The United States attorney in Chicago said Thursday that a top member of the Sinaloa gang had been cooperating with the authorities since he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges a year ago. The man, Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, who was arrested in Mexico in 2009, is the son of Ismael Zambada García, believed to be one of the leaders of the Sinaloa gang.
With the arrest of Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leadership of Mexico’s largest and most sophisticated illegal drug operation has probably transferred to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a 66-year-old former farmer with a knack for business — and maintaining a low profile. But Zambada is likely to discover, much as Guzman did, that inheriting the throne of top capo comes with a series of complications worthy of a Shakespearean king.
Like his predecessor, Zambada is a country boy made good who hails from the badlands of Sinaloa, the traditional heart of Mexican drug-smuggling culture. Though he has enjoyed less publicity than Guzman, he has long been considered a high-level target for U.S. and Mexican authorities, who have managed to nab a number of his family members and close associates in recent years. Now that pressure is likely to increase substantially.
The powerful Sinaloa cartel is expected to go right on selling billions of dollars of illegal drugs despite the takedown of its legendary leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who leaves in place a sophisticated distribution network and business plan.
Guzman’s capture Saturday was undoubtedly a major blow for a criminal ring likened to a Fortune 500 company — the loss of its chief executive coming on the heels of more than a dozen arrests of key lieutenants and lower-level operators in recent months. Yet the cartel remains the major supplier of cocaine to the U.S., and the arrest did not touch the cartel’s immense political power, nurtured through the bribery of officials, or its thriving money laundering operations.
“As long as these other structures remain in place, all things being equal, Sinaloa will be able to continue to operate if not as normal, at least as the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico,” said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico Project.
The New York Times, 12/14/2013
With violence down to a quarter of its peak, Ciudad Juárez, a perennial symbol of drug war devastation, is experiencing what many here describe as a boom. New restaurants pop up weekly, a few with a hipster groove. Schools and homes in some neighborhoods are gradually filling again, while new nightclubs throb on weekends with wall-to-wall teenagers and 20-somethings who insist on reclaiming the freedom to work and play without being consumed by worry.
Critics here fear that the changes are merely cosmetic, and there is still disagreement over what, exactly, has led to the drastic drop in violence. Some attribute it to an aggressive detention policy by the police; others say the worst killers have died or fled, or that the Sinaloa drug cartel has simply defeated its rivals, leaving a peace of sorts that could quickly be undone.
Chicago’s Heroin Problem: City’s Open-Air Drug Markets’ Surprising Connection To Mexican Drug Cartels (Video)December 13, 2013
The Huffington Post, 12/12/2013
In a Wednesday panel on HuffPost Live, Reader reporter Mick Dumke, Bloomberg reporter John Lippert and Chicago Recovery Alliance director Dan Bigg spoke on the Windy City’s heroin “open-air” heroin markets on the city’s West Side and its connection to the powerful Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel and its kingpin, “Public Enemy Number 1″ El Chapo Guzman.
San Antonio Express, 11/21/2013
Mexico extradited an alleged former top member of the Zetas drug cartel Thursday to face narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in Laredo, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent said.
Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not confirm or deny Thursday afternoon that Iván Velázquez Caballero, known by the nickname “El Taliban,” had been sent to the U.S. But Mike Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA, said Velazquez is now in the country.
Velázquez is one of more than 30 people charged in a massive conspiracy indictment, alleging that, between 2000 and 2008, the Zetas smuggled large amounts of drugs into the U.S. and committed homicides in Texas as part of their narcotics trafficking operations.
Los Angeles Times, 11/5/2013
The U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was convicted in the murder of a U.S. anti-narcotics agent in 1985, but vanished in August after a Mexican court freed him from prison on a technicality.
Caro Quintero, 61, once one of Mexico’s most powerful drug kingpins, was last seen walking out of a medium security prison in the state of Jalisco around 2 a.m. on Aug. 9 after serving 28 years of a 40-year sentence. An appeals court granted him freedom after controversially ruling that his federal case should have been handled in a state venue.
Police arrested 16 suspected Gulf cartel members on murder and drug charges in Coahuila, a state in northern Mexico, prosecutors said.
A state police tactical unit captured the suspects, who had firearms, ammunition and drugs in their possession, on Tuesday, the Coahuila Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
Neat, freshly painted buildings and a renovated church line the central square. Shiny SUVs rest curbside. Some lack license plates, as if the law doesn’t apply. Mansions crown the surrounding hills. Badiraguato, a town of 7,000 in Sinaloa state, shouldn’t have such wealth. It’s among the poorest municipalities in Mexico. But you’re better off not asking questions here.
This is a secretive place, hot and quiet in the Sierra Madre foothills. There’s an army barracks, but soldiers mostly stay inside. It’s the heart of drug country, home to Mexico’s most powerful criminal syndicate: the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Miami Herald, 12/26/2012
A group of armed men stormed a town in the mountains of the western state of Sinaloa on Christmas Eve and shot nine men to death with assault weapons, then dumped their bodies on a sports field as part of a war between Mexico’s two most powerful cartels, officials said Wednesday.