Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is one of the most feared drug lords in the world. Born from a poor family in La Tuna, Mexico, El Chapo and his associates built the Sinaloa cartel — the biggest drug trafficking empire in the world — through corruption and ruthless annihilation of its rivals.
Looking at key individuals who run the cartel with El Chapo, Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as “El Mayo,” is said to run the cartel alongside him, while Alejandro Flores Cacho is in charge of air operations for the cartel in Mexico, according to Insight Crime.
Beginning with a little background on El Mayo’s role, he is said to be in charge of the cartel’s heroin production in Mexico for smuggling into the U.S. Although at the top of the food chain, El Mayo has succeeded in staying under the radar and has never been arrested in his life. However, his brother and sons have. Ismael Zambada, one of his sons, was extradited to the United States in 2010. Manuel Torres Felix, his right-hand man, was gunned down in 2012 during a shootout with the Mexican army. He is also said to be among the main cocaine traffickers into the U.S.
Like El Mayo, Alejandro Flores Cacho has successfully managed to stay well below the radar and is known only by a few in the Sinaloa cartel circles. However, he is one of the most instrumental in its operations, as he runs the training centers for the cartel’s pilots and formulates money laundering schemes for it. Working in collaboration with family and friends, he has managed to create an elaborate and highly secretive network of pilots that serve to bring in large quantities of drugs from South American countries into Mexico.
His trafficking Mexico network includes a cargo carrier and an airplane maintenance plant, both of which are legally registered in Mexico. His main money laundering tactic is using legitimate businesses as fronts. They include an electronics company, a manufacturing plant, a cattle ranch, and an agricultural business.
With such a specialized and formidable operational structure, El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel also has cells tasked with for bringing in guns from the U.S. to be used for waging war against rival gangs. This is according to a testimony by a former operative as indicated in files located in the Mexico Attorney General’s office, as reported by Insight Crime.
He described one occasion where his cell was sent to Nogales to get 30 WASR-10 guns – cheap AK-47 versions also known as “goat’s horn” in Mexico because of their curved magazines. Apparently, the cartel also had operatives in Tucson, Arizona, to secure heavy weapons, with corrupt U.S. border patrol agents allowing the transfers. The guns were used by El Chapo’s cartel in gang battles with rival cartels.
The witness also talked about the sporadic gunfights between the Sinaloa cartel and the Los Zetas in its heyday. They apparently featured large convoys of 20 to 80 trucks carrying five to six gunmen. The infamous battles are said to have lasted from between a few hours to about three days, leaving residents and cartels members dead in their wake.
The report from Mexico’s Attorney General’s office also indicated that U.S. border patrol officials who had alliances with certain cartels sometimes caused clashes when they went rogue. The following is one of those accounts.
“Another protected witness quoted in the article, alias ‘Lucero,’ describes tensions that arose within the Beltran Leyva Organization in mid-2009 after one operative, Jose Vazquez Villagrana, alias ‘Jabali’ or ‘Java,’ starting charging other criminal organizations, like the Familia Michoacana, for every kilo of drugs trafficked through his territory in Sonora, without the permission of his bosses. The Beltran Leyva leadership threatened to kill Jabali, who then switched sides and began working for the Sinaloa Cartel [El Chapo’s]. Such incidents — in which internal operatives keep drug shipments or trafficking revenue for themselves, without the consent of their higher-ups — are a common cause of deadly friction within drug trafficking organizations from Mexico to Colombia.”
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