The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, one of the best known since its birth in the 1980s in Los Angeles, California, has reportedly sided with one of the factions into which the Sinaloa Cartel split following the arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in 2016.
A recent investigation by Univision, led by journalist Isaías Alvarado, revealed that the MS-13 leaders held in California prisons prohibited their members from participating in the drug shipments, specifically fentanyl, coordinated from Mexico by Guzmán Loera’s sons, better known as “Los Chapitos.”
The sources consulted by the U.S. Spanish-language media confirmed that the Mara Salvatrucha opted for Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada’s faction, turning its back on “Los Chapitos” and Guzmán Loera’s brothers, “El Mudo” and “El Guano,” who continue to operate from the Sinaloa highlands.
“The ‘MZ’ is practically isolated from that (fentanyl), and the Mara is also on the fringes of fentanyl. Nothing of that is moving. If any marero uses it, there is an order to kill him. It’s a drug that is killing many people,” said one gang member interviewed by the television network.
“They see that many members are becoming destitute, and they don’t see it right because it embarrasses the gang. They know that fentanyl has caused internal damage,” the interviewee added.
Since then, gang members based in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America have distributed only the material of Zambada Garcia, considered the only capo from the old guard who is still active.
According to the investigation, there have been few police seizures of fentanyl pills from MS13 operators in the United States. “Before it was on the news, we already knew they were going to hit ‘Los Chapitos hard,” the gang member said.
Us charges against chapitos
The U.S. Justice Department in April filed charges in three federal districts against several alleged leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, including four sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, for trafficking fentanyl and other drugs.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland noted that the target of the action was “the world’s largest and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation” run by the cartel and “fueled by Chinese pharmaceutical companies.”
The charges in the Southern District of New York, Northern District of Illinois, and the District of Columbia are against nearly 30 people, including four of Chapo’s children. According to the statement, seven defendants are in custody, although it does not clarify which ones.
Friday’s actions, according to the manager of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Anne Milgram, send “a clear message to the ‘Chapitos,’ the Sinaloa cartel and criminal drug networks around the world that the DEA will stop at nothing to protect the national security of the United States and Americans.”
The “Chapitos” are the four sons of Joaquín Guzmán, the former leader of the cartel: Iván Guzmán Salazar, 40; Alfredo Guzmán Salazar (37), Joaquín Guzmán López (36) and Ovidio Guzmán López, 33.
Justice said they allegedly used cargo planes, private aircraft, submarines, and other submersible and semi-submersible vessels, container ships, supply and fishing boats, speedboats, buses, or railroad cars, among others, to transport their drugs and precursor chemicals.
The State Department, through its Counternarcotics Reward Program, is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Ivan, Alfredo, and Ovidio Guzman and up to $5 million for Joaquin.