TIERRA CALIENTE, Mexico — This is what a cartel-besieged town looks like: shuttered storefronts, crumbling buildings, and streets that empty each day at dusk.
Welcome to Tepalcatepec, where the average local temperature is 95 degrees and the chief local export is crystal meth. According to the regional press, this ramshackle pueblo is the No. 1 drug distribution center for the entire state of Michoacán.
Like a growing number of other cities and towns across western Mexico, Tepalcatepec is in danger of succumbing to the nation’s newest mega-mafia: the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
The CJNG isn’t just super-sized. It’s also ruthless and hyper-violent, even by Mexican cartel standards. Back in 2011 the group slaughtered 35 members of a rival gang, including 12 women, and dumped the bodies on an interstate highway at rush hour. And that was just a warm-up act.