The Mexican government disputed a U.S. media report claiming it has favored the Sinaloa cartel – also known in Mexico as the Pacific cartel – in its fight against ruthless drug mobs, saying it combats all criminal organizations with equal intensity.
National Public Radio this week unveiled the results of a recent investigation into how the Mexican government has been fighting the drug mobs.
NPR correspondent John Burnett, who took part in the four-month news probe, said in an on-air interview on Tuesday that his team “found documentary evidence and sources in Juarez that we believe confirm elements of the Mexican military are helping the Sinaloa cartel to take over” the violent northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.
One of the sources, an unidentified former police commander in Juarez, told the investigators that after army soldiers moved into the city the Sinaloa cartel contacted them and paid them so they would be able to continue their business as usual.
Burnett also said analysis of thousands of the government’s own press releases show that there have been “half as many arrests of Sinaloans as the government says there are.”
He noted that NPR launched the investigation, which involved interviews with dozens of law enforcement agents, military people, organized crime experts and victims of the drug violence, because of the widespread belief in Mexico that the government is protecting Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the world’s most-wanted drug lord.
But the spokesman for the Government Secretariat, Luis Estrada, disputed the findings.
“This is not true. The federal government combats organized crime nationwide with full determination, and authorities have maintained support for state authorities to reduce the spaces and activities of all criminal gangs,” he told Efe.
Estrada recalled that on May 13, 2008, the federal government launched an operation in Sinaloa known as Culiacan-Novolato that has kept up constant pressure on criminal gangs in that northwestern state.
“In fact, Government Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont was in Sinaloa on Thursday of last week to review that operation, and it was a working tour through the states of Durango, Sinaloa, Sonora, Baja California, Coahuila, Michoacan and Nuevo Leon,” Estrada said.
The spokesman said that all the drug-trafficking organizations have been “attacked in a manner proportionate to their size,” and recalled that between Dec. 1, 2006, when conservative President Felipe Calderon took office, and Feb. 4 72,000 people have been arrested on charges of “crimes against health.”
He said that 27 percent of all detainees during that time were members of the Gulf cartel, including its former allies, a group of former soldiers-turned-hit men known as Los Zetas; 24 percent belonged to the Sinaloa cartel; and 17 percent were members of the Carrillo Fuentes, or Juarez, cartel.
Of the remaining detainees, 14 percent were members of the Beltran Leyva cartel; 13 percent belonged to the Arellano Felix, or Tijuana, cartel; and 5 percent were linked to other groups such as La Familia Michoacana and the Milenio, or Valencia, cartel.
“These percentages show that the fight has been waged against all the groups,” Estrada said.
He went on to say that the captured leaders of the Sinaloa cartel include Jesus Reynaldo Zambada, Vicente Zambada Niebla, Oscar Orlando Nava and Alfredo Beltran Leyva, who at the time of his arrest was a member of the crime syndicate led by Guzman.
Other cartel leaders with ties to the Sinaloa mob who have been arrested in recent months include Eduardo Garcia Simental, his brother Jose Garcia Simental and Raydel Lopez Uriarte, the spokesman said.
Estrada added that another 15 Sinaloa financial operatives have also been detained, including Sandra Avila Beltran and Dimas Diaz, as well as six lieutenants, 30 government officials who have colluded with the Sinaloans and 16,715 small-scale drug dealers linked to that organization.
The spokesman added that the government’s attempt to dismantle the Sinaloa cartel involves not only arresting its operators but also extraditing some of its most powerful leaders.
Among the most prominent figures tied to the Sinaloa cartel who have been sent to the United States for trial on drug charges are Hector Palma, Miguel Angel Caro Quintero and Vicente Zambada, son of the Sinaloa cartel’s No. 2, Ismael Zambada Garcia.
“In summary, the federal government has succeeded in weakening the command and operation structure of this cartel, not only in Sinaloa, but in all its networks nationwide,” Estrada said.
Nearly 23,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, when Calderon gave the military the leading role against the cartels.