HomeNewsBriefFormer Mexico Official, Now Top Sinaloa Cartel Operative?
BRIEF

Former Mexico Official, Now Top Sinaloa Cartel Operative?

MEXICO / 19 JAN 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

An ex-government employee who reportedly helped free the former leader of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman from prison over a decade ago has now allegedly replaced the drug lord atop the cartel.

In 2001, Damaso Lopez Nunez, alias "El Licenciado," assisted Chapo Guzman escape from Puente Grande prison in the state of Jalisco. Lopez had previously served as the sub-director of security at the prison, reported El Universal. Since the prison break, Lopez -- who also held various government positions in Mexico prior to his resignation in 2000 -- has clawed his way up to the upper echelons of the cartel's leadership structure, according to El Universal.

In January 2013, the US Treasury Department put Lopez on its "kingpin" list for his key role in the Sinaloa Cartel's transnational drug trafficking operations. According to a media report from June of last year, Chapo Guzman named Lopez as his successor after being captured in February 2014.

Lopez is not currently facing criminal charges in Mexico, although he is wanted in the United States on charges of money laundering and trafficking cocaine, according to El Universal. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite Lopez's designation to the US Treasury kingpin list in 2013, it is questionable the alleged drug trafficker is now the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. The drug trafficking group operates more as a confederation of criminal organizations than as a centralized hierarchy, and Lopez is probably just one leader among several within the organization. Indeed, several names have popped up as Chapo Guzman's potential heir apparent since his arrest, including at least one virtual unknown. Longtime Sinaloa operative Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo" likely retains an active leadership role and oversees a significant amount of the cartel's drug trafficking operations, as suggested in a recent indictment by the Southern District court in California against El Mayo and sixty other members of the cartel.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Sinaloa Cartel

Nevertheless, Lopez' career as a government employee -- including a position in the prosecutor's office in Sinaloa -- before joining the Sinaloa Cartel, underscores the influence criminal groups can have in corrupting Mexican state institutions. A more recent case in December 2014 saw the criminal gang Guerreros Unidos arming local police forces in Guerrero. The Guerreros Unidos are considered responsible for the disappearance and presumed death of 43 university students in September of last year, a scandal which has had both national and international repercussions.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 9 MAY 2011

Ciudad Juarez security chief Julian Leyzaola Perez said that at least a quarter of police in the violence-hit north…

MEXICO / 19 JUL 2012

According to a study by Mexico’s lower house of Congress, the authorities are failing to seize assets linked to organized…

DRUG POLICY / 18 MAR 2019

Earlier this month, a federal jury in New York convicted Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the former kingpin of Mexico’s…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.