U.S. puts $5 million bounty on Chapo Guzman’s sons

Border Report

Expert says move signals renewed commitment to stem flood of drugs coming across the border

This Oct. 17, 2019 frame grab from video provided by the Mexican government shows Ovidio Guzman Lopez at the moment of his detention, in Culiacan, Mexico. Mexican security forces had Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, outside a house on his knees against a wall before they were forced to back off and let him go as his gunmen shot up the western city of Culiacan. (CEPROPIE via AP)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. government has put out a $5 million bounty on the sons of convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

The targets include Ovidio Guzman Lopez, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar and Joaquin Guzman Lopez. Collectively known as “Los Chapitos,” or the Sons of El Chapo, “all four are high-ranking members of the Sinaloa cartel and subject to federal indictment for their involvement in the illicit drug trade,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement late last week.

The rewards for information leading to the capture of those individuals come on the heels of a new executive order from the White House imposing sanctions on foreign nationals involved in the illegal drug trade. The order itself comes at the end of a year in which the United States has seen record amounts of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl come across the border from Mexico.

The Sinaloa cartel is one of the organizations most heavily involved in synthetic drug trafficking, according to experts and recent congressional testimony.

“The idea of rewards is not new, but what this does is signal a renewed commitment for their capture. The money also puts an ‘oomph’ into the effort. Five-million dollars is a hefty sum,” said Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., associate director of the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Some may construe the bounties as a declaration of war against the Sinaloa cartel. However, Manjarrez points out that the cartel structure has decentralized since the 2017 extradition to the United States of “El Chapo” and his conviction and sentencing.

Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada remains the cartel’s figurehead but the “Chapitos” operate independently and their respective gangs are just as likely to engage in gun battles as they are to cooperate in moving drugs through each other’s territory at any given time, drug experts have told Border Report. Also, like other major drug cartels in Mexico nowadays, the Sinaloa cartel is heavily involved in migrant smuggling, experts say.

Victor M. Manjarrez Jr.

“It’s more of a horizontal structure now, which I think is fascinating. It’s like the way many American companies operate now. It facilitates a more immediate decision-making and makes you more responsive to the environment,” Manjarrez said. “These folks (the cartels) are behaving like the multimillion-dollar businesses that they are. They’re a business venture which in the last 10, 15 years has started to get away from vertical decision-making.”

As to how effective the $5 million reward will be, Manjarrez said that remains to be seen. He said “El Chapo” was revered in many places in Mexico due to his penchant to share some of his profit with the poor. He was also feared within his own organization, which made his people think twice about betraying him.

“Will that transfer onto his sons? I don’t know,” Manjarrez said. “It’d be interesting to know how the United States plans to protect” high level informants.”

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia in 2017 indicted Joaquin Guzman Lopez, a.k.a. “El Guero,” and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a.k.a. “El Raton” (Mouse), on charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, and large amounts of methamphetamines.

Another grand jury in the Southern District of California in 2014 indicted Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a.k.a. “El Chapito” (Little Chapo), on conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances in the United States.

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