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Mexico City police chief Omar García Harfuch injured in assassination attempt, blames CJNG cartel

Heavily armed gunmen attacked Mexico City’s police chief Omar García Harfuch in a brazen operation that left three people dead

Mexico City police chief Omar García Harfuch injured in assassination attempt, blames CJNG cartel
Mexico City police chief Omar García Harfuch - Photo: Featured photography/EL UNIVERSAL
English 05/07/2020 16:23 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Pedro Villa y Caña, Alberto Morales, Kevin Ruiz, Manuel Espino/EL UNIVERSAL, Christopher Sherman& E. Eduardo Castillo/AP Actualizada 16:23
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Heavily armed gunmen attacked and wounded Mexico City’s police chief Omar García Harfuch in a brazen operation that left three people dead, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said Friday.

The chief Omar García Harfuch later disclosed that the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) was responsible.

Sheinbaum said in a news conference that the police chief, Security Secretary Omar García Harfuch, was being treated at the Médica Sur hospital, which is being guarded by security officers, but was out of danger.

She said a 3 1/2 ton truck holding gunmen with rifles blocked the chief’s SUV and opened fire.

Two of those killed were part of García’s security detail. The third was a woman who just happened to be driving by. Sheinbaum said that the city’s security cameras recorded the attack.

“This morning we were attacked in a cowardly way by the CJNG,” García tweeted, using the Spanish-language acronym for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Mexico’s most violent criminal group.

Asked about the tweet from García, Sheinbaum declined to speculate on who was responsible.

Recommended: The story behind two of Mexico's bloodiest cartels

Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy Ramos said that there were 12 arrests and that her office was investigating the attack.

In a news conference held on Friday, Mexico City's Attorney General's Office (FGJ), said that those arrested come from Mexico City, Guadalajara, Guerrero, Nayarit, Michoacán, Chihuahua, and Colombia. The men were allegedly hired three weeks before the attack and would receive money in exchange. They were organized in four groups of seven members each and were taken to the place of the events on two vans to check if there were any SSC vehicles nearby.

The FGJ said the ongoing investigation showed the hitmen were taken on June 25 to different parts in the city to pick up firearms and then they went to three different places at the Miguel Hidalgo and Cuauhtémoc boroughs where they were set to intercept the vehicle that would transport García Harfuch: Monte Blanco St. and Paseo de la Reforma at the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood in the Miguel Hidalgo borough; Hamburgo St. and Florencia St. at the Juárez neighborhood in the Cuauhtémoc borough, and Monte Blanco St. and Explanada St at the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood in the Miguel Hidalgo borough, where the attack took place.

Two additional suspects from Oaxaca and Jalisco were arrested at the Mexico-Puebla highway following the persecution of a gray Jetta vehicle that was being monitored by Mexico City’s surveillance cameras since the attack took place.

The FGJ added the attack left three people dead - a female civilian who happened to be at the scene and two police officers - and five injured - a 23-year-old woman who was just passing by, three police officers, and a 45-year-old man.

In an operation carried out by the SSC in Tláhuac, police officers arrested José Armando Briseño de los Santos “El Vaca,” identified as the alleged mastermind of the assassination attempt against Omar García Harfuch.

“El Vaca” has been identified as the hitmen chief of the CJNG in Tonalá, Jalisco.

Along with him, four other people were arrested in relation to the attack against the Mexico City police chief.

“El Vaca” would have received orders from Carlos Andrés Rivera Varela, “El Morro,” regional leader of the CJNG.

Briseño de los Santos was in charge of coordinating violent actions against members of rival criminal groups, according to the SSC investigation.

Moreover, it is known that “El Vaca” recruited the men involved in the Artz Pedregal attack against Israeli citizens on July 24, 2019.

He also recruited and trained men to serve Mexico’s most violent cartel in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

“El Vaca” and the rest of the men who participated in the attack hid in a plot in Tláhuac.

Likewise, the Navy worked jointly with Mexico City’s Investigation Police to perform surveillance tours to locate and arrest “El Vaca,” also known as “El Animal,” and Bruno Luis Bravo Figueroa.

