El Chapo Guilty, but No End in Sight
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the head of the infamous Sinaloa cartel, was found guilty on Tuesday on all ten counts of drug trafficking, manufacturing and distribution, as well as charges related to using firearms and conspiring to commit murder.
While the former drug kingpin faces life in prison, El Chapo’s verdict has not brought an end to the Sinaloa cartel. According to the Associated Press, the Sinaloa state continues to have the highest rate of homicide and gang-related violence in Mexico, long after Guzmán’s arrest.
Drug-trafficking has yet to cease with the conviction of the cartel’s leader, and the Sinaloa cartel remains one of the largest traffickers of drugs, such as cocaine and fentanyl. The largest load of fentanyl ever found in the United States— over 100 million lethal doses —was seized at the Sinaloa-controlled Nogales port of entry at the end of January, just as El Chapo’s trial was ending.
While the head of the cartel has been convicted, no substantial efforts have been made to dismantle the cartels themselves, nor address the violence and corruption that sustain their operation. Experts claim that taking down these kingpins only increases violence, as cartels splinter into rival groups competing for territory.
Following Guzmán’s arrest and extradition in 2016 and 2017, El Chapo’s longtime associate Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada has lead the cartel alongside El Chapo’s sons, allowing the cartel to maintain and grow its power.
This strong leadership, along with new criminal activities— expanding into synthetic drugs, extortion and petroleum theft —and internal divisions within rival cartels such as the Jalisco New Generation, has allowed the Sinaloa cartel to maintain its dominance in the drug trade.
El Chapo held something of a Robin Hood image to followers in Sinaloa— a man from humble beginnings who took from the rich to better the poor. Others, though, see him as a criminal who brought violence and corruption to their community.
However, the news of El Chapo’s conviction in Mexico was met with little surprise, and those living in Sinaloa state do not expect cartel violence to end in the near future. The lack of reaction among Mexicans reflects a shift in focus away from violence and towards corruption.
Some point to the alleged $100 million bribe paid to former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto as proof of the government’s corruption, while others highlight the bribery and corruption of local officials and police in Sinaloa, which allowed El Chapo to operate unhindered.
Yet others question why the Mexican government could not imprison the drug kingpin nor bring him to justice. His extradition and trial to the U.S. lead some to believe there is a lack of accountability within the Mexican government, as federal officials refuse to pursue the corruption allegations among their own.