U.S. Sanctions Cartel Members Operating at Mexico’s Busiest Seaport

Mexican authorities froze the bank accounts of three of the individuals, the U.S. said

A vessel approaches the port of Manzanillo, Mexico, in 2015. (Source: Shutterstock)

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned four members of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) who operate through the Mexican port of Manzanillo and the surrounding areas.

Aldrin Miguel Jarquin Jarquin and Jose Jesus Jarquin Jarquin, who are brothers, as well as Cesar Enrique Diaz De Leon Sauceda, are all among the most senior CJNG members operating in Manzanillo and elsewhere in the Mexican state of Colima, according to the Treasury. Mexican authorities froze their bank accounts in June 2020, the Treasury said. 

A fourth person, Fernando Zagal Anton, is subordinate to the others, according to the Treasury. Together, they coordinate CJNG’s drug trafficking operations through the port and maintain contact with cocaine suppliers in Colombia, the Treasury said. 

“CJNG’s criminal success is partly due to its influence over strategic locations such as Manzanillo,” said Andrea M. Gacki, director of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). 

Manzanillo is Mexico’s largest seaport, handling more than 40 percent of the country’s total container cargo. During a visit to the Manzanillo port in July 2020, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered the military to take control of border crossings and seaports to combat corruption and smuggling of drugs and precursor chemicals, according to media reports. 

CJNG is responsible for trafficking a significant amount of the fentanyl and other drugs that enter the U.S., according to the Treasury. Its expansion and control of strategic drug trafficking territory, including the Manzanillo port, has come in part through violence, the Treasury said. 

The cartel, which was sanctioned in 2015 along with an allied group, Los Cuinis, has been singled out by U.S. authorities as one of the world’s most dangerous transnational criminal groups. In March 2020, the U.S. government announced Project Python, an operation against CJNG that led to more than 600 arrests, 350 indictments and major drug and money seizures. Facilitators for CJNG have wide commercial interests, Kharon found in 2018.

Wednesday’s designation marked the 15th action by OFAC against CJNG, the Treasury said. The four sanctioned individuals report to Julio Alberto Castillo Rodriguez, who was designated in October 2016 and is the son-in-law of CJNG leader Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, the Treasury said. They coordinate with Carlos Andres Rivera Varela and Francisco Javier Gudino Haro, who were sanctioned in April and lead a CJNG enforcement group, the Treasury said.

The designations, including the one in April, have helped to identify the group’s hierarchical structure, according to inSight Crime, which focuses on organized crime in Latin America. 

Oseguera Cervantes, who is also known as “El Mencho,” was designated in 2015 and the U.S. has issued a reward of up to USD 10 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction. In June, his daughter was sentenced in the U.S. to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in dealings with Mexican companies sanctioned by the U.S. for ties to drug trafficking.

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