By Scott Stewart

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the implications of the arrest of drug cartel leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas or “El Chango.”

In today’s Dispatch we’re going to be looking at the arrests yesterday in Aguascalientes State, of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, “El Chango” (the monkey), the leader of one of the factions of the La Familia Michoacana cartel.

To understand what the arrest of El Chango means, we have to really go back and look at the flow, or really the context, of what has been happening with the Mexican cartels over the last year. A year ago this time, the La Familia or, as we call them, “LFM,” (La Familia Michoacana), the LFM cartel was an up-and-coming cartel, it was rising in power and prominence, and it had banded together with two other powerful cartel groups, the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf Cartel, to assist them in their battle against the Zetas and their allies.

Now one of the things that we’ve seen happen over the years with the Mexican cartels is that when any one figure — especially in the Sinaloa Federation — gets too powerful, they have a tendency to run into accidents, and that’s what we saw happen last July. There was a gentleman by the name of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, “El Nacho.” Ignacio Coronel had an issue with the authorities, was taken out, and this created a vacuum in Jalisco and Guadalajara. Now at this time what happened is we had the LFM cartel saw that vacuum of power that was started by the removal of Ignacio Coronel, and they decided to move in and try to assume control of Jalisco and Guadalajara. This then initiated a war between the Sinaloa Federation and the LFM for control of this very lucrative place. As LFM began fighting with Sinaloa, we saw Sinaloa Federation becoming really dominant and getting the upper hand in that fight, and that struggle culminated in the death, late last year, of the leader of the LFM, a guy by the name of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, “El Mas Loco,” (the craziest one).

Following the death of El Mas Loco, what we saw happen was that it devolved into two different organizations that were basically coalescing around different powerful leaders — lieutenants of El Mas Loco. The first of these lieutenants was Jose Mendez Vargas, “El Chango.” The second one was Servando Gomez, “La Tuta,” (the teacher). La Tuta’s faction began using the name the Knights Templar. The other organization — the faction that formed around El Chango — kept using the name La Familia. So over the last few months, as these organizations have formed up, we’ve seen them locked in a very bloody battle for control of Michoacan. So over the next weeks and months we’re going to be watching for indications of which way this is going to be going: whether or not this LFM faction will be able to stay united, whether they’ll be able to be able to fend off the offensive of the Knights Templar, and whether or not they could become more closely allied with Los Zetas.


Implications of El Chango's Arrest is republished with permission of STRATFOR.


Available at

Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World

Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East (The Contemporary Middle East)

Enemies of Intelligence

The End of History and the Last Man

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?

Running Out of Water: The Looming Crisis and Solutions to Conserve Our Most Precious Resource

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization

The Great Gamble

At War with the Weather: Managing Large-Scale Risks in a New Era of Catastrophes

Friendly Fire: Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century

Dining With al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East

Uprising: Will Emerging Markets Shape or Shake the World Economy


Copyright ©, STRATFOR

World - Implications of El Chango's Arrest | Global Viewpoint