According to federal authorities, naval intelligence measures will be strengthened by the Navy Ministry to give support in the operations stemmed from the attack against García Harfuch.

Working jointly with the Navy Ministry (SEMAR), officers from Mexico City’s Investigation Police performed three raids on Sunday morning at the Gustavo A. Madero borough, allegedly linked to the attack against García Harfuch.

At the first address, located in Acueducto de Guadalupe Ave., they seized license plates related to yesterday’s events, as well as 5.56 caliber shells and a bag with white powder similar to cocaine.

In another action, at Jade Street, the Navy and the PDI seized another bag with a white powder similar to cocaine.

Lastly, at a property located in Concepción Street, they seized 161 doses of a white powder similar to cocaine.

After abandoning the vehicles they used to perform the attack, 15 CJNG hitmen tried to escape on foot at Paseo de la Reforma Ave, toward Periférico, and others used the subway; they all were arrested.

The spokesman to Mexico City’s Attorney General’s Office (FGJ), Ulises Lara, informed that after the assassination attempt against Omar García Harfuch, security officers have seized one grenade launcher, 34 long arms, eight short arms, seven fragmentation grenades, five Barrett firearms, 39 vests, 51 Molotov cocktails, 96 magazines, 2,805 shells, and 400 spent casings.

In a news conference, the FGJ reported the arrest of 19 suspects linked to the events; two of them were arrested in the State of Mexico. Ulises Lara explained that after the attack, surveillance cameras recorded several suspects getting rid of their clothes so as not to be identified.

The FGJ said there were also raids at the Estrella and Santa Isabel Tola neighborhoods in the Gustavo A. Madero borough where they seized drugs and found evidence that will be included in the investigation file.

As of the remains of the woman who was killed in the attack, Ulises Lara said her family took them to Toluca, State of Mexico.

Omar García Harfuch

García Harfuch was appointed as head of Mexico City’s Citizen Security Ministry (SSC) in October 2019.

Considered by the current Mexico City administration to be “the best police officer in Mexico,” Harfuch has been behind different blows against criminal structures in charge of drug dealing in the city, in addition to leading recent investigations such as the Artz Pedregal case, Norberto Ronquillo’s murder, and serial rapists.

Several sources informed that García Harfuch would be living one of his dreams: to direct a police corporation like his father, Javier García Paniagua, did when he was in front of the now-extinct Federal Security Direction (DFS).

García Harfuch was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos on February 25, 1982. Currently 37 years old, he is the youngest operational commander with appointments in federal corporations, in addition to his current post in Mexico City. He joined Claudia Sheinbaum’s Cabinet three months ago after the departure of Bernardo Gómez del Campo from the Investigation Police (PDI), part of the local Attorney General’s Office (PGJ).

In just three months leading the PDI, García Harfuch carried out several arrests, such as the one that took place on June 20, 2019, when priest Francisco Javier, who is accused of murdering student Leonardo Avendaño, was detained.

On July 18, 2019, his investigation team arrested four people linked to the kidnapping and murder of Norberto Ronquillo.

García Harfuch joined the Federal Police on September 1, 2008 as head of department of the Intelligence Coordination for Crime Prevention, assigned to the Genderamierie Division.

In 2016, he became the head of the Federal Police’s Investigation Division and led the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office until May 31, 2019. There, he coordinated the arrest of Dámaso López Núñez, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, on May 2, 2017, at the Anzures neighborhood.

He was also behind the arrest of Pedro Ramírez Pérez, also known as “El Jamón,” a member of the La Unión Tepito cartel, and Jorge Flores Conha, a.k.a. “El Tortas,” from the La Fuerza Anti Unión cartel.

The police said in a statement that gunmen armed with .50 caliber sniper rifles and grenades exchanged fire with the chief’s security detail. The statement said two police were wounded. Harfuch was hospitalized in stable condition, it said.

The attack occurred around 6:30 a.m. on Mexico City’s grand boulevard Paseo de la Reforma in an area of large homes surrounded by walls and foreign embassies. Photographs from the scene showed a bullet-riddled black SUV and a high-sided construction truck with a number of rifles in the back that apparently hid the gunmen until the ambush.

