The Sinaloa Cartel may retaliate after Ovidio Guzmán’s extradition

Former DEA agent Mike Vigil warns of potential backlash following Ovidio Guzmán's extradition to the United States.

In a significant turn of events, Ovidio Guzmán López, known as “El Ratón,” has been extradited to the United States from Mexico’s high-security Altiplano prison. This move brings forth multiple dimensions of the narcotics world, the potential aftermath, and the intricate dynamics between the U.S. and Mexico.

Ovidio Guzmán, son of the infamous Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was swiftly airlifted from the Altiplano prison by Interpol agents. He was subsequently transported to Mexico City’s International Airport, from where he was extradited to the United States. Merrick B. Garland, the U.S. Attorney General, confirmed that Guzmán might face multiple narcotics trafficking charges.

In a statement, the Department of Justice (DoJ) emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Mexico collaboration that made this extradition possible. Meanwhile, American news outlets, including ABC News and the Chicago Tribune, have reported that Guzmán is now in Chicago, Illinois.

Charges and Impending Trials

FILE PHOTO: Ovidio Guzman, son of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, captured by Mexican military police at a residential complex near downtown Culiacan in Sinaloa state, Mexico. Oct. 17, 2019.
FILE PHOTO: Ovidio Guzman, son of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, captured by Mexican military police at a residential complex near downtown Culiacan in Sinaloa state, Mexico. Oct. 17, 2019.

Guzmán’s criminal record is extensive. He was apprehended in a federal operation in Jesús María, Culiacán, Sinaloa, on January 5th. As the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, one of the most wanted criminals globally, he faces 11 federal charges in the United States. The Biden administration had requested his extradition.

Furthermore, on April 14th, the DoJ filed new charges in various federal courts against multiple Sinaloa Cartel leaders. Most of these individuals are from the Los Chapitos faction, accused of collaborating with Chinese entities to source precursor chemicals for synthetic opioid production.

The DoJ accuses the Los Chapitos faction of primarily controlling fentanyl trafficking operations, leading to a health crisis in the U.S. Apart from Ovidio, U.S. legal documents accuse Iván Guzmán Salazar and Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, all heirs to El Chapo’s criminal empire. El Chapo is currently serving a life sentence in a U.S. maximum-security prison.

Interestingly, of the 28 accused, U.S. authorities previously indicated that seven were awaiting the extradition process.

The Shadow of Retaliation

Mike Vigil, a former DEA agent with over three decades of experience, has raised concerns over a potential violent backlash from the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán’s two previous arrests were marked by extreme violence. During his initial arrest on October 17, 2019, the Sinaloa Cartel showcased its agility and power, forcing the authorities to release Guzmán. This event, termed “Culiacanazo,” witnessed unprecedented violence, prompting President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order Guzmán’s release after threats from the cartel to attack civilians.

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His subsequent arrest on January 5 led to a clash, resulting in 29 deaths and 35 injuries.

In an interview with Infobae México, Vigil elaborated that the Sinaloa Cartel, known as the Pacific Cartel, is notoriously violent. While he acknowledges Guzmán’s extradition as a symbolic win for both nations, he fears the cartel’s operations may continue unabated. Given Guzmán’s charges in New York, Vigil believes a life sentence is likely, considering the proficiency of prosecutors in handling complex conspiracy cases.

A symbolic victory

The transfer of El Raton required two operations, one by land and the other by air (Photo: screenshot).
The transfer of El Raton required two operations, one by land and the other by air (Photo: screenshot).

Despite Guzmán’s extradition representing a significant move against narcotrafficking, Vigil pointed out its impact on drug trafficking or the Sinaloa Cartel might be minimal. He emphasized the importance of collaboration and information exchange between the U.S. and Mexico, referencing the strained relations since the arrest of General Salvador Cienfuegos, the former Mexican Defense Secretary.

Vigil also hinted at political pressures on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from certain U.S. quarters, referring to the unusually swift extradition as a testament. He stressed the need for a cohesive strategy to dismantle the CJNG and the Sinaloa Cartel.

U.S. acknowledgment

Following Guzmán’s extradition, the White House expressed gratitude to Mexican authorities for successfully transferring custody. The statement highlighted Guzmán’s accusations, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and other violent crimes. It also emphasized the ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments in combatting narcotics and other challenges.

The Department of Justice, too, extended its gratitude to Mexican authorities, appreciating their effort and sacrifice. The DoJ remains committed to holding accountable those fueling the opioid epidemic that has affected many communities nationwide.

While Ovidio Guzmán’s extradition marks a pivotal moment in the U.S.-Mexico drug war saga, immediate and long-term repercussions are anticipated with bated breath. The event underscores the need for a unified, comprehensive strategy to combat the entrenched drug cartels challenging both nations.