An award-winning Mexican journalist says the criminal empire of jailed kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is being hacked apart by his rivals, suggesting the Sinaloa Cartel could fracture in the absence of his leadership.
In an interview with Aristegui Noticias, investigative journalist and organized crime expert Anabel Hernández cited recent violence targeted at family members of El Chapo as evidence that the crime boss' organization is under attack from rival groups.
"For the first time we might be seeing the real fall of Chapo Guzmán," Hernández said, adding that the kingpin "no longer controls even his own house."
Hernández says knowledgeable sources have told her that El Chapo's nephew Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán, alias "El Mochomito," of the rival Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), has entered into an anti-Chapo alliance with the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG).
Hernández said that El Chapo's declining clout became evident after BLO operatives reportedly attacked the home of El Chapo's mother in La Tuna, Sinaloa in June -- an incident that was followed by other deadly clashes in the area. This thesis was strengthened in August when CJNG operatives kidnapped El Chapo's sons Iván and Alfredo from a restaurant in the nearby state of Jalisco. The sons were subsequently released unharmed.
Hernández also claimed a recent ambush against a military convoy in Culiacán, Sinaloa could have been perpetrated by El Mochomito in order to cause disruption in El Chapo's territory. According to local news outlet Ríodoce, the area has been the scene of recent heavy fighting between the Sinaloa Cartel and the BLO.
Initially, El Chapo's sons were blamed for the attack, but since then the government has not mentioned who may have been responsible. Hernández noted that El Chapo's lawyer has said the brothers had nothing to do with the attack.
InSight Crime Analysis
As El Chapo's extradition to the United States becomes more likely, it seems that his criminal empire is beginning to fragment, both in his home state of Sinaloa and across Mexico. As this fragmentation occurs, enterprising rival crime groups may be attempting to pick off territory previously controlled by the crime boss.
Indeed, it appears that the CJNG is attempting to seize some of El Chapo's most lucrative territory. The group has reportedly aligned itself with the remnants of the Arellano Félix Cartel to form the Tijuana Cartel - New Generation (Cartel Tijuana Nueva Generación) in order to wrest control of the Tijuana trafficking corridor away from El Chapo. Additionally, in March of 2016, reports emerged of an ongoing conflict between CJNG and Sinaloa in the state of Colima, home to the strategically important port of Manzanillo.
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The confrontations in Sinaloa and throughout Mexico are probably not indicative of a full-scale war between the Sinaloa Cartel on one side and BLO and CJNG on the other. Instead, it seems that these organizations are attempting to take advantage of a weakened Sinaloa Cartel in an increasingly fragmented and disjointed criminal landscape. And if El Chapo is eventually extradited to the United States, there will be little he can do to stop this from happening.