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what is it like, who are its members and leaders

(CNN Spanish) — The Sinaloa Cartel is considered one of the oldest criminal groups dedicated to drug trafficking in Mexico with a strong presence in several regions of the country, particularly on the Mexican Pacific coast, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA, for its acronym in Spanish). English). Unlike other Mexican criminal groups, the Sinaloa Cartel maintains its operational capacity throughout the world.

According to the DEA’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment report, this gang currently exports and distributes huge amounts of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in the US, having operations centers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, border states through which the drug enters from Mexico.

Despite its presence in 15 of Mexico’s 32 states, some experts believe that the Sinaloa Cartel is in decline due to infighting between the factions into which it was divided after the capture of its bloodthirsty founder and leader Joaquín “El Chapo”. Guzmán, and the rise of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), another of the most influential cartels in Mexico and the United States, according to the DEA.

El Chapo was arrested in 2014, escaped from a federal prison in July 2015, and was arrested again in January 2016 by the Mexican government, which extradited him to the United States where he faced a high-profile trial. Guzmán was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in prison for leading an ongoing criminal enterprise, drug trafficking, and firearms charges.

Without El Chapo at the helm, the Sinaloa Cartel split into four groups, which are disputing the leadership of the criminal organization, says a 2020 report by the Investigative Service (CRS) of the Congress of United States on drug cartels in Mexico.

Among these leaders is Ovidio Guzmán, one of the sons of Guzmán Loera, who was arrested by the Mexican authorities this Thursday after an operation in Sinaloa.

The report indicates that the cartel may operate with a more “horizontal” form of leadership than previously thought.

Who are the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel?

According to this document, these are the leaders of the four factions into which the cartel was divided:

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada

(Credit: DEA)

His name has appeared for years in drug trafficking files and the US State Department is offering US$5 million to find his whereabouts. It allegedly operates mainly in the states of Sinaola and Nayarit, with influence on much of Mexico’s Pacific coast, as well as Cancun, Quintana Roo, and Monterrey, Nuevo León.

It has been said that El Mayo has been in charge of the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel since El Chapo was recaptured in 2016. The DEA page accuses Zambada of committing crimes such as money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to possess firearms in promotion drug trafficking, violent crimes, murder, participating in a continuing criminal enterprise to traffic drugs, conspiracy to murder in a foreign country, and kidnapping.

The US Department of Justice announced in 2015 that El Mayo also faces charges for trafficking methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana. The US authorities describe him as “the main administrator, organizer or leader of the company”.

“The Little Boys”

Ovidio Guzmán López is one of the sons of Chapo Guzmán.

The four sons of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as “Los Chapitos,” control one of the four factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the CRS.

Ovidio Guzmán López, known as “El Ratón” or “Ratón Nuevo”, is the son of Guzmán and his second wife, Griselda López. He is believed to have a significant role in the Sinaloa Cartel, according to the US Treasury Department. He was captured this Thursday in an operation in Sinaloa. He had been detained in 2019 during the so-called ‘Culiacanazo’, but then President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that he had given the order to release him in order to avoid further bloodshed.

Joaquín Guzmán López is also the son of Chapo and his second wife. Together with Ovidio, he was charged by the United States Department of Justice with conspiracy to distribute drugs for the purpose of being shipped to the United States.

Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar is the son of Guzmán and his first wife, María Alejandrina Salazar. He is known as “El Chapito” and is considered an important piece of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was arrested in 2005 in Mexico and accused of money laundering, but years later he was released when the evidence against him was dismissed. The United States government launched a process against him in 2013 in California, where he was charged for his actions related to drug trafficking.

Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar is the son of Guzmán and his second wife. He is on the DEA’s most wanted list for drug-related crimes.

Rafael Caro Quintero

Rafael Caro Quintero appears before the Mexican court

This image released by the FBI shows the wanted poster for Rafael Caro Quintero, who was behind the murder of a US DEA agent in 1985. Caro Quintero was captured by Mexican authorities nearly a decade after his release from a Mexican prison and return to drug trafficking, as confirmed on Friday, July 15, 2022, by an official from the Mexican navy. (Photo: FBI via AP, File)

Rafael Caro Quintero, known as the “narco of narcos” and who has been a fugitive since 2013, was arrested on July 15, 2022 by the Mexican Navy. Before his arrest, Caro Quintero was still active in drug trafficking along with “El Mayo” Zambada and both would be the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel at that time, according to a DEA report.

Caro Quintero founded the now disintegrated Guadalajara Cartel with Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and other drug traffickers in the 1970s and was allegedly responsible for growing, shipping and distributing large amounts of marijuana in Mexico, according to the US State Department.

Caro Quintero is accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering DEA special agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985, according to the DEA.

When the Guadalajara Cartel disintegrated its leaders were incorporated into the Tijuana Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juárez Cartel, says the State Department.

In 2018 Caro Quintero was included in the list of the 10 most wanted fugitives of the FBI, as reported by the authorities of the FBI, the DEA and the US Department of State.

That year, Caro Quintero told journalist Anabel Hernández, in an interview from underground, that he was not a drug trafficker and that he lives off the help of others.

Aureliano “El Guano” Guzmán Loera (El Chapo’s brother)

The DEA document does not give more information about “El Guano”, except his name and relationship with El Chapo.

With information from Sebastián Jiménez Valencia, Rocío Muñoz-Ledo and the CNN editorial research team.

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