El Chapo’s favored son Ivan Guzman emerges as the new kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel

How Ivan Guzman rose to prominence, inheriting his father's throne in the narcotics underworld and reshaping Mexico's drug scene.

During his stay in the Federal Prison of Almoloya de Juarez in the State of Mexico, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera acknowledged to the criminologist Monica Ramirez the paternity of 23 children. Still, of them, there is one for whom he feels a notable weakness.

According to Mike Vigil, former director of International Operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the one who is closest to the heart of the founder of the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) is Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, the eldest of the Chapitos.

Vigil said in 2020 that of Chapo’s four sons identified as members of the CDS (Joaquín, Iván, Alfredo, and Ovidio), it is Iván to whom he taught all the tricks that helped him become the most wanted drug trafficker in Mexico and the United States.

The former DEA agent assured Ivan was prepared to be Chapo’s successor, and his father considered him smarter than his other three brothers.

The smartest Chapito

Iván Guzmán fue detenido en 2005 (Foto: archivo)
Iván Guzmán was arrested in 2005 (Photo: archive)

Iván was arrested in 2005 after a traffic accident while leaving a party in Zapopan, Jalisco. He was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering and acquitted in 2008 for lack of evidence.

The so-called “Chapito,” as his other brothers are also known, is heir to an empire that includes real estate and hotels, among other businesses, is a target of the security forces and had, it seems, enemies outside and within his organization.

Although his brother Ovidio has been in the headlines since last October for his defiance of the Mexican state, which after holding him in a house, had to release him following a presidential order after the cartel took over the city of Culiacan, Ivan began to be called “The King of Cocaine,” said Vigil, as he controls the trafficking of the drug and precursors from South America. And more recently, the brothers together have become known as “the fentanyl kings.


A Iván Guzmán se le acusa de haber orquestado la ofensiva en Culiacán para rescatar a Ovidio (Foto: Cuartoscuro)
Iván Guzmán is accused of having orchestrated the offensive in Culiacán to rescue Ovidio (Photo: Cuartoscuro).

He is accused of having led the offensive in October 2019 in Culiacán to free his brother, Ovidio, which is an example of the power he has acquired to the point of bending the administration of President López Obrador.

He was born in October 1983, son of Joaquín Guzmán and María Alejandrina Salazar Hernández. He is the older brother of Alfredo Guzmán Salazar.

Although he and Ovidio own most of the fentanyl laboratories in Culiacán, authorities have identified cocaine as his primary business.

The U.S. government is targeting Ivan for smuggling large quantities of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and fentanyl into the United States via vehicles, trucks, boats, and tunnels. Much of the raw material used by the cartel was imported from Asia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.

El Chapo pensó que Iván era el más inteligente de sus hijos (Foto:  U.S. officials/Handout via REUTERS)
El Chapo thought Ivan was the smartest of his sons (Photo: U.S. officials/Handout via REUTERS)

Known by the aliases “Alejandro Cárdenas Salazar,” “El Chapito,” “César,” “Jorge,” or “Luis,” he is also accused by the U.S. of having laundered the money obtained from drug trafficking.

In the Southern District of California federal court, he faces charges, including cocaine trafficking, along with Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada.

In an interview conducted by Ecuadorian journalist Ernesto Rodríguez Amari in March 2018, in the Belgian weekly Knack, the only one known so far, he was questioned about his influence in the drug world. In response, he burst out laughing and answered that he did not consider himself a character and that it was not his aspiration either. “If I was and I had a lot of power, wouldn’t I constantly have to hide? You should ask my girlfriend how I live.”

Los hermanos Iván y Jesús Alfredo Guzmán fueron secuestrados en 2016 por el CJNG (Foto: archivo)
Brothers Ivan and Jesus Alfredo Guzman were kidnapped in 2016 by the CJNG (Photo: archive).

“Can I talk about your private life? The CIA, the FBI, the DEA, Interpol, and the Mexican military police and intelligence services want you. Is that a life?” the journalist asked him.

“It’s their job to look for me, and it’s my job to hide. I know this will be the pattern for the rest of my life,” Chapo’s son acknowledged.