The kingdom of “Los Chapitos” flourishes in the Government of AMLO


The Department of Justice of the United States government has managed to reconstruct the genesis of the criminal group known as “Los Chapitos”, made up of four sons of the Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín Guzmán Loera alias “El Chapo”,   imprisoned in New York sentenced to life imprisonment: Iván and Jesús Guzmán Salazar, and his half brothers Joaquín and Ovidio Guzmán López.

According to court documents to which I had access, and which are part of the criminal indictment against the four brothers opened in the Southern District Court of New York and in the Northern District Court of Illinois, hellish poker is currently the most powerful within the Sinaloa Cartel, managing to overcome the power of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who had held that position for the past decades.

Beyond the crimes that the quartet is accused of, what most caught my attention is the reconstruction of the facts carried out by the Department of Justice in which it makes it clear that the criminal kingdom of Los Chapitos grew exponentially from 2019 to 2021, which coincides with the mandate of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador   (AMLO).

According to the document, Los Chapitos have achieved that level of power through violence and corruption. “The Cartel also relies on corruption and bribery payments to protect drug trafficking routes, protect cartel members, and help cartel members avoid detection and arrest,” it states.

AMLO has not only had the public policy of “hugs and no bullets” towards the drug cartels in general, but in particular there are gestures of sympathy or weakness towards members of the Guzmán family, such as Consuelo Loera, mother of El Chapo and grandmother of “Los Chapitos” And with Ovidio himself, who, although he was successfully arrested in 2019, AMLO himself ordered his release and with this contributed to strengthening the criminal group.

And while the President of Mexico continues without extraditing Ovidio, arrested at the beginning of 2023 with the help of the DEA anti-drug agency; On April 14, the United States government tacitly declared war against “Los Chapitos.” New criminal charges and arrest warrants were announced against the four brothers and more than 20 members of the group, and it doubled from 5 to 10 Millions of dollars the reward offered to anyone who provides information on the whereabouts of Iván and Alfredo.

An empire is born

The Sinaloa Cartel was made up of Joaquín Guzmán Loera “El Chapo”, who operated his own faction alongside the faction led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.   and Juan José Esparragoza Moreno alias “El Azul”, indicates the criminal indictment opened in NY. It is claimed that even after the capture of “El Chapo” in 2014 “the three factions remained stable.”

When “El Chapo” was still in prison, “the most important members of the Cartel met at the ranch of Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar to discuss the future of the Cartel. The leaders of the different factions of the Cartel attended, including those who were apparently loyal to “El Chapo” and three of his sons. During the meeting, Los Chapitos and the leaders of the main factions of the cartel discussed the future of the organization and the control over the various regions of Mexico to those present.”

It was not specifically the new arrest of “El Chapo” in 2016 nor his extradition to the United States that drastically changed the balance of forces, but rather, according to the reconstruction made by the Department of Justice, it was the so-called Culiacanazo: the operation carried out in October 2019 when the army, supported by the DEA, detained Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa; but he was released that same day on direct orders from López Obrador arguing that all law enforcement had been overwhelmed by “Los Chapitos”.

Extradition of “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States

The judicial document that I am citing affirms that in the Culiacanazo  “Los Chapitos” they summoned their entire armed force to surround the city but that the other factions of the cartel did not respond to the call because “El Chapo” was now absent. In other words, “El Mayo” Zambada did not help them.

As a consequence of this, “alliances between factions within the cartel fractured and infighting ensued.” According to the file, out of this fracture, “Los Chapitos” and their followers emerged as the largest and most powerful faction of the Cartel, using extreme violence and corruption by paying bribes to authorities in Mexico.

Kings poker

Ovidio, alias “Ratón”, who is identified as the youngest of the four brothers, 2014 was the family’s pioneer in installing the first fentanyl laboratory in Sinaloa and has been in charge of supervising “the explosion of fentanyl trafficking and Your profits”.

In May 2022, during a meeting with members of the Cartel, Ovidio said that he was aware that fentanyl users could die if the mixture is slightly wrong. “In fact, many Cartel cooks used to manufacture fentanyl have died from testing the product,” the document states.

Iván, the eldest of “Los Chapitos”, alias “Luis” or “Tocayo”, is the one who leads the security apparatus. It is said that he is the one who gives orders to the groups of hit men and has ordered or directly perpetrated acts of violence, kidnappings and assassinations against rival drug traffickers and law enforcement officials. Iván has told his associates that the Cartel seeks to flood the United States with fentanyl so that there will be “streets of drug addicts.”

For his part, Alfredo, “Alfredillo”, along with his brother Iván, is also in charge of the security apparatus and is the largest trafficker of fentanyl and precursors to produce fentanyl. It is claimed that he is the one who organizes the shipment and trafficking of precursors to manufacture fentanyl from China to the Mexico City airport. He has also participated in the torture of rival traffickers to obtain information about the infiltration of other organizations within the “Los Chapitos” group. The fourth brother Joaquín, nicknamed “Moreno” or “El Güero”, is assigned logistics tasks.

