Meet the ruthless warlord tipped to become the 'new El Chapo' by taking control of Mexico's fiercest cartel.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a merciless and meticulous military strategist, has been instrumental in the expansion of the fearsome Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which operates in at least 35 states across Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Gonzalez – aka El 03 – has created two elite military units, El RR and El Grupo Delta, which are battling for territory in central Mexico with rival cartels.
Under his watch, CJNG members have downed an army helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killed dozens of state officials, and has even been known to hang the bodies of victims from bridges to intimidate rivals.
The gang's current head honcho is Nemesio 'El Mencho' Oseguera Cervantes, but former US federal marshal and cartel expert Robert Almonte has tipped Gonzalez to take his place in the near future – making Mexico's "most dangerous" cartel even deadlier.
And Gonzalez has an iron fist tough enough to make him the biggest menace Mexico has seen since notorious drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, who was last year jailed for life for flooding the US with cocaine over three decades.
Almonte told Daily Star: “The CJNG, in my opinion, has become the most dangerous Mexican cartel. Nothing is off-limits to them.
“By forming the elite group, the CJNG has become better equipped with tactical gear, weapons and armoured vehicles.
“Gonzalez has made the enforcement group of the CJNG more well trained and organised."
The CJNG has previously locked horns with the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, Los Viagras, and La Familia Michoacana.
In July, dozens of armed CJNG members shouted Mencho’s name and showed off military-grade weapons along with armoured pickup trucks in propaganda footage.
Almonte added: “When you see the video of them doing a shout out to El Mencho on his birthday, they look like a very well organized and equipped military group.
“This has made it possible for the CJNG to engage in battles with their rivals and to expand their areas of control.”
Speaking exclusively to Daily Star, Almonte suggested the stars were set to align perfectly for Gonzalez to seize control of CJNG.
US authorities have offered a reward of $10 million (£7.8m) for information leading to Mencho's arrest.
And given his supposed poor health and intelligence sharing between Mexican and US officials, Almonte believes they are closer than ever to capturing him.
In June, rumours on social media even suggested Mencho was dead – but they were dismissed by the Mexican President.
A month later, the CJNG leader reportedly built his own hospital in a village in the state of Jalisco.
Mencho was reluctant to leave his El Alcihuatl hideout and wanted to seek treatment for kidney disease, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
His son, Ruben Oseguera-González – or 'El Menchito' – should be next in line to the throne, but he was extradited to Washington in February and charged with distributing drugs in the US from 2007 to February 2017.
He was allegedly behind the operation to kidnap Chapo’s son in the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta in 2016, Infobae reports.
Jesus Alfredo Guzman was abducted by seven armed men who stormed into a trendy restaurant on the city’s main strip.
He was released after a week of negotiations.
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Almonte continued: “With the extradition of El Mencho's son and him being out of the picture for taking control, I believe that it would be likely that Juan Carlos Gonzales would take over the CJNG.”
In July, authorities estimated the CJNG oversaw one-third of all drugs being transported from Mexico into the US.
Earlier this month, another cartel expert claimed the gang had become a “greater force” than Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel.
Dr Robert J Bunker, Director of Research & Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, believes Sinaloa – led by Chapo's sons and former partner Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada after his imprisonment last year – is now operating in its shadow.
He told Daily Star: "The CJNG presently appears to be a greater force than the Sinaloa Cartel throughout Mexico and overseas is now eclipsing it.
"Still, the Sinaloa Cartel is stronger in some of its core territories such as Culiacan and extended regions."
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