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

CHAPITOS / 28 MAR 2023

The Chapitos and the Caborca Cartel are warring over fentanyl and methamphetamine drug routes in Sonora, Mexico.

EL MENCHO / 18 NOV 2021

The arrest of the wife of CJNG boss El Mencho is being interpreted as a win against the cartel and…


New sanctions in a Puerto Vallarta timeshare fraud scam show how the CJNG exploits unsuspecting tourists as an alternate source…

About InSight Crime


Open Position: Social Media and Engagement Strategist

27 MAY 2023

InSight Crime is looking for a Social Media and Engagement Strategist who will be focused on maintaining and improving InSight Crime’s reputation and interaction with its audiences through publishing activities…


Venezuela Coverage Receives Great Reception

27 MAY 2023

Several of InSight Crime’s most recent articles about Venezuela have been well received by regional media. Our article on Venezuela’s colectivos expanding beyond their political role to control access to…


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report Continues

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.


InSight Crime’s Paraguay Election Coverage Draws Attention 

5 MAY 2023

InSight Crime looked at the various anti-organized crime policies proposed by the candidates in Paraguay’s presidential election, which was won on April 30 by Santiago Peña. Our pre-election coverage was cited…