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Internal struggles within the Sinaloa Cartel signals shift of power within Mexican drug landscape

March 2, 2017  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Internal struggles within the Sinaloa Cartel signals shift of power within Mexican drug landscape

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Throughout history, internal strife has befallen on empires instead of outside threats. Experts have attributed the same analogy to describe the current decline of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel.

Since the arrest of the syndicate’s top leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in January 2016, an internal rivalry has fermented.

The blood ties and kinship which helped build Sinaloa criminal organization into a powerful, hegemonic transnational drug trafficking enterprise, has been replaced by ambition to fill a major power vacuum.

Before ‘El Chapo’s second escape from prison in 2015, the group still continued to run its criminal operations in harmony. Guzman managed to run his organization from behind bars.

His top lieutenant and close compadre Damaso Lopez Nunez, also known as ‘El Licenciado,’ successfully brokered deals with South American suppliers, which enabled the Sinaloa Cartel to maintain its dominance over the U.S. drug market.

However, with no clear line of succession, the simmering rivalry has now descended into an all-out war since Guzman’s subsequent extradition to the United States on January 20th.

Several of the group’s leaders now seek to grab the mantle of power leaving the Sinaloa cartel fractured and extremely vulnerable.

Aureliano Guzman-Salazar, the half brother of El Chapo, along with his nephew, and Guzman’s son, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman-Salazar, now seek to stop the rise of ‘El Licenciado.’

Damaso Lopez, the one-time lieutenant to Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman has moved to grab the reigns of the Sinaloa Cartel

As JammedUp News previously reported, Damaso Lopez even attempted to have Ivan Guzman and his brother Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar executed, along with Guzman’s longtime partner Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, during a meeting he convened back on February 4th in the mountains of Badirgurato.

The assassination attempt, which ultimately failed, unleashed a wave of violence in the state of Sinaloa, which saw at least 58 people executed in the first 28 days of 2017, according to Martín Robles Armenta, Deputy Attorney for Justice of Sinaloa.

Officials have now attributed the civil war to the recent surge in violence which has resulted in a fifty percent increase in Mexico’s murder rate so far in 2017.

Additionally, the state attorney said that between January 21st and 28th, twenty-five more murders were committed in various parts of Mazatlan and in the first weekend of February alone, there were at least 12 others killed in narco-related executions.

The Sinaloa Cartel’s weakened and fractured state has left the group exposed to perils posed from rivals.

The biggest threat comes from the ultra-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel, whose rapid rise has startled law enforcement officials on both sides of the border.

The CJNG, led by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as ‘El Mencho’ who is now considered the most wanted man in Mexico, has shown the ability to forge strategic partnerships to contest the Sinaloa Cartel’s hold on several drug trafficking territories.

One example of such a collaboration remains in the state of Baja California Sur. Its border with California, it’s proximity to production centers in Sinaloa, and port cities such as Ensenada, La Paz, and Cabo San Lucas, makes the state an essential strategic hub for the large-scale smuggling of narcotics into the United States.

Victim of the drug war in Baja California, where homicides have skyrocketed (Courtesy El Universal)

The CJNG, allied with remnants of the Arellano-Felix Organization, has now managed to gain a significant foothold in the Baja state.

Local sources told Mexico’s El Universal that the dispute between a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel aligned with Dámaso López and the CJNG-Arellano band has resulted in a recent wave of violence in the Baja state, which saw 55 homicides alone in January.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope wrote in a report published by El Universal that he expects the security situation in Baja California to further deteriorate in the coming months because the state lacks the resources to cope with a conflict of this degree.

“The state has relatively few resources to deal with an escalation of violence of this magnitude,” Hope wrote. “Between state and municipal corporations, it has less than 2,000 police officers, most of whom are underpaid, ill-equipped, and poorly trained.”

Hope said another contributing factor is that Baja California Sur is so far and small that it does not generate enough attention to spark a vigorous response from the Mexican government.

“Add the lack opportunity, jobs, and insufficient provisions of public services, and you have a very explosive cocktail,” said Hope

Moreover, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials have also detected the increased presence of the CJNG in the state of Chihuahua in recent months, El Financiero reported.

As a result of the declining Sinaloa Cartel, ‘El Mencho’ and his CJNG could emerge as the dominant power over the Mexican drug trade

The CJNG have already begun operating on the periphery of Ciudad Juarez, located just across the border from El Paso, Texas, but have primarily worked under the radar, choosing not to engage the Sinaloa cartel in open warfare.

However, recent developments could indicate a major shift by the group.

A narco manta recently uncovered in Ciudad Juarez announced an alliance between the CJNG and La Linea, the last remnant of the Juarez Cartel, which has set off alarms among DEA officials along with their Mexican counterparts and it also has many in the border city bracing for a new wave of violence.

The message stated that the CJNG criminal organization would be working with La Línea to make its way into the territory and challenge the Sinaloa Cartel’s control of Chihuahua, including the border crossing of Ciudad Juarez.

Hope said the Sinaloa Cartel’s internal struggle has also led the CJNG to enter into a partnership with Fausto Isidro Meza, ‘El Chapo Isidro’ who has consolidated the remnants of the Beltran-Leyva Organization and poses a threat to ‘El Chapo’s’ organization in Sinaloa and Baja California Sur.

Antonio Mazzitelli, Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says the Sinaloa Cartel’s internal struggles indicates a shifting dynamic, which could now see the CJNG rule the criminal landscape in Mexico.

“As a result of the internal weakness within the once great organization of the Sinaloa Cartel we could now see the CJNG emerge its successor,” he concluded.


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