One year after the arrest of legendary drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, an increase of violence in the Sinaloa Cartel's Mexican territory hasn't happened as feared, while the ongoing question of his extradition to the United States remains unanswered.
Several Mexican officials marked the anniversary of El Chapo's capture on February 22, 2014 by asserting that violence in Sinaloa Cartel strongholds has actually decreased, defying concerns that the drug lord's arrest would result in bloodshed.
Genaro Garcia Castro, Sinaloa's Secretary of Public Security, said that violence in the state has gone down, a statement echoed by a state prosecutor.
Such claims are backed up by official government data, which registered an 18 percent drop in intentional homicides in Sinaloa between 2013 and 2014, from 1,208 to 986. The states of Chihuahua and Baja California, also Sinaloa Cartel strongholds, experienced similar reductions in homicides, falling 25 and 8 percent, respectively.
Last year, federal agents arrested El Chapo -- the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and most wanted drug trafficker in the world -- in the northeastern Mexican resort town of Mazatlán.
His arrest, however, appears to have had minimal outward effect on the Sinaloa Cartel’s operations, with levels of drug seizures remaining stable and the DEA reporting only small changes in the way the cartel operates, reported The Guardian.
In late January, the US government allegedly submitted a formal extradition request for El Chapo, who is wanted in several US courts on multiple criminal charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit homicide.
To date, the Mexican government has not granted the request, and it remains unclear whether or not it will do so.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of El Chapo -- who some had regarded as the most powerful drug trafficker in history -- was a major event that led to fears of increased violence resulting from such a significant disruption in the equilibrium of Mexico’s criminal underworld.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo
Indeed, the arrest or death of top drug cartel leaders has frequently led to increased bloodshed, due to succession crises within criminal organizations.
Yet with decreasing homicide levels in the Sinaloa Cartel’s home base, these fears have largely not come to pass. This may partly be testament to the cartel's ability to function as a "board of directors," able to continue its business activities and reshuffle its leadership without too much turmoil, despite the loss of El Chapo.
However, the sustainability of this current stability remains in doubt. El Chapo's possible extradition to the United States -- or if he decides to testify against his former colleagues -- could be a determining factor in whether or not tensions within the Sinaloa Cartel break to the surface.