The US Treasury Department has placed two high-level Sinaloa Cartel associates on its "kingpin" list, calling the move a "strategic blow" to Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organization even as it appears to be confronting a new threat from a rival cartel.
On August 16, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Mexican nationals Juan Manuel Alvarez Inzunza, alias "King Midas," and Jose Olivas Chaidez, alias "El Blanco," as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers, becoming the latest Sinaloa Cartel operatives added to the so-called "kingpin" list. (See Treasury's chart below)
Alvarez Inzunza "provides key money laundering services to high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel members," including lieutenants who operate on behalf of cartel leaders Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo." He was arrested in Mexico in March 2016. Olivas Chaidez, meanwhile, runs a transnational drug trafficking cell that smuggles large quantities of cocaine into Southern California, according to Treasury.
The designation "represents a strategic blow to the Sinaloa Cartel?s ability to move illicit drugs and launder drug trafficking proceeds into Mexico, Central America, and South America,? said John E. Smith, Acting Director of OFAC.
Treasury also added to its list two Sinaloa-based companies owned and controlled by Alvarez Inzunza.
The US assets of both Alvarez Inzunza and Olivas Chaidez have been frozen as a result of the designation, and US citizens are prohibited from conducting transactions with these individuals.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Treasury's designation comes at a time of uncertainty, and perhaps weakness, for the Sinaloa Cartel. Last week, at least one of the sons of El Chapo was reportedly kidnapped before being released over the weekend. While there has been no official confirmation of the release of Alfredo Guzmán, the attorney general of Jalisco, the state where the incident took place, said the the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) was responsible for the kidnapping.
As InSight Crime recently noted, the bold attack may be part of a CJNG attempt to make inroads into Sinaloa Cartel territory in the wake of El Chapo's arrest in January. In recent months, the CJNG has reportedly made several violent incursions into northern Mexico, where Sinaloa is believed to be the underworld's main power broker. Such an explanation may be too simplistic, however, considering Sinaloa essentially operates as a drug trafficking federation and even El Chapo's power within the cartel was not absolute.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
Although El Chapo is now behind bars, a number of the cartel's principal operatives remain free. El Mayo, who has spent some 40 years in the drug business, and Damaso Lopez Nunez, alias "El Licenciado," are among the remaining cartel bosses that wield the most influence.