There was no immediate word on motive or the identity of the attackers, but a number of organized crime groups operate in the city.

Recommended: Six criminal organizations operate in Mexico City, the State of Mexico, and Hidalgo

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered his support and solidarity to Sheinbaum and the city’s public security forces.

“It has to do without a doubt with the work he is carrying out to guarantee peace and tranquility,” López Obrador said.

Mexico’s federal Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo, who was travelling with the president, condemned what he called a “cowardly” attack.

“It’s clear that the work of the (police) is touching strong criminal interests,” he tweeted.

Earlier this month, a federal judge and his wife were killed at their home by gunmen in the western state of Colima. The judge had handled a number of cases related to organized crime.

In a news conference held on Friday, Durazo addressed the assassination attempt against García Harfuch and mentioned that Mexico City's Attorney General's Office is currently investigating the hypothesis of the CJNG being behind the attack.

On June 28, Mexico City authorities deployed over 200 police officers to guard the relocation of 19 gunmen involved in the attack against Omar García Harfuch. The 19 suspects were moved to a prison located in southern Mexico City.

The alleged CJNG members were transported in a heavily armored vehicle that was closely monitored by the city's surveillance system, amid fears that the bloody cartel might attempt to rescue them. 

On June 30, Mexico City authorities announced José Armando, aka “El Vaca,” the man who allegedly orchestrated the attack against García Harfuch, was sent to a prison in northern Mexico City. 

“El Vaca” is facing three charges: bribery, drug dealing, and carrying a gun. However, the CNJG member is not being charged for his involvement in the attack against Mexico City’s police chief after local authorities weren’t able to indict him on homicide and attempt homicide charges. 

Also on June 30, two other suspects involved in the attack against García Harfuch were arrested by authorities. They have been charged with homicide and attempted homicide. 

The two suspects were arrested in the State of Mexico. 

On July 1, the Financial Intelligence Unit requested to block 127 people's bank accounts, who were somehow involved in the attack. 

Thirty of these accounts are owned by gunmen directly involved in the attack against Harfuch. 

Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), is based in Guadalajara, Jalisco. It distributes drugs in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. Furthermore, this drug trafficking organization is “one of the most powerful and fastest-growing cartels in Mexico and the United States” as it has a presence in at least 24 of 32 Mexican states.

This drug cartel is characterized by its rapid expansion and its willingness to “engage in violent confrontations with Mexican Government security forces and rival cartels.”

It was originally known as the Zeta Killers, the CJNG made its first appearance in 2011 with a roadside display of the bodies of 35 alleged members of Los Zetas.

The CJNG has early roots in the Milenio cartel, which was active in the Tierra Caliente region of southern Mexico before it disintegrated in 2009. The group is a by-product of the Milenio cartel’s collapse and was allied with the Sinaloa federation until 2014.

Cartel Jalisco-New Generation reportedly served as an enforcement group for the Sinaloa Cartel until summer 2013. Analysts and Mexican authorities have suggested the split between Sinaloa and CJNG is one of the many indications of a general fragmentation of crime groups. Ruben Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” a top wanted fugitive by the DEA, is the group’s current leader.

In 2015, the Mexican government declared CJNG one of the most dangerous cartels in the country and one of two with the most extensive reach. In October 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury echoed the Mexican government when it described the group as one of the world’s “most prolific and violent drug trafficking organizations.”

According to some analysts, CJNG has operations throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The group allegedly is responsible for distributing cocaine and methamphetamine along “10,000 kilometers of the Pacific coast in a route that extends from the Southern Cone to the border of the United States and Canada.”

Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho”

The DEA, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, labeled Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, better known as “El Mencho,” as the most wanted man, even before cartel leaders with a long history such as Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada and Rafael Caro Quintero.

“El Mencho,” who hails from Michoacán, is followed by Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar,”El Chapo” Guzmán’s son; Rafael Caro Quintero, and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

On March 10, 2020, the DEA placed billboards all over Los Angeles, California, offering a USD $10 million reward in exchange for information that leads to the arrest of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes.

