Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sinaloa Cartel


The Sinaloa Cartel (Pacific Cartel, Guzmán-Loera Cartel) (Spanish: Cártel de Sinaloa) is a Mexican drug cartel primarily operating out of the states of Baja California, Sinaloa, Durango, Sonora and Chihuahua. The cartel is also known as the Guzmán-Loera Organization and the Pacific Cartel, the latter due to the coast of Mexico from which it originated, another name is the Federation. The 'Federation' was partially splintered when the Beltrán-Leyva brothers broke apart from the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Sinaloa Cartel is associated with the label "Golden Triangle" as the regions of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua in which they operate the most form a 'triangle' when their capital cities are looked at on a map. The region is a major producer of Mexican poppy and marijuana. This area is similar in the United States to the Emerald Triangle consisting of the three largest marijuana-producing counties in the US: Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity in Northern California, United States.

According to the U.S. Attorney General, the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for importing into the United States and distributing nearly 200 tons of cocaine and large amounts of heroin between 1990 and 2008.

Background
Pedro Avilés Pérez was a pioneer drug lord in the Mexican state of Sinaloa in the late 1960s. He is considered to be the first generation of major Mexican drug smugglers of marijuana who marked the birth of large-scale Mexican drug trafficking. He also pioneered the use of aircraft to smuggle drugs to the United States.

Second generation Sinaloan traffickers such as Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Avilés Pérez' nephew Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, would claim they learned all they knew about narcotrafficking while serving in the Avilés organization. Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who eventually founded the Guadalajara Cartel was arrested in 1989. While incarcerated, he remained one of Mexico's major traffickers, maintaining his organization via mobile phone until he was transferred to a new maximum security prison in the 1990s. At that point, his old organization broke up into two factions: the Tijuana Cartel led by his nephews, the Arellano Félix brothers, and the Sinaloa Cartel, run by former lieutenants Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, Adrián Gómez González and Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo).

Leadership
Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy in early 2008The Sinaloa Cartel used to be known as La Alianza de Sangre (Blood Alliance). When Héctor Luis Palma Salazar (a.k.a: El Güero) was arrested on June 23, 1995, by elements of the Mexican Army, his partner Joaquín Guzmán Loera took leadership of the cartel. Guzmán was captured in Guatemala on June 9, 1993, and extradited to Mexico, where he was jailed in a maximum security prison, but on Jan. 19, 2001, Guzmán escaped and resumed his command of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán has two close associates, Ismael Zambada García and Ignacio Coronel Villareal. Guzman and Zambada became Mexico's top drug kingpins in 2003, after the arrest of their rival Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel. Another close associate, Javier Torres Felix, was arrested and extradited to the U.S. in December 2006; so far, Guzmán and Zambada have evaded operations to capture them.

On July 29, 2010 Ignacio Coronel was killed in a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan, Jalisco.

Operations
The Sinaloa Cartel has a presence in 17 states, with important centers in Mexico City, Tepic, Toluca, Guadalajara, and most of the state of Sinaloa. The cartel is primarily involved in the smuggling and distribution of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, methamphetamine and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States. It is believed that a group known as the Herrera Organization would transport multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America to Guatemala on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel. From there it is smuggled north to Mexico and later into the U.S. Other shipments of cocaine are believed to originate in Colombia from Cali and Medellín drug-trafficking groups from which the Sinaloa Cartel handle transportation across the U.S. border to distribution cells in Arizona, California, Texas, Chicago and New York.

Prior to his arrest, Vicente Zambada Niebla ("El Vicentillo"), son of Ismael Zambada García ("El Mayo"), played a key role in the Sinaloa Cartel. Vicente Zambada was responsible for coordinating multi-ton cocaine shipments from Central and South American countries, through Mexico, and into the United States for the Sinaloa Cartel. To accomplish this task he used every means available: Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, narco submarines, container ships, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers and automobiles. He was arrested by the Mexican Army on March 18, 2009 and extradited on February 18, 2010 to Chicago to face federal charges.

In the late 1980s, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration believed the Sinaloa Cartel was the largest drug trafficking organization operating in Mexico. By the mid-1990s, according to one court opinion, it was believed to be the size of the Medellín Cartel during its prime. The Sinaloa Cartel was believed to be linked to the Juárez Cartel in a strategic alliance following the partnership of their rivals, the Gulf Cartel and Tijuana Cartel. Following the discovery of a tunnel system used to smuggle drugs across the Mexican/US border, the group has been associated with such means of trafficking.

By 2005, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, had come to dominate drug trafficking across the border with Arizona. By 2006, the Sinaloa Cartel had eliminated all competition across the 528 km of Arizona border, and it was suspected they had accomplished this by bribing state government officials. The Colima Cartel, Sonora Cartel, Milenio Cartel, Guadalajara Cartel and Sonora Cartel are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel.

In January 2008 the cartel allegedly split into a number of warring factions, which is a major cause of the epidemic of drug violence Mexico has seen in the last year. Murders by the cartel often involve beheadings or bodies dissolved in vats of acid.

Atlanta has been used as a major U.S. distribution center and accounting hub, and the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel there has brought ruthless violence to that area.

Arrest and seizures
May 11, 2008, Alfonso Gutiérrez Loera cousin of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera and 5 other drug traffickers were arrested after a shootout with Federal Police officers in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Along with the captured suspects, 16 assault rifles, 3 grenades, 102 magazines and 3,543 ammunition rounds were seized.

