US federal authorities have unsealed the latest indictment against Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman and 23 of his alleged associates — but unless Mexican authorities plug the leaks in their forces, this is unlikely to bring the drug lord’s capture any closer.
Guzman was charged along with his “co-leader” Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo,” and 22 others. Mark Morgan, who heads the FBI’s division in El Paso, said the indictment was based on an investigation that began in 2000, not long before Guzman’s escape from a Mexican prison.
This indictment·focuses on the cartel’s operations in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and El Paso. According to the Associated Press (AP), US authorities say some of the 22 people indicted have been detained by authorities in Mexico, and that the US will seek their extradition. The AP notes that Sinaloa lieutenant Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, arrested February 2012 in Mexico, was among those named.
Guzman has already been indicted by courts in Arizona, San Diego, Chicago, and New York. At least one of the murder counts in the El Paso charges against Guzman and alleged co-leader Zambada Garcia could carry the death penalty.
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This indictment is evidence of US authorities’ commitment to capturing Guzman, whose Sinaloa Cartel is among the largest drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. At least some of Guzman’s lieutenants appear likely to be extradited under this indictment to face US justice, rather than the porous Mexican system.
Since escaping from prison in January 2001, Guzman has proven an elusive target. There are signs that the authorities might be getting closer to the drug lord; he narrowly escaped a February 2012 raid on one of his hideouts in the Mexico resort town of Los Cabos in Baja California. This year would be an opportune time for the ruling PAN party to catch the fugitive drug lord, as it could boost their chances in the upcoming election, in which security will be a key issue.
One of the main reasons that Guzman has managed to remain at large for so long is thought to be his networks of informants within the Mexican security forces, who tip him off about impending raids. For this reason, the latest indictment might not on its own do much to bring the authorities closer to capturing him.
Ismael Zambada, who heads the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Guzman, is likely feeling the pressure of US efforts against the group. His brother Jesus Zambada Garcia, alias “El Rey,” was extradited to the US earlier this month, while his son Jesus Vicente Zambada was extradited in 2010.