Sinaloa Drug Cartel
Guzmán-Loera Cartel) Founded 1989
Founding location Culiacan, Sinaloa
Years active 1989–present
Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit, Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Colima, Chiapas,TamaulipasGuerrero,
Zacatecas, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Tlaxcala,
Puebla, Morelos, Mexico City
Criminal activities Drug trafficking
Allies Gulf Cartel, Knights Templar,
Rivals Los Zetas, Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Sinaloa or CDS) is a drug-trafficking and organized crime organization based in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa, with operations in the Mexican states of Baja California, Durango, Sonora and Chihuahua. The cartel is also known as the Guzmán-Loera Organization and the Pacific Cartel, the latter due to the coast of Mexico from which it originated. The cartel has also been called the Federation and the Blood Alliance. The ‘Federation’ was partially splintered when the Beltrán-Leyva brothers broke apart from the Sinaloa Cartel.
The United States Intelligence Community considers the Sinaloa Cartel “the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world” and in 2011, the Los Angeles Times called it as “Mexico’s most powerful organized crime group.”
The Sinaloa Cartel is associated with the label “Golden Triangle”, which refers to the states of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua. The region is a major producer of Mexican opium and marijuana. According to the U.S. Attorney General, the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for importing into the United States and distributing nearly 200 tons of cocaine and large amounts of heroin between 1990 and 2008.
Pedro Avilés Pérez was a pioneer drug lord in the Mexican state of Sinaloa in the late 1960s. He is considered to be the first generation of major Mexican drug smugglers of marijuana who marked the birth of large-scale Mexican drug trafficking. He also pioneered the use of aircraft to smuggle drugs to the United States.
Second generation Sinaloan traffickers such as Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Avilés Pérez’ nephew Joaquín ‘El Chapo’or “Shorty” Guzmán would claim they learned all they knew about narcotrafficking while serving in the Avilés organization. Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who eventually founded the Guadalajara Cartel, was arrested in 1989. While incarcerated, he remained one of Mexico’s major traffickers, maintaining his organization via mobile phone until he was transferred to a new maximum security prison in the 1990s. At that point, his old organization broke up into three factions: the Tijuana Cartel led by his nephews, the Arellano Félix brothers Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel, run by former lieutenants Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, Adrián Gómez González and Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo).
Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy in early 2008The Sinaloa Cartel used to be known as La Alianza de Sangre (“Blood Alliance”). When Héctor Luis Palma Salazar (a.k.a. El Güero) was arrested on 23 June 1995, by elements of the Mexican Army, his partner Joaquín Guzmán Loera took leadership of the cartel. Guzmán was captured in Guatemala on 9 June 1993, and extradited to Mexico, where he was jailed in a maximum security prison, but on 19 January 2001, Guzmán escaped and resumed his command of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán has two close associates, Ismael Zambada García and Ignacio Coronel Villareal. Guzman and Zambada became Mexico’s top drug kingpins in 2003, after the arrest of their rival Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel. Another close associate, Javier Torres Felix, was arrested and extradited to the U.S. in December 2006; so far, Guzmán and Zambada have evaded operations to capture them.
On 29 July 2010 Ignacio Coronel was killed in a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan, Jalisco.
OperationsThe Sinaloa Cartel has a presence in 17 Mexican states, with important centers in Mexico City, Tepic, Toluca, Zacatecas, Guadalajara, and most of the state of Sinaloa. The cartel is primarily involved in the smuggling and distribution of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, methamphetamine and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States. It is believed that a group known as the Herrera Organization would transport multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America to Guatemala on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel. From there it is smuggled north to Mexico and later into the U.S. Other shipments of cocaine are believed to originate in Colombia from Cali and Medellín drug-trafficking groups from which the Sinaloa Cartel handle transportation across the U.S.border to distribution cells in Arizona, California, Texas, Chicago and New York.
Prior to his arrest, Vicente Zambada Niebla (“El Vicentillo”), son of Ismael Zambada García (“El Mayo”), played a key role in the Sinaloa Cartel. Vicente Zambada was responsible for coordinating multi-ton cocaine shipments from Central and South American countries, through Mexico, and into the United States for the Sinaloa Cartel. To accomplish this task he used every means available: Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, narco submarines, container ships, go-fast boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers and automobiles. He was arrested by the Mexican Army on 18 March 2009 and extradited on 18 February 2010 to Chicago to face federal charges.
In the late 1980s, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration believed the Sinaloa Cartel was the largest drug trafficking organization operating in Mexico. By the mid-1990s, according to one court opinion, it was believed to be the size of the Medellín Cartel during its prime. The Sinaloa Cartel was believed to be linked to the Juárez Cartel in a strategic alliance following the partnership of their rivals, the Gulf Cartel and TijuanaCartel. Following the discovery of a tunnel system used to smuggle drugs across the Mexican/US border, the group has been associated with such means of trafficking.
By 2005, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, had come to dominate drug trafficking across the border with Arizona. By 2006, the Sinaloa Cartel had eliminated all competition across the 528 km of Arizona border. The Milenio (Michoacan), Jalisco (Guadalajara), Sonora (Sonora), and Colima (Colima) cartels are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel.
In January 2008 the cartel allegedly split into a number of warring factions, which is a major cause of the epidemic of drug violence Mexico has seen in the last year. Murders by the cartel often involve beheadings or bodies dissolved in vats of acid and are sometimes filmed and posted on the Internet as a warning to rival gangs.
Atlanta has been used as a major U.S. distribution center and accounting hub, and the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel there has brought ruthless violence to that area.
Arrest and seizuresOn 11 May 2008, Alfonso Gutiérrez Loera, cousin of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera and 5 other drug traffickers were arrested after a shootout with Federal Police officers in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Along with the captured suspects, 16 assault rifles, 3 grenades, 102 magazines and 3,543 ammunition rounds were seized.
On 25 February 2009, the U.S. government announced the arrest of 750 members of the Sinaloa Cartel across the U.S. in Operation Xcellerator. They also announced the seizure of more than $59 million in cash and numerous vehicles, planes, and boats.
In March 2009, the Mexican Government announced the deployment of 1,000 Federal Police officers and 5,000 Mexican Army soldiers to restore order in Ciudad Juárez, which has suffered the highest number of casualties in the country.
On 20 August 2009, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) dismembered a large Mexican drug operation in Chicago, and uncovered a major distribution network operated by the Flores crew led by twin brothers Margarito and Pedro Flores that operated out of that city. The drug operation allegedly brought 1.5 to 2 tons of cocaine every month to Chicago from Mexico and shipped millions of dollars south of the border. The shipments were mostly bought from the Sinaloa Cartel and at times from the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, and it is assumed that both cartels threatened the Flores crew with violence if they bought from other rival drug organizations.
The Sinaloa cartel’s loss of partners in Mexico does not appear to have affected its ability to smuggle drugs from South America to the USA. On the contrary, based on seizure reports, the Sinaloa cartel appears to be the most active smuggler of cocaine. The reports also demonstrated the cartels possess the ability to establish operations in previously unknown areas, such as Central America and South America, even as far south as Perú, Paraguay and Argentina. It also appears to be most active in diversifying its export markets; rather than relying solely on U.S. drug consumption, it has made an effort to supply distributors of drugs in Latin Americanand European countries.
Current alliancesSince February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions: one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel and Los Zetas; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel.In addition to maintaining its anti-Zetas alliance with the Gulf cartel, Sinaloa in 2011 affiliated itself with the Knights Templar in Michoacan, and to counter Los Zetas in Jalisco state, Sinaloa affiliated itself with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.