On Feb. 25, 2009, the U.S. government announced the arrest of 750 members of the Sinaloa Cartel across the U.S. in Operation Xcellerator. They also announced the seizure of more than $59 million in cash and numerous vehicles, planes, and boats.

In March 2009, the Mexican Government announced the deployment of 1,000 Federal Police officers and 5,000 Mexican Army soldiers to restore order in Ciudad Juárez, which has suffered the highest number of casualties in the country.

On August 20, 2009 The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) disarticulated a large Mexican drug operation in Chicago, and knocking out a major distribution network operated by the Flores crew led by twin brothers Margarito and Pedro Flores that operated out of that city. The drug operation allegedly brought 1.5 to 2 tons of cocaine every month to Chicago from Mexico and shipped millions of dollars south of the border. The shipments were mostly bought from the Sinaloa Cartel and at times from the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, it is assumed that both cartels threatened the Flores crew with violence if they bought from other rival drug organization.

The Sinaloa cartel’s loss of partners in Mexico does not appear to have affect its ability to smuggle drugs from South America to the U.S. On the contrary, based on seizure reports, the Sinaloa cartel appears to be the most active smuggler of cocaine. It has also demonstrated the ability to establish operations in previously unknown areas, such as Central America and South America, even as far south as Perú, Paraguay and Argentina. It also appears to be most active in diversifying its export markets; rather than relying solely on U.S. consumers, it has made an effort to supply distributors of drugs in Latin American and European countries.

Current alliances
Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel.

Allegations of collusion with Mexican federal government forcesIn May 2009, the U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) aired multiple reports alleging that the Mexican federal police and military were working in collusion with the Sinaloa Cartel. In particular, the report claimed the government was helping Sinaloa cartel to take control of the Juarez Valley area and destroy other cartels, especially the Juarez Cartel. NPR's reporters interviewed dozens of officials and ordinary people for the series. One report quotes a former Juarez police commander who claimed the entire department was working for the Sinaloa cartel and helping it to fight other groups. He also claimed that Sinaloa cartel had bribed the military. Also quoted was a Mexican reporter who claimed hearing numerous times from the public that the military had been involved in murders.

Another source in the story was the U.S. trial of Manuel Fierro-Mendez, an ex-Juarez police captain who admitted to working for Sinaloa cartel. He claimed that Sinaloa cartel influenced the Mexican government and military in order to gain control of the region. A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent in the same trial alleged that Fierro-Mendez had contacts with a Mexican military officer.

The report also alleged, with support from an anthropologist who studies drug trafficking, that data on the low arrest rate of Sinaloa cartel members (compared to other groups) was evidence of favoritism on the part of the authorities. A Mexican official denied the allegation of favoritism, and a DEA agent and a political scientist also had alternate explanations for the arrest data. Another report detailed numerous indications of corruption and influence that the cartel has within the Mexican government.

Battling the Tijuana Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel has been waging a war against the Tijuana Cartel (Arellano-Félix Organization) over the Tijuana smuggling route to the border city of San Diego, California. The rivalry between the two cartels dates back to the Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo setup of Palma's family. Félix Gallardo, following his imprisonment, bestowed the Guadalajara Cartel to his nephews in the Tijuana Cartel. On November 8, 1992 Palma struck out against the Tijuana Cartel at a disco in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, where eight Tijuana Cartel members were killed in the shootout, the Arellano-Félix brothers having successfully escaped from the location with the assistance of Logan Heights gangster David "D" Barron.

In retaliation, the Tijuana Cartel attempted to set up Guzmán at Guadalajara airport on May 24, 1993. In the shootout that followed, six civilians were killed by the hired gunmen from the Logan Heights, San Diego-based 30th Street gang. The deaths included that of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo. The church hierarchy originally believed Ocampo was targeted as revenge for his strong stance against the drug trade.

However, Mexican officials believe Ocampo just happened to be caught in cross fire. The Cardinal arrived at the airport in a white Mercury Grand Marquis town car, known to be popular amongst drug barons, making it a target. Intelligence received by Logan Heights gang leader David "D" Barron was that Guzmán would be arriving in a white Mercury Grand Marquis town car. This explanation, however, is often countered due to Ocampo having been wearing a long black cassock and large pectoral cross, as well as him sharing no similarity in appearance with Guzmán and having been gunned down from only two feet away.

Edgar Valdéz Villarreal
Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal was a Sinaloa cartel lieutenant and the operator of its armed group known as Los Negros, formed by the Sinaloa Cartel to counter the operations of the rival Gulf Cartel's Los Zetas. Los Negros have been known to employ gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha to carry out murders and other illegal activities. The group is involved in fighting in the Nuevo Laredo region for control of the drug trafficking corridor. Following the 2003 arrest of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas, it is believed the Sinaloa Cartel moved 200 men into the region to battle the Gulf Cartel for control. The Nuevo Laredo region is an important drug trafficking corridor into Laredo, Texas, where as much as 40% of all Mexican exports pass through into the U.S.

Following the 2002 assassination of journalist Roberto Javier Mora García from El Mañana newspaper, much of the local media has been cautious reporting the fighting. The cartels have pressured reporters to send messages and wage a media war. The drug war has spread to various regions of Mexico such as Guerrero, Mexico City, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas.

On 30 August 2010, Villarreal was captured by Mexican Federal Police.