Just when you get one notorious drugs lord banged up, along comes one El of a murderous successor ready to take his place.
As Mexican cocaine king Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman begins a life sentence, America’s Drugs Enforcement Administration must now hunt down an even more fearsome quarry.
A cunning billionaire former avocado grower and cock-fighting enthusiast — who was once a COP.
Nemesio Oseguera-Cervantes — aka El Mencho — is so fearless he even kidnapped the millionaire playboy sons of his now caged arch-rival.
After setting up his own New Generation cartel in Jalisco state ten years ago, he made his mark in the bloodcurdling Narcos world by dumping 35 bound and tortured bodies in the streets of Mexican port Veracruz at rush hour.
Two years later, Mencho’s men raped, killed and set fire to a ten-year-old girl they mistakenly believed to be the daughter of one of their rivals.
In 2015, his assassins executed a man and his young son by detonating sticks of dynamite duct-taped to their bodies.
Chapo’s partner Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada holds the title of the planet’s biggest drug dealer.But it is little wonder that Oseguera-Cervantes, 52, is the DEA’s most wanted, with a $10million bounty on his head.
His crystal meth, cocaine and heroin consignments not only flood the States, but they also hit the streets HERE and in Europe, Australasia, Africa and Asia too.
“He’s public enemy number one,” said Paul Craine, who was head of the federal DEA in Mexico during the 2016 arrest of Chapo.
“And he’s got an army of thousands of bad guys.”
Chapo, 61, ran the feared Sinaloa state cartel and was immortalised in the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico.
He was caught in 2016 and finally sentenced last week.
After his arrest, rival drug dealers fought a vicious battle with each other to fill the power vacuum.
Chapo’s sons Ivan, 37, and Guzman, 31 — kidnapped at a restaurant by Mencho’s men in 2016 and freed after Chapo coughed up an estimated $2million — were muscled out of the way for partner Mayo to take charge.
But as a reclusive diabetic close to 70, his hold on the cartel is slipping.
And while he is seen as a survivor of the old school drug runners who abide by mafia-like codes, former policeman Mencho is the image of the new Mexican cartel don.
His cartel embraces social media as a way to announce their presence – carrying out narco-terrorist attacks, beheadings and the dismembering of bodies, for the world to see.
All the time Mencho stays in the shadows.
He doesn’t make the kind of public challenges to authority that have led to the downfall of other narcos including Colombia’s Pablo Escobar over the years.
And he never, ever touches a phone.
His foot soldiers keep order with assault rifles and wear a uniform of black balaclavas and T-shirts emblazoned with the cartel logo.
“He runs his cartel like a paramilitary,” says narcos expert Daniel Solis.
“Its arsenal, and its organisation put the regular army to shame.
“With the insight he gained while in the police, Mencho knows the power of a well-structured force.
He has publicly stated he will die fighting rather than be taken alive. He expects the same of all his men.”
Mencho rose to infamy from humble beginnings. He dropped out of school at the age of ten to work on his family’s small avocado farm.
Four years later he got a job guarding a weed crop before sneaking into California and setting up as a small-time dealer.
He and his cousin were caught trafficking and he was deported in the early 1990s.
But on his return to Mexico, he managed to hide his criminal past and landed a job with the Jalisco state police.
He left for the Millennium Cartel, an old ally of Chapo’s mob, then set up his own firm a decade ago which swiftly became known for its horrifying mass murders.
“Its method of killing is more akin to ISIS than the cartels,” adds Solis. “Never before has how they kill, in the numbers that they kill, been seen in Mexico.”
When Mencho is cornered he displays his most barbaric streak.
On May 1, 2015, the Mexican army planned to strike back at him with Operation Jalisco.
In a pre-dawn raid, elite paratroopers and federal police flown in by two military helicopters descended on a ranch where they believed Mencho was hiding.
But the cartel was waiting in armoured trucks.
One of the helicopters was hit, sending it crashing down in flames. Eight soldiers and a police officer were killed.
Hours later, Mencho ordered his men to set fire to dozens of hijacked cars, buses, trucks, petrol stations and banks — gridlocking traffic and bringing Jalisco to its knees.
The Mexican government was forced to send in 10,000 troops to secure the state.
Now, in the wake of Chapo’s jailing, the DEA and Mexican authorities are strengthening their bid to bring Mencho down.
If he were captured tomorrow, US authorities would be expected to request his extradition, as they did with Chapo.
But one DEA source doubts it will get that far.
“Mencho’s such a killer, I’d be surprised if he was captured alive,” he said.