Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Biggest Capos Remain at Large

Mexico City - The capture of the recent drug kingpins so far has not been enough for the Calderón administration to completely dismantle their structures and their modus operandi.

Such has been the case like that of the capos Beltran Leyva and Arellano Felix, who with the capture of Alfredo Beltran "El Mochomo" and the death of Arturo Beltran "El Barbas", as well as the arrest of Eduardo Arellano Félix "El Doctor" and Teodoro Garcia Simental "El Teo", it was thought that their operation was broken apart.

Although the federal government has recently undertaken important apprehensions of major traffickers such as Vicente Carrillo Leyva, son of the late Amado Carrillo, founder of the Juarez cartel, and Jesus "El Rey" Zambada, brother of "El Mayo" Zambada, one of leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, the biggest kingpins of organized crime remain at large.

The Achilles Heel

The current strategy to combat drug trafficking in Mexico has not been able to recapture Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, the principal leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and who has become the Achilles Heel of the struggle undertaken by the federal government against organized crime.

The Sinaloa capo was arrested in June of 1993 in Guatemala and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was later incarcerated in the prison of La Palma (now El Altiplano) on charges of crimes against health, conspiracy and bribery, and in 1995 was moved to maximum security prison in Puente Grande in the state of Jalisco.

It was in the early days of the administration of President Vicente Fox (PAN) and with the help of prison personnel, "El Chapo" managed to escape in January 19, 2001 while hiding in a laundry truck.

Since then "El Chapo" has earned a spot on the lists of the most wanted criminals by authorities in Mexico and the United States, to the extent that the Attorney General's Office (PGR) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have offered rewards of up to 30 million pesos and $5 million dollars, respectively, for information leading to his capture.

His name has always come up, whether by his activities within the organization or when he appeared in the list of the wealthiest in the world which also made Forbes magazine. His wealth was equated to that of Mexican entrepreneur Emilio Azcarraga, president of mega media outlet,  Televisa. What's more, Time magazine included him in its ranking of the hundred most influential people in the planet.

Alongside Joaquin Guzman Loera in the Sinaloa cartel leadership are Ismael "El Mayo Zambada, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel and Juan José Esparragoza "El Azul."

"El Mayo" Empire

Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the most wanted drug kingpins in Mexico and the United States, is a character with three different faces: that of benefactor, the entrepreneur and the enigmatic man who in contrast to other traffickers remains in a low profile.

Until a few years, "El Mayo" used to visit his birth hometown of "El Alamo" every December to give out beer and money to the people so they could have a "Merry Christmas."

In Sinaloa, Zambada is well known as "the last bastion of generosity" who for several years has distinguished himself apart from the other druglords.

Zambada has worked primarily to increase the production of heroin of the cartel, while at the same time he has become one of the main contacts in Columbia for the purpose of introducing cocaine to the U.S.

His reserved character has always helped him to stay away from the bloody power struggles among his contemporaries, such as the conflict of the 90s between the cartel of the Arellano Felix against his former partner Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The U.S. and Mexico authorities have offered rewards of $5 million dollars while Mexico has offered a reward of 30 million pesos for any information leading to his arrest.

"The king of crystal"

According to intelligence reports from the U.S. government, in 2008 Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel became the most powerful druglord in Mexico.

The bloody dispute between the clan of the Beltran and his former partner Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has not slowed him down and in fact allowed him to expand his domain, exploring new drug routes and allowed him to control the drug traffic market for amphetamines and methamphetamines in the United States.

That is the reason why he is known as the "King of Ice" or "King of Crystal," but amongst his criminal organization he is known as "El ingeniero Coronel Villarreal," or "Nacho or Nachito." He is also known as "El Cachas de Diamante." This is due perhaps for his reputation, like is popular among some of the drug kingpins, who like to adorn their favorite weapons with precious metals and gemstones.

Colonel has safe houses in Jalisco and Yucatan, but his favorite place is south of Durango, in a small village called El Molino, which is located between the mountain communities of Guatimapé and Canatlan. He goes by the names of Arturo Urrutia Valdes or Ignacio Valdes Urrutia, but the US government suspects that in the past he has used the name of Dagoberto Rodríguez Jiménez to process several financial transactions in Columbia.

