The murder and lavish funeral of a violent clan boss linked to the powerful Sinaloa Cartel has shown the outsized influence of Los Salazar in a strategic region of Mexico.
Sergio Alberto del Villar Suárez, alias “El Napoleón,” the well-known plaza chief of the Sinaloa Cartel's “Los Salazar” cell, was killed on August 8 in the city of Hermosillo in Sonora state, while he was at a restaurant with his family, Milenio reported.
His funeral became a controversial affair as it was celebrated with "narcocorridos," ballads glorifying the actions of drug traffickers. A police motorcycle escort also accompanied his funeral procession along with luxury vehicles, as can be observed in a video published by Milenio.
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Del Villar Suárez was also free despite having been arrested on October 5, 2018, during an intense operation by municipal and state police forces in the city of Hermosillo. He was accused of being responsible for the murders of several members of the city’s public forces.
A day after the killing, Los Salazar sent a message to Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich, threatening to target her family. "Madam governor, you did not respect the agreement, we have located your entire family ... and this will be paid in blood."
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The immediate threat of retaliation against state authorities by Los Salazar, as well as a police escort at the funeral of its leader, shows the virtual impunity with which the group feels it can operate.
The exact motive behind Del Villar Suárez's murder is still unknown, but his death has shone a spotlight on Los Salazar, one of the most violent cells of the Sinaloa Cartel that plays a crucial role in the group's control of the strategic border state of Sonora.
Originating in the northern state of Chihuahua, the group was founded by Adán Salazar Zamorano, alias “Don Adán.” He arrived in the city of Navojoa in Sonora in the 1990s to participate in the production and distribution of marijuana crossing Mexico’s northern border into the United States.
Don Adán entered the Sinaloa Cartel as a deputy for leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” along with his sons, Jesús Alfredo, alias "El Muñeco," and Adán, alias "El Indio."
Following the arrests of Adán in 2011 and Jesús Alfredo in 2012, and Adán's subsequent murder in 2016, the brother of "Don Adán," Crispín Salazar Zamorano, assumed leadership of the organization. He is now also behind bars.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
The clan’s importance lies in the dominance it maintains in Sonora state and parts of Chihuahua, which border the US states of Arizona and New Mexico. From the cities of Navojoa and Hermosillo, it maintains control of drug and migrant trafficking routes through this part of northern Mexico.
A report by Mexico's National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information for Combating Crime (Centro Nacional de Planeación, Análisis e Información para el Combate a la Delincuencia - Cenapi) identifies this group as part of the Sinaloa Cartel's military arm. The report ranks it among the cartel’s 10 most important cells, along with Gente Nueva, Los Cabrera, and the Poniente Cartel.
Its criminal actions are such that Mexican authorities in 2015 blamed this group for the forced displacement of at least 1,200 people from Sonoyta municipality in the state of Sonora, as well as around 300 families in Las Chinacas in the state of Chihuahua.
The group is also implicated in the disappearance of journalist Alfredo Jiménez Mota in 2005 and the murder of Miroslava Breach in 2017. Both were investigating ties between the group and politicians and local security forces.