of her brother's hearings.

How El Mencho is hiding

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho", has kept a low profile for several years so as not to be captured by Mexican or U.S. authorities, where he has already been declared public enemy number one.

The most recent DEA investigations have reported that Oseguera Cervantes is "on a leap of faith" (fleeing from place to place) in the hills and mountains of the states of Michoacán, Jalisco, and Colima, among cabins, camps, and humble houses so as not to attract attention and continue with his prolific criminal business and fugitive from justice.

However, before the New Generation Jalisco Cartel became one of the main targets for U.S. and Mexican authorities, "El Mencho" lived in luxury homes and cabins, managed to establish more than 100 Japanese food restaurants, create a real estate, newspapers, shopping malls, even a brand of tequila that he tried to export to Europe. He also had a ranch where there were exotic animals such as a flare tiger and other endangered species, which was seized by the Mexican government.

In those years, when the number one public enemy for the United States was Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Nemesio Oseguera enjoyed his relative anonymity, could give himself a life of luxury and enjoy one of his favorite pastimes that gave him one of his nicknames: "El señor de los Gallos. But things have changed since Oseguera Cervantes became the top priority for the United States. The capo had to change his behavior drastically to avoid attracting attention and capture.

U.S. and Mexican authorities have already defined its mode of operation. Oseguera Cervantes does not stay long in one place, it walks among the mountains of the Mexican mountains fleeing from justice, living among cabins and luxury houses, as in very humble houses, even caves.

According to DEA intelligence reports, they suggest that "El Mencho" has created its own "Golden Triangle", like the one Joaquín Guzmán Loera had in the highlands of the states of Durango, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua, where in addition to having marijuana crops he hid for many years.

The strategy of the leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel to evade justice is similar, according to agent Mori, only changes the area in which this "Golden Triangle" is located, and is in the mountains of Jalisco, Colima, and Michoacan, where "El Mencho" originates.

There, according to reports, it has an extensive territory where narcotics are planted and there are clandestine laboratories and has important ports such as Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas, where chemical precursors enter to make synthetic drugs.

The hills of the Sierra Madre del Sur, as well as those of Occidental, are now the refuge of this mafioso to whom they attribute the escalation of violence in Mexico. His rise in the drug world is linked to the extradition and life sentence of his former boss, 'El Chapo' Guzmán.

Criminals who have defied El Mencho

To become head of Mexico's most powerful cartel, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, "El Mencho," he had to do dirty work and overthrow the heads of different criminal groups in the country. In the leadership process of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, several enemies were made and former allies who felt betrayed joined the list.

According to intelligence reports from the authorities, "El Mencho" is being attacked on different fronts, but the blows that are weakening him come from his former friends like Carlos Sánchez Martínez, alias "El Cholo," and an ally of the Sinaloa Cartel to fight the CJNG.

The group of enemies is being joined by powerful assassins, among them the capo de capos, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who was designated by the authorities to finance the operations of the criminal organization of the "Cholo" and even to equip it with weapons.

Other hitmen who want to stop the Jalisco New Generation Cartel are the sons of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and the heirs of cartels that lost territories such as Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana and Los Arellano Félix.