Oscar Noe Medina González, alias “Panu”, is Iván’s second in command and “is in charge of security tasks on a day-to-day basis, supervising each of the regional commanders of Los Chapitos”.

Néstor Isidro Perez Salas alias “Nini” and Jorge Humberto Figueroa Benitez alias “27” are the leaders of the hit men. In the state of Sinaloa, Figueroa Benítez supervises “Nini’s” security personnel and coordinates Pérez Salas’ activities in the manufacture and trafficking of fentanyl.

Operation for the second arrest of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán

Pérez Salas and Figueroa Benítez are the leaders and commanders of the group of hitmen known as “Ninis”, a “particularly violent group responsible for the personal security of Los Chapitos”. The “Ninis” are said to receive military-style training in various combat topics, including “urban warfare, special weapons and tactics, and sniper skills.” “The ‘Ninis’ kidnap, torture and kill anyone who opposes Los Chapitos.”

It is claimed that the “Ninis” bring to Iván’s ranch located in Navolato, Sinaloa, the people they detain, whether they are rivals, workers loyal to other factions of the Cartel or officers who refuse to work for them. They are generally interrogated under torture. , killed with a shot or sometimes even alive or dead occupy them to feed the tigers that Iván and Alfredo keep as pets in their ranches.

In Sinaloa they govern and in CDMX they grow

The NY court document asserts that today the Sinaloa Cartel is the predominant drug trafficking organization in the Western Hemisphere. He is credited with being primarily responsible for the massive production and trafficking of fentanyl to the United States. From 2019 to 2021, death from overdose grew by 94 percent in that country. “It has the largest international operation of any drug trafficking organization.” “Under the leadership of ‘Los Chapitos,’ the cartel has achieved complete control of all drug trafficking activity in many parts of Mexico.”

The state of Sinaloa is the seat of his empire. In Culiacán and in “many other parts of Sinaloa,” the document states, “‘Los Chapitos’ demand that the population pays taxes, not only to give permission to traffic drugs in their territory but also to distribute mass consumption products such as beer, toilet paper and electronics. Firearms are openly carried during the day in the city by dealers and hit men loyal to ‘Los Chapitos’”.

For the last two years, I have been writing in this column that the current governor of Sinaloa, a friend of AMLO, and member of the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA) party, Rubén Rocha Moya was able to win the 2021 elections thanks to the approval of Ismael  El Mayo Zambada, who heads the other faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, and “Los Chapitos.”

Here I described the meetings that were held with the children of El Chapo and Aureliano Guzmán López, one of them in the house of Consuelo López, the woman the President shook hands with in full lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. In said meetings in which they promised to proselytize in favor of Rocha Moya, but also to mobilize their troops on the day of the election, as in the end it happened.

Another place where “Los Chapitos” has grown in recent years and finds it very profitable due to the number of consumers is Mexico City, governed by Claudia Sheinbaum, who so far is the best-positioned MORENA candidate to replace AMLO in 2024.

“Ovidio established an outpost in Mexico City where heroin traffickers can go to buy fentanyl to mix with heroin. ‘Cutting’ their fentanyl product has allowed the Cartel’s heroin traffickers to maintain their customer base, but it substantially increases the risk of overdose and death,” the file states.

Strategic Alliances

It is stated that just as “Los Chapitos” use corruption to buy loyalties within the authorities, they are also pragmatic. It is claimed that they have made alliances in Coahuila with the Gulf Cartel, a former enemy. And in Ciudad Juárez with the band “Artistas Asesinos”. The court document states that in the United States, a fentanyl pill can cost anywhere from fifty cents to three dollars. That generates “Los Chapitos” hyper-million dollar profits.

Anabel Hernández, Mexican journalist and author of this column

According to the information obtained by an informant from the Department of Justice, who was part of “Los Chapitos” and later agreed to cooperate in that country, it was possible to find out in-depth about their operations in the last two years. The informant identified as “CCI “Assisted in the laundering of more than 24 million dollars that belonged only to Ovidio, of this money he witnessed the sending of 9 million dollars in cash to Mexico. And there were at least three other collaborators who were present at meetings and operations of the criminal clan.

On at least three occasions in the document, it is ensured that “Los Chapitos” use corruption and pay bribes to authorities to maintain the security of their operations and leadership. For AMLO this should be a warning sign.

Just as the empire of “El Chapo” had its golden age in the government of Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón thanks to the complicity of the Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna and other members of the State apparatus, now the empire of his sons flourishes during the government of López Obrador. It is impossible not to ask the question: Who protects them? Why? Is AMLO concerned about what the DEA learned during the infiltration of “Los Chapitos”?

If the current President has not understood anything of the lesson left by the trial against García Luna, someone should tell him that if the protection of “Los Chapitos” is not reverted, someone from his government or he himself could be the one in the not too distant future is in the dock of accused in some court of the United States.