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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cartels Continue to Fight for Control of Juárez Drug Trade

El Paso Times

Ciuadad Juarez, Chihuahua -- The violence sparked by a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels is not nearing its end, U.S. officials in El Paso said.

Countering a recent media report, U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, said Friday that he does not believe the Sinaloa cartel now controls all of Juárez's drug market.

The Associated Press on Friday reported anonymous U.S. intelligence sources saying Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who leads the Sinaloa cartel, is winning Mexico's drug war. The story does not say the Sinaloa cartel is winning over Mexico's federal forces, but over Vicente Carrillo Fuentes' Juárez cartel.

FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said the Sinaloa cartel appears to have control of the drug trade.

"A majority of the drugs that are coming to the United States are from the Sinaloa cartel," she said.

But Simmons said the brutal attacks between the gangs working for the rival cartels continue.

FBI's evaluation of the trafficking routes is based on intelligence gathered in cases worked in the U.S. and testimonials from confidential informants helping to build those cases, Simmons said.

Simmons said FBI officials could speak only on behalf of the activities on the U.S. side.

However, Drug Enforcement Administration officials in El Paso said the Sinaloa's triumph over the trafficking routes around Juárez is not definite.

"Our intelligence does not indicate that the Sinaloa cartel has taken over the Juárez corridor," said Carmen Coutino, DEA spokeswoman.

"However, they are making serious attempts to do so."

Mexico's federal police Chief Facundo Rosas said the theory that the Sinaloa cartel was taking over the Juárez market is a presupposition.

"We are not certain that is going on," he said Friday at a Juárez news conference.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, did not have any comment on the change of dynamics between these two cartels.

Close to 4,900 people have been killed since 2008 in the Juárez area. Most of the murders are carried out by drug gangs working for the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels.

People in Mexico have accused President Felipe Calderón of not going after the Sinaloa cartel as he has the Juárez, Gulf and La Familia cartels in Michoacán. Calderón began fighting organized crime soon after taking office in December 2006.

Juárez police have arrested more Aztecas gang members, who work for the Juárez cartel, than members of any other gang.

In El Paso, the Aztecas gang's brother organization, Barrio Azteca, was the focus of one of the largest law enforcement operations by the FBI and DEA. Federal agents arrested at least 54 gang members. They were looking for information into the March 13 killings in Juárez of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate.

Of the high-profile arrests made in 2009, three were of members of the Sinaloa cartel, including Vicente Zambada Niebla. He is the son of well-known and at-large drug trafficker Ismael Zambada. Zambada Niebla was extradited to the United States and is now facing drug-trafficking charges in Chicago. Also in 2009, police arrested Vicente Carrillo Leyva, the son of former Juárez cartel leader Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Federal police said they arrested four gang members working for the Sinaloa cartel Thursday. The four hit men, in their 20s, belonged to the Artists Assassins gang. Police have accused them of killing at least three people.

Police identified the men as Constantino "El Tino" López Zarate, 28; Alberto "El Chilo" Barrán Martínez, 25; César Noé "Bird" Alvarado Rosales, 22; and Carlos "Jhony" Pérez Pérez, 23.

López Zarate was deported to Mexico in 2007. Before he joined the Artists Assassins gang, he belonged to the Sureños, a Mexican-American street gang present in various U.S. cities.

Besides the three killings by the gang members, five people were murdered in attacks on Thursday and Friday in Juárez.

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