In 2018, the drug trafficker was the third most wanted criminal by the DEA.

In recent months, the drug lord’s inner circle was severely weakened after his son was extradited to the U.S. and the arrest of Jessica Johanna Oseguera Gonzalez, “La Negra.” According to authorities, they were the criminal’s main financial operators.

According to the DEA, the drug trafficker has created a clandestine safety zone in the mountainous areas in Jalisco, Michoacán, and Colima. The criminal does not set foot in major cities or restaurants and lives in the mountains. This strategy is common among cartel leaders.

Although “El Mencho” joined crime in the 90s, he became an infamous cartel leader in the last 5 years and is now the most wanted man by the DEA

In 1994, the infamous cartel leader was sentenced to 3 years in prison for heroin trafficking in the U.S. He was later deported to Mexico, worked as a police officer in Jalisco, and then joined the now-defunct Milenio Cártel. When the cartel leader, Ignacio Coronel “El Rey del Cristal,” was murdered in 2010, the CJNG was created.

During the Peña Nieto administration, authorities spent over MXN $5 million a day to arrest “El Mencho.”

Why did the CNJG attack García Harfuch?

As head of the AIC, Omar García Harfuch delivered several blows against the operational, financial, and arms distribution structure of the CJNG.

In August 2018, one of his last actions as head of the AIC during the previous administration, García Harfuch was in Chicago where, along with U.S. authorities, he announced a strategy to fight criminal organizations, mainly the CJNG, led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, “El Mencho.”

Before that, in August 2017, Omar García and his team arrested Raúl Flores Hernández “El Tío,” in Zapopan, Jalisco, who was one of the top financial operators of the CJNG, and who was requested by the U.S. government.

Then, along with the Army, he was behind the arrest of Dámaso López Núñez, “El Licenciado,” who was looking for an alliance with the CJNG to take total control of the Sinaloa cartel from El Chapo’s sons, Iván and Alfredo Guzmán.

Two years ago, in 2018, the current Mexico City’s Security Minister finalized the capture of 10 people, six of Chinese origin, and four Mexicans, who were part of an international network of financial operators linked to the CJNG, in different parts of Mexico City.

After the kidnapping and murder of the AIC officers by the CJNG that took place between the limits of Jalisco and Nayarit, García Harfuch led investigations to arrest 18 members of the aforementioned criminal group, including Colombian Mauricio Varela Reyes “El Manotas.”

He was also part of the arrest of José Luis Gutiérrez Ochoa, “Tolín” or “77” or “Lord of the TT,” El Mencho’s brother in law, and Jorge Luis Sierra Estrada, “El Orejo,” the CJNG operator in Tlajomulco, Jalisco also close to El Mencho.

Likewise, García Harfuch’s AIC was involved in the arrest of José Guadalupe “N,” “El 15,” team leader of the CJNG in Zapotlán el Grande, Jalisco who was responsible for the disappearance of three Italian citizens.

He also planned the operation to arrest Juan Francisco “N,” “Juan Pistolas”, CJNG hitmen chief who was in charge of distributing weapons and drugs for the CJNG in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.

From the AIC, Omar García launched an offensive against La Unión Tepito and different drug dealing groups in Mexico City, along with the Navy, that resulted in the arrest of violent criminals like Roberto Mollado Esparza “El Betito,” David García Ramírez, “El Pistaches”; Óscar Andrés Flores, “El Lunares”; and Jorge Flores Conchas, “El Tortas,” one of the main leaders of the Anti Unión Tepito criminal organization.

His career also includes the dismantling of the kidnapping bands known as “La Marranita,” “Los Conejos,” “Los Mexicanos Más Locos (MML)” and “Los Bikers” and/or “Los Botello,” who were known for the high level of violence against their victims and for demanding high amounts of money in exchange for the liberty of those they kidnapped.

In 2018, García Harfuch received the Award for International Cooperation from the U.S. National Security Department due to the work of the PGR’s Criminal Investigation Agency to disassemble the human trafficking transnational group “Los Granados”

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