The Sinaloa Cartel is one of the biggest drug trafficking crime organizations operating in Mexico. On Friday, law enforcement arrested two dozen top-level members during a day-long sting operation along the Mexican border.
Spokeswoman Gillian M. Christensen said the raid, known as Mexican Operation Diablo Express, was a secret, cooperative effort by several U.S. agencies, Mexican police, and Arizona state and local law enforcement.
“The targeted Sinaloa cell has been responsible for the importation of millions of pounds of illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, into the United States from Mexico during its existence. The organization is also responsible for the smuggling of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, along with weapons, into Mexico.”
As reported by ABC News, the operation was centered near the border between Lukeville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Mexico, along a route to a popular beach destination named Puerto Peñasco. Homeland Security Investigations, a part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, allowed Mexican police into the U.S. and offered additional protection during the sting.
“ICE applauds the Government of Mexico for their bold action in taking down this criminal organization and for their continued pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel throughout Mexico,” Christensen said.
In addition to the Sinaloa drug cartel members, several assault-type weapons and hundreds of pounds of drugs were seized. Drug enforcement officials conservatively estimate the cartel brings in over $3 billion a year in revenue and is responsible for at least one-third of the U.S. illegal narcotic market.
The arrests come just weeks after drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was recaptured since escaping from a high-level security Mexican prison for the second time. Guzman eluded law enforcement for six months before getting caught on January 8.
Acting on a tip from a civilian, the Mexican Navy carried out the capture. A naval infantry unit entered a home in Los Mochis, a city on the Pacific Coast in Sinaloa, just before dawn. A shootout ensued, killing five cartel members, while six associates, including right-hand man “El Cholo” and Guzman, were captured.
Earlier this month, Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez started the process of extraditing Guzman to the U.S. The process is expected to take several months, according to the AG’s office. Meanwhile, Guzman’s attorneys have filed several injunctions against the Mexican government to prevent the deportation, yet all requests have been rejected by the courts thus far.
“You can run, but you can’t hide, even if you are a powerful drug dealer in Mexico. Guzman escaped in July because he feared extradition; hopefully the United States will be his final destination,” said Marcos D. Jiménez, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, in a press release.
Both the Mexican and U.S. governments want El Chapo in an American prison because of his track record of escaping from Mexican authorities. During his most recent escape, a mile-long tunnel equipped with oxygen pipes, lighting, and a motorbike helped him get away.
El Chapo broke out of prison the first time back in January 2001. He was also facing extradition to the United States then as well, but he managed to hide in a laundry cart and escape. It took law enforcement 13 years to catch up with him again.
El Chapo is the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and is the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. For the first time since Al Capone, the city of Chicago branded him “Public Enemy No. 1” in February of last year.
Per a CNN News report, the 24 Sinaloa Cartel members arrested are currently sitting in custody with Mexican authorities and have not yet been identified. According to Christensen, the U.S. plans to seek their extradition.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]