The US-born son of one of Mexico's most wanted drug lords has been captured, released, and re-captured in less than 10 days, in a farcical series of events that analysts say raises questions about the competence of Mexico's police and judicial institutions.
Ruben Oseguera Gonzalez, the suspected second-in-command of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, had also been detained and released in 2014.
Known as "El Menchito," Oseguera, 25, was born in California and holds dual US-Mexican citizenship. Federal forces arrested him in the early hours of June 23 during a joint police and army raid on his home in the Zapopan suburb of the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, authorities said.
Charged with organized crime and money laundering, Oseguera was then transferred to the Altiplano maximum-security prison in the State of Mexico on Saturday.
Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, Mexico's national security commissioner, said he is "considered the second-in-command of the criminal group led by his father" — Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho."
Oseguera Jr. was in charge of coordinating the flow of drugs into the United States, Rubido said, as well as the theft and resale of gasoline, among other criminal activity. Rubido added that police found four grenades and four assault rifles at Oseguera's home, including a customized AR-15 inscribed with his nickname "Menchito" and the phrase "CJNG 02," in reference to his apparent rank within the cartel.
The younger Oseguera had apparently recently undergone a nose job before his arrest, Rubido said. Criminal figures in Mexico sometimes attempt to alter their appearance with plastic surgery to avoid identification and capture.
'El Menchito' had recently undergone plastic surgery to alter his appearance, authorities said. The image above is undated. (Image via Segob)
Nonetheless, the First District Court of Federal Criminal Proceedings in the State of Mexico ordered Oseguera's release on Wednesday, citing a "lack of evidence" against him. The court also stated that the police entered Oseguera's home illegally and delayed his interrogation and access to a lawyer for nine hours.
Hours after his liberation, federal agents recaptured Oseguera and transferred him to the country's organized-crime investigative unit for questioning over his possible involvement in the disappearance of two people in Michoacan state. Mexico's federal Attorney General's Office, or PGR in Spanish, maintains that Oseguera had access to a lawyer, a doctor, and US consular staff.
The PGR, which is appealing the court's decision to release Oseguera, now has 48 hours to bring new charges against him.
Twitter users responded to the news with a sense of weary disbelief. "This isn't a comedy sketch, it's our justice system in action," wrote Mexican journalist Carlos Puig.
Another user commented that "having guns, drugs & cash in Mexico are OK for those above law."
Oseguera was previously captured alongside four accomplices during a dawn raid on another property in Guadalajara on January 30, 2014. He was accused of illegal possession of military-grade firearms, drug trafficking and money laundering, but after 11 months in custody, a federal judge ordered his release on December 26.
The judge also cited a "lack of evidence" against Oseguera, despite him being caught in possession of 13 illegal firearms, over a thousand rounds of ammunition, $500,000 in US dollars and almost 16 million pesos ($1 million) in cash.
Speaking to VICE News after Oseguera's first release, Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said he believed the move was most likely the result of "judicial and police incompetence," rather than outright corruption.
Guadalajara residents observe a charred passenger bus burned during a wave of so-called narco-blockades on May 1, 2015. (AP file photo)
Oseguera is not the first Guadalajara-based kingpin to have been controversially released from prison in recent years.
In August 2013, veteran capo Rafael Caro Quintero was freed in dubious circumstances after serving 28 years of his 40-year sentence for the abduction, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kike" Camarena.
Quintero was released at the unusual hour of 2 am on a Friday, after a judge in Jalisco suddenly overturned his conviction on a technicality.
Founded by Oseguera's father in 2010, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG in Spanish, started out as an offshoot of the larger Sinaloa Cartel but has stealthily established itself as one of Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking organizations.
At first, the group maintained a relatively low profile, but in recent months it has become more aggressive, ambushing police patrols, shooting down a military helicopter and blockading dozens of roads across western Mexico.
'We do not have a single complaint in the capital related to extortion.'
The CJNG also appears to have extended its influence in the Mexican capital.
Mexican daily El Universal reported on Tuesday that the cartel has been extorting the owners of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in Mexico City's fashionable neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa, and Zona Rosa.
Four Mexico City businesses were reportedly forced to shut down this year because they could not meet the cartel's demands of 3,000 pesos ($190) a week, or 15 to 40 percent of profits. Business owners are also reportedly being forced to allow gang members to sell drugs inside their establishments.
Those who refuse to pay up risk their lives.
Marcos Antonio Cardona, the 47-year-old owner of Life bar in Condesa, was shot dead early Sunday morning. He had previously complained of being threatened by extortionists.
Mexico City's attorney general, Rodolfo Rios Garza, sought to downplay the issue on Monday, affirming brashly: "We do not have a single complaint in the capital related to extortion."
Earlier this year, restaurant owners in Guadalajara, the Jalisco state capital made similar complaints of gang members demanding monthly payments and permission to sell drugs on the premises.
In some cases, owners reportedly opted to spend 27,000 pesos ($1,700) per month on private security in a bid to ward off extortionists.
Follow Duncan Tucker on Twitter @DuncanTucker.
Topics: americas, mexico, el menchito, el mencho, ruben oseguera gonzalez, nemesio oseguera cervantes, zapopan, guadalajara, jalisco, jalisco new generation cartel, cjng, new generation cartel, pgr, monte alejandro rubido garcia, ar-15, edomex, state of mexico, carlos puig, alejandro hope, roma, condesa, zona rosa, extortion, rodolfo rios garza, rafael caro quintero, enrique 'kike' camarena, enrique camarena, dea