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Mexico isn't in cahoots with Sinaloa drug cartel, says government

The latest in the Mexican government’s series of 'myth-busting' videos challenges the idea that authorities aren't doing enough to hunt down Joaquin Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

By Hannah StoneGuest blogger / July 7, 2011



Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” heads the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s biggest drug trafficking organization, and is now the most wanted man in Mexico, if not the world. He has been on the run since escaping prison in 2001, and was recently described by an official from the US Drug Enforcement Administration as the biggest drug trafficker in history.

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Mr. Guzman’s decade of liberty is an ongoing embarrassment to the Mexican government, especially with the emergence of claims over the years that the drug lord was living openly in the mountains of the Sierra Madre. There are stories about him marrying in a public ceremony in a local village, zooming through the region in a convoy of cars, and going out to eat in restaurants accompanied by his entourage.

Meanwhile, there are suspicions that the government is focusing on pursuing members of other drug-trafficking organizations at the expense of targeting the Sinaloa Cartel. An investigation by the US radio station NPR in 2010 found that the number of Sinaloa members captured is disproportionately low, relative to those arrested from other criminal groups.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

All this, together with the rising fortunes of the Sinaloa Cartel, has led to suspicions that law enforcement may be on Guzman’s side, perhaps working to eliminate the Sinaloa Cartel's rivals at the expense of targeting Sinaloan operatives, with "El Chapo's" unofficial blessing.

Even the US government has referenced such doubts; a cable sent by U.S. embassy staff in January 2009 and released by WikiLeaks referred to the “widely held” view that the army was allowing the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels fight it out in Cuidad Juarez. The cable also noted that many thought the government would prefer Sinaloa to win, and that the army and federal police “rarely” had direct confrontations with the drug gangs.

In one previous "myth busting" blog post, the government blamed previous administrations for their "inaction and tolerance" towards crime. The question is whether the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon deserves suspicion that the Sinaloa Cartel is now facing similar "inaction and tolerance" from the authorities.

It is true that the group probably enjoys close relationships with powerful elements in Mexico’s law enforcement, perhaps more so than its rivals. However, rather than being evidence of a conspiracy, this is more likely a product of the Sinaloa Cartel's longevity and wealth, as well as the fact that it favors a more quiet, low-key approach than groups like the Zetas, who are more prepared to use violence to gain authority.

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