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The Sinaloa Cartel is the largest international drug trafficking and organized crime syndicate in the world. It also engages in money laundering, kidnapping, and merciless executions. The Sinaloa cartel is located in Mexico, the city of Culiacan, Sinaloa. As such, its name is derived from its state of operations, which also marks its headquarters, Sinaloa (Mallory 76). However, it also has bases and controlled operations across various states in Mexico such as Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, and Baja California. The cartel came into existence in the mid-1980s, operating using different aliases such as The Pacific Cartel, The Blood Alliance, The Federation, as well as The Guzman-Loera Organization.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Developed
Mexico and Columbia are the two countries with the leading cases of drug trafficking and drug cartels. Columbia is synonymous for producing significant amounts of cocaine while Mexico is synonymous for producing large quantities of heroin and marijuana. The biggest international market for all these drugs is the United States. As such, the war on drugs and substance in the United States is what elevates these organized crime syndicates to an international perspective. The Columbian Medellin cartel was the limelight before the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Medellin Cartel was headed by Pablo Escobar, another notorious drug lord, and was responsible for supplying 80% of cocaine in the US markets during the 1970s.
The rise of the Sinaloa Cartel can be traced back to the late 1960s whereby a drug lord by the Pedro Aviles Perez pioneered the sale and trafficking of drugs across the Mexican state of Sinaloa. In fact, Pedro Aviles is arguably the first generation of the main drug traffickers from Mexico, trafficking marijuana and heroin in large scale into the US and other parts of the world. He was the one who pioneered using aircraft in drug trafficking. As such, Pedro Aviles was the mentor of the second generation of drug traffickers from Sinaloa on narcotraficantes, such as Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Rafael Caro Quintero, and Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman (Rockefeller 12). Later on, these second-generation drug traffickers branched out to form their cartels, such as the Guadalajara Cartel pioneered by Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and the Tijuana Cartel by the Arellano Felix brothers. El Chapo and his lieutenants remained and took controls of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Currently, the Sinaloa Cartel is considered as ‘the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world,’ judging from the United States Intelligence Community rankings. Besides, the cartel is also considered the most powerful organized crime group in Mexico, judging from the Los Angeles Times rankings. The cartel is closely associated with the ‘Golden Triangle’ label derived from the three Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa where tons of Mexican opium and marijuana are produced (Lyman 288). As such, the Sinaloa cartel is top on the chart of the United States National Drug Intelligence Center primarily because of its role in distributing large supplies of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA across the US. In fact, the center claims that the Sinaloa cartel has distributed over 200 tons of cocaine and heroin in the US market since the prime of its operations in 1990 to 2008. In this regard, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, El Chapo, is currently the most wanted drug lord in America, and possibly across the world.
What Makes the Sinaloa Cartel Unique?
The Sinaloa Cartel is unique for its mass murders and executions, in particular on those considered as traitors as well as those presumed to be working with the police. Furthermore, the cartel has a signature style of murdering its victims, which is unique from other drug cartels. The cartel adopted this murdering spree to gain control of the Mexican market, as well as to detract possible betrayals from its members. For instance, when a person is proven a traitor in the cartel, he/she is executed in their signature style, and his/her close family members are not spared either (Hernandez 120). They too meet the same fate as their traitor brother, sister, father, or mother. As such, there is a high level of discipline within the cartel because of the fear of execution. This aspect has enabled the cartel to thrive over the years, as it is impossible for the law enforcement agencies to get any information from the drug peddlers regarding the plans and activities of the cartel.
