Brazil favors U.S. extradition of CJNG boss José González Valencia

“MX” for Borderland Beat

José González Valencia
Brazilian authorities confirmed that their Public Prosecutor’s Office favors the extradition of Jose Gonzalez Valencia to the United States, where he faces outstanding drug charges. Gonzalez Valencia is former high-ranking member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and its financial arm Los Cuinis. He has been imprisoned in Brazil since December 2017 after he flew there from Bolivia to vacation with his family.

In addition to his U.S. drug charges, Gonzalez Valencia also has a pending arrest warrant for his capture in Mexico. He is wanted for murder in the state of Jalisco. His defense argues that he has the right as a Mexican national to request his transfer to Mexico. Gonzalez Valencia’s brother Gerardo was extradited to the U.S. this year after he was arrested in Uruguay in 2016.
The final decision of his extradition will be decided by the Supreme Federal Court (STF), Brazil’s highest court system, but they have not given him a date for his next hearing. Gonzalez Valencia is one of the most notable inmates of the Federal Penitentiary of Mossoró, a maximum-security facility in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.
Background
José González Valencia, also known by his alias “El Chepa”, “Camarón” (English: Shrimp), and “Santy”, is part of a large clan of at least 18 siblings. People in their hometown in Michoacan nicknamed the clan “Cuinis” in reference to a squirrel (spermophilus adocetus) from the area that is known as “Cuinique”. It is common for this squirrel to have over a dozen babies each time the mother gives birth.
Gonzalez Valencia first captured the attention of Mexican officials in 2005 when he was nearly killed at a cockfighting event in Tonala, Jalisco. Armed men stormed the arena and attacked the spectators with AK-47s and grenades. Their intended target were members of the Milenio Cartel, and the suspected assailants were members of the Gulf Cartel’s former paramilitary group, Los Zetas.

Four people were killed and twenty-eight more were injured, including González Valencia (who was shot in the arm) and Antonio Oseguera Cervantes, brother of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (“El Mencho”). The deceased were Saúl Díaz Oseguera (“El Cangrejo”), Juan García Rodríguez, Miguel Ortiz Salcido and an unidentified man.

Jose Gonzalez Valencia was nearly killed in the 2005 attack
When security forces arrived at the scene, they discovered that several of the cockfighting attendees were linked to the Milenio Cartel and that they were also armed. However, the Government of Jalisco did not make any arrests at the scene since they did not consider it necessary to arrest the victims of the attack. Gonzalez Valencia was treated at a hospital and was then allowed to return home.
CJNG tenure
When the CJNG was formed, Gonzalez Valencia played a key role under his brother Abigael (“El Cuini)” and his brother-in-law El Mencho. After Abigael’s capture in 2015, Gonzalez Valencia fled to Bolivia to avoid government crackdowns.
According to the Center for Research and National Security (CISEN), Mexico’s intelligence agency, González Valencia headed the financial operations of the CJNG and managed the group’s alliances with other criminal networks in Asia and Europe, where the CJNG sends narcotics from Mexico.
In addition, the CISEN alleged that González Valencia managed the relationship with arms traffickers in the United States and Central America.
Time in Bolivia
In September 2015, González Valencia flew into Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia from Lima, Peru. He entered using a Mexican passport with the fake name Jafett Arias Becerra. According to Bolivia’s General Directorate of Migration (DIGEMIG), González Valencia’s passport was official and had all the international security features in place.
González Valencia was able to apply for one-year temporary residency in Bolivia and get a foreigner ID card from the General Service of Personal Identification (SEGIP). He was able to get temporary residency through a Bolivian national who González Valencia was close to and who agreed to be responsible for his financial support.
Bolivian foreigner ID card under his alias Jafett Arias Becerra
On 22 March 2017, González Valencia started an application to extend his one-year temporary residency to a two-year one that included work eligibility. He applied to this application using his alias, and issued a work petition form to the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra through a law firm. His two-year residency was later approved.
González Valencia was also able to enter the country because the Interpol had not issued a red alert against the name Jafett Arias Becerra, which González Valencia used to enter the country and apply for residency.
During his time in Bolivia, the CJNG reportedly laundered money at the Asociación Cruceña de Fútbol, a Bolivian football league based out of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where González Valencia did his residency application.
After Christmas Gonzalez Valencia contacted his family and told them he wanted to go with them to Brazil on a short vacation. Security forces were tracking his footsteps since he arrived in Brazil from the Pinto Martins – Fortaleza International Airport as a tourist on 22 December.
According to the Brazilian police, they discovered he was in Brazil immediately upon landing when he checked-in, but decided not to approach him at the airport and instead followed him to where he was going. The police checked in their security system to retrieve information from him, and also looked into hotel registration lists and rental car companies to track his movements in Brazil.
Airport surveillance captures Gonzalez Valencia (far left)
Gonzalez Valencia and his family rented a beach house in Taíba. The houses he rented were done through a strawperson. He was accompanied by his wife, their child, and some friends. According to the police, he was planning to stay in Brazil until 3 January.
On 27 December, Gonzalez Valencia was arrested outside a beach resort area where he was staying. He was sent to the headquarters of the Federal Police of Brazil in Fortaleza, Ceará, where officials later confirmed that there was a pending arrest warrant and extradition request against him from the United States. None of the people who were with him at the moment of his arrest were apprehended by the police because there were no arrest warrants against them.
Imprisonment and extradition proceedings
On 23 January 2018, Brazilian authorities rejected a motion to carry out extradition process against González Valencia in secret.

González Valencia’s defense wanted the process to be held in secrecy to protect their client and his family, given the fact that the arrest garnered national attention. However, judge Carmen Lucia Antunes said they would not make an exception for them because publicity was part of the judicial process.
On 11 December 2018, minister José Celso de Mello Filho approved his extradition process. The process still awaits approval from Brazil’s highest court system.

Gonzalez Valencia is imprisoned in a penitentiary that holds high-ranking members of Brazil’s notorious gang, First Command of the Capital (Portuguese: Primeiro Comando da Capital, PCC).

Mexican cartels and Brazil
Upon further investigation, Brazilian authorities confirmed that González Valencia had visited Brazil three times using his alias. They said that he was not in Brazil to commit illegal activities and that he would visit for leisure and did not have Brazilian friends. The first time he visited was in 2015, the same year he fled Mexico to avoid prosecution.

Brazilian criminal groups have established ties with Mexican drug cartels. In 2014, the Brazilian Federal Police discovered that the PCC sent cocaine to Mexico as a “test” shipment. The drugs were intended to be delivered in Veracruz, where the CJNG has presence.

In 2019, after Gonzalez Valencia’s arrest, Brazilian policemen found links between the PCC and the Sinaloa Cartel. The report said that the Sinaloa Cartel was one of the main suppliers of PCC-owned cocaine in Europe. One PCC member who was arrested had a logo that is often associated with the Sinaloa Cartel in his mobile phone.