A wave of arrests of key associates of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada in Mexico suggests the net may finally be closing on the elusive kingpin and increases suspicions he may have been betrayed by his Sinaloa Cartel partner Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
In an ongoing hunt for one of Mexico's most powerful drug traffickers, Mexican federal law enforcement agencies have so far failed to find El Mayo but arrested 10 of his associates in the states of Sinaloa and Baja California.
Among those captured were El Mayo's alleged chief of assasins Joel Enrique Sandoval Romero, alias "El 19," and Omar Guillermo Cuen Lugo, alias "El Compa," who police believe is the head of his organization in Baja California and is responsible for distributing drugs throughout the state and trafficking them into the United States, reported Milenio.
During the operations, security forces seized cash, drugs, arms, and precursor chemicals. They also located and destroyed a marijuana plantation containing 4,200 plants.
In a separate operation, police then arrested two further alleged associates of El Mayo in Sinaloa, seizing over three tons of cocaine in the process, reported the Global Post.
InSight Crime Analysis
El Mayo Zambada is one of the most storied drug traffickers in the history of Mexican organized crime. He has not only eluded capture but also operated profitably for decades, and since the turn of the century has worked alongside El Chapo Guzman to turn the Sinaloa Cartel into one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.
SEE ALSO: El Mayo Profile
However, the Sinaloa Cartel has never operated as a unified organization, and El Chapo and El Mayo have always cooperated to help each other run their own operations rather than working together for one monolithic cartel. Their success has been largely based on maintaining a vast network of corruption, which provides their illict business with official protection.
There were already signs the wall of protection around El Mayo has been cracking, and the fact that they are now hunting for the drug lord himself suggests his days may be numbered. As InSight Crime has noted previously, the recent arrests have almost exclusively focused on El Mayo's operations, raising the possibility that behind this is El Chapo, who may be betraying his long time partner in order to seize his business.