HomeNewsWhat Does Massive Weapons Seizure Say About Sinaloa Cartel Feud in Mexico?

What Does Massive Weapons Seizure Say About Sinaloa Cartel Feud in Mexico?


Authorities in Mexico recently seized an historic amount of high-powered weapons and ammunition in a northern border state, laying bare the true firepower of one faction of the Sinaloa Cartel as it tries to solidify its control over the group.

On March 1 and 2, the Mexican Army and National Guard raided four houses in Navojoa municipality in the south of Sonora state, which sits along the US-Mexico border. Intelligence gathered by authorities suggested the properties were actually safe houses used to store drugs and weapons, according to a Defense Ministry press release.

Inside, officials uncovered an arsenal. The items seized included almost three million rounds of ammunition of varying calibers, six .50 caliber rifles, more than 150 handguns and automatic rifles, dozens of grenades and 12 bulletproof vests, among other drugs, magazines and tactical gear.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of the US-Mexico Border

Authorities said the drugs and weapons belonged to the Salazar, a local group operating in Sonora and connected to the Chapitos, a breakaway faction of the Sinaloa Cartel headed by the sons of the jailed former kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo.”

The Salazar’s roots date back to the 1990s, when Adán Salazar Zamorano, alias “Don Adán,” founded the group in Chihuahua. He went on to work for the Sinaloa Cartel in Sonora before being arrested in 2011, but the Salazar maintain a strong presence there alongside the Chapitos, especially in Navojoa near the state’s southern border with Sinaloa.

InSight Crime Analysis

The extent of weapons recently seized by Mexican security forces is a clear representation of the power of the Salazar - and by extension the Chapitos - as they try and make clear who truly controls the Sinaloa Cartel in El Chapo's absence.

To be sure, authorities confiscated more weapons in this single operation than the Mexican Army seized between January and March of 2021 in the entire state of Sonora, when just 122 firearms - mainly rifles - were recovered, according to official data compiled by Stop US Arms to Mexico, a project that seeks to reduce illegal weapons trafficking into Mexico.

What’s more, it’s highly likely the Salazar didn’t have all of their weapons stashed in these four houses alone, suggesting the true firepower of the factions operating under the Chapitos is much greater. These weapons don’t just allow such groups to safeguard their criminal operations, but also to fortify their position amid an ongoing power struggle.

SEE ALSO: The Three Criminal Fronts Sparking Violence in Sonora, Mexico

A number of criminal groups are currently driving violence in Sonora, including the so-called Caborca Cartel, which is tied to the infamous drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero, as well as the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG). But within the Sinaloa Cartel, ongoing tensions between the Chapitos and Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo," have led to routine displays of violence.

Just last month, a convoy of armed men reportedly loyal to the Chapitos sowed terror through the municipality of Caborca near the US-Mexico border. The hours-long attack left two dead and at least five others kidnapped, according to local officials, several of whom were later located alive.

But as the Chapitos continue their battles in the states of Sonora - which saw a record number of homicides in 2021 - and Baja California, US authorities have included them among their priority targets. Late last year, the State Department announced that, in addition to facing federal drug trafficking charges, the US government is now offering up to $20 million for help in arresting them.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

MEXICO / 17 OCT 2012

With reports of the death of Zetas leader Heriberto Lazcano, alias “Z-3,” there are already plenty of conspiracy…


A military official in El Salvador was sentenced to seven years in prison for arms trafficking, an indication the country…

EL CHAPO / 28 FEB 2014

With Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman now back in a cage many analysts and ordinary Mexicans alike fret about the expected…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…