Authorities in the United States have filed drug trafficking charges against the sons of recently convicted former Sinaloa Cartel leader “El Chapo” Guzmán, in what appears to be authorities’ next step in their systematic pursuit to try and dismantle the cartel.
Joaquín Guzmán López and Ovidio Guzmán López, two sons of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” have been charged with conspiring to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine, 500 grams of methamphetamine, and one ton of marijuana from Mexico and elsewhere into the United States between April 2008 and 2018, the US Justice Department announced February 21.
US authorities also called for the forfeiture of any proceeds El Chapo’s sons directly or indirectly received as part of the drug trafficking conspiracy, according to the indictment. The charges were filed with a district court in the US capital of Washington DC.
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The latest criminal charges come shortly after a US jury found El Chapo guilty of leading an ongoing criminal enterprise, in addition to nine other criminal counts charged in the indictment. The former kingpin will be sentenced in June, but his conviction on that charge carries a minimum life sentence without the possibility of parole.
InSight Crime Analysis
The targeting of El Chapo’s sons by US authorities following the conviction of their father is a logical next step in the pursuit of the Sinaloa Cartel with the hopes of one day dismantling the criminal organization altogether.
Not much is known about Joaquín Guzmán López. But Ovidio and El Chapo’s other sons, Iván Archivaldo, and Jesús Alfredo, known collectively as “Los Chapitos,” were at the heart of an internal struggle with El Chapo’s former right-hand man, Dámaso López Núñez, alias “Licenciado,” over control of the Sinaloa Cartel after their father’s arrest.
However, Licenciado was arrested in May 2017 and extradited to the United States in 2018. His son and former top-level Sinaloa Cartel member, Damáso López Serrano, alias “Mini Lic,” turned himself in to US authorities and pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in 2017, shortly after his father’s arrest.
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This solidified the sons’ place at the top of the organization. In September 2018, Jesús Alfredo was added to the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) top 10 most wanted fugitives list. El Chapo’s sons and one of the last remaining members of the Sinaloa Cartel’s old guard, Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo,” have a firm grip over the group’s operations today.
Despite being fingered by the defense as the true leader of the Sinaloa Cartel throughout El Chapo’s US trial, El Mayo has long avoided arrest and hasn’t been pursued nearly as vigorously as El Chapo was by both Mexican and US authorities.
However, even if authorities eventually zero in close enough on El Chapo’s sons and El Mayo to secure their arrest, the Sinaloa Cartel has shown a remarkable ability to carry on in the absence of their suspected leaders. The group’s horizontal structure with decision-making capabilities spread throughout has allowed it to remain one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups alongside the Jalisco Cartel -- New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).
In 2016, Jesús Alfredo and his brother Iván were kidnapped by the CJNG's leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias "El Mencho," in Jalisco state, the group's home turf.