As the main head of the defunct Federation that had been consolidated in 2002, he controlled most of all imports of precursor chemicals from abroad and took control of most of the activities of this criminal association in the western part of the country.

In 2004 before the incipient fracture of the Federation, which was mainly due to the execution of Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, he retained control of all operations that included the old routes of the Juarez cartel for trafficking drugs and occupied the safe houses to shelter them.

"El Azul", the three term operation

Juan Jose Esparragoza "El Azul" is one of the few drug traffickers in Mexico that has managed to stay alive for more than six years and is the only capo that has managed to avoid prison from the founding group of druglords in Sinaloa in the times of the late Pedro Aviles "El León de la Sierra," with Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo "Don Neto," precursors of the organization of the 80 and 90 with the leadership of Rafael Caro Quintero and Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Many versions agree that "Don Juan," as he is also sometimes called, is a conciliatory man, gentle, great talker and a born skilled negotiator. Even U.S. officials attributed his ability to unite the caops in 2006 between the former federation and the Gulf cartel to get them to agree to halt the violence in northern Mexico.

Esparragoza spent seven years in prison. He shared a cell with Amado Carrillo, and when he was released in 1992 he started his second half of his career. The late "Señor de los Cielos" took him in making him godfather to the son of Carrillo, Juan Manuel, while Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada baptized one of his sons.

Several theories suggest that after the death of Amado Carrillo, "El Azul" joined forces with Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, "The Viceroy" the leader of the Juarez cartel. Others suggest that he joined the groups of "El Mayo" and "El Chapo" to move out the organization of the Carrillo Fuentes.

However, the Mexican Attorney General's Office published a notice where they had offered 30 million pesos for information leading to his capture, as one of the leaders of the cartel of the Pacific.

"Tormenta" in the Gulf

After the capture of Osiel Cardenas Guillen in March 2003, his brother Antonio Ezekiel became the successor. He took over the Gulf cartel and a year later, he became leader of other criminal cells such as that of José Eduardo Costilla "El Coss," one of the strong men of "Los Zetas" and sought the leadership of the organization.

The main task of "Tony Tormenta" is focused to maintain the cartel's power in the "small Border" of Tamaulipas like Reynosa, Matamoros and centralized in Ciudad Miguel Alemán, that other groups were vying for control because it is one of the most important crossroads of the drug routes to the U.S. market.

In 2008 he was indicted by U.S. government as responsible for trafficking multiple shipments of several tons of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to that the U.S. This activities prompted the DEA to offer a reward of up to $5 million dollars for information leading to his arrest.

The alternative of "Señor de los Cielos"

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, "The Viceroy" is the current leader of the Juarez cartel, one of the oldest criminal organizations based in Mexico, once led by his brother, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

He is considered by U.S. authorities as a very dangerous individual and faces about 46 criminal charges in the northern part of the country such as possession of marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute, money laundering, bribing witnesses, ordering the killing of witnesses and murder.

It is said that "The Viceroy" formed an alliance with Juan Jose Esparragoza and that after the 2004 killing of his brother Rodolfo, he ordered the hit of "El Pollo" Guzman within a prison, the brother of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

His nephew Vicente Carrillo Leyva, son of "Señor de los Cielos" was arrested in April 2009, and testified in front of the SIEDO that "The Viceroy" has a cell of gunmen largely composed of former military, always heavily armed and are associated with "Los Zetas." This group's primary function is to attack and defend against the Sinaloa cartel.

The armed wing

Much of the wave of violence that prevails in the northern part of Mexico is mainly attributed to the criminal organization known as "Los Zetas," operating as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel.

This murderous group was founded, among others, by Heriberto Lazcano, known as "The Lazca" who was part of the Special Forces Airmobile Group (GAFES), a group of elite Mexican Army and later deserted in order to serve the capo Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

Lazcano was the third in command within the organization, but after the deaths of the sicarios known as "Z-1" and "Z-2," he took over leadership of the Zetas.

From the Gulf to the Pacific, "Lazca" is recognized as a violent killer, who is also said to own a ranch with lions and tigers of which he usually throw some of his victims as food, especially federal agents.

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