Structure of the Sinaloa Cartel
As mentioned above, the Sinaloa Cartel also operated under the ‘Blood Alliance’ (La Alianza de Sangre) alias. During this period, its leader was Hector Luis Palma Salazar, ‘El Guero. However, El Guero met his fate on June 23, 1995, at the hands of the Mexican Army elements, where he was arrested and locked up. His partner, Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) took over the reins of the cartel (Mallory 76). El Chapo led the cartel alongside his two confidants, Ignacio Coronel Villareal and Ismael Zambada Garcia. As at 2003, Zambada and El Chapo had become the leading drug kingpins in Mexico, following the arrest of the leader of a rival cartel, the Gulf Cartel (Osiel Cardenas). El Chapo has been in and out of prisons, especially in Mexico, where he was later freed or escaped. For instance, on 22 February 2014, El Chapo was arrested by an allied force of Mexican and American authorities and held at a maximum-security prison, the Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1 in Mexico City.
However, he managed to escape through a tunnel drilled in his prison cell, where he returned to the cartel and continued his role as their leader (Rockefeller 12). A clear trend regarding the leadership structure of the Sinaloa Cartel is that there is always a leader, such as El Chapo and El Guero, who lead the operations of the cartel with the help of close confidants. In the absence of the leader, such as being arrested, one of the confidants takes leadership authority of the cartel in an acting capacity until the real leader returns, or replaces him altogether in the case of death. Therefore, the activities of the cartel always continue with or without the presence of its leader, what has seen the continuous growth and expansion of the Sinaloa Cartel to an international crime syndicate.
Crimes and Location of the Sinaloa Cartel
The primary criminal activity that the Sinaloa Cartel engages is in is drug trafficking. However, it also engaged in money laundering and organized crime. The hub of the cartel is in the state of Sinaloa, but it also has a presence in 17 of the 31 states in Mexico (Lyman 288). The cartel is synonymous for smuggling and distributing banned substances in the United States, such as Columbian cocaine, Mexican opium, methamphetamine, and marijuana, as well as heroin from Southeast Asia.
Interesting Information about Sinaloa Cartel
The ingenious ways used by the cartel in transporting and distributing drugs, especially when moving it across the US – Mexican border is the most interesting fact about the Sinaloa Cartel. The drug cartel comes up with new ways of concealing the drugs in such a way that the authorities cannot sniff and capture them in action (Hernandez 120). As such, this ingenuity of hiding drugs during transport and distribution has contributed significantly to the success of the cartel, as they have been able to evade police traps most of the time. Furthermore, the complex communication network used by the cartel in reporting the movement and distribution of drugs has also contributed to its success as a drug cartel, forever evading confrontation with the police. For instance, the police have not been able to capture El Chapo for a long time because they could not get any evidence to use against him, thanks to the smart operations of his cartel.
The Best Way to break up the Sinaloa Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel is well intertwined and as such, not easy to destroy. It has been existence for nearly two decades and as of now, it is evident that removal of the kingpin does not lead to the collapse of the group, but rather to the rise of a new and more vicious drug lord, as was the case with El Chapo after the fall of El Guero (Mallory 76). El Chapo is currently considered the most dangerous drug kingpin in the world. Therefore, the best way to break up the Sinaloa Cartel is to do it from the inside, taking down every major leader in the cartel and spreading both fear and anxiety among the remaining members, who will either go into hiding or join other gangs. However, this too is tough considering the rules and laws of the cartel, which makes it impossible for an outsider to infiltrate the cartel, take a prime leadership position, and then use the leadership position to dismember the cartel systematically.
Rules and Laws of the Sinaloa Cartel
The main law in the Sinaloa Cartel is that of confidentiality. No member of the cartel is supposed to reveal or snitch on its activities and plans to outsiders, especially the police (Lyman 288). As such, anyone caught betraying the cartel is lynched and executed, as a warning to others who may attempt such madness.
- Hernandez, Anabel. Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2014. Print.
- Lyman, Michael. Drugs in Society: Causes, Concepts, and Control. London, UK: Routledge, 2013. Print.
- Mallory, Stephen. Understanding Organized Crime. Boston, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011. Print.
- Rockefeller, J.D. The arrest of the godfather of the drug world: Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’. Richford, NY: J.D. Rockefeller, 2016. Print.