Are new drug lords trying to take over the reign of 'El Chapo'?

Attacks on the kingpin's family may signal an escalation in conflict between the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

Marco Ugarte/AP/File
Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman (r.) is escorted by soldiers and marines to a waiting helicopter at a federal hangar in Mexico City on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. The world's most wanted drug lord was recaptured by Mexican marines six months after he fled through a tunnel from a maximum security prison. This week his son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, was captured by a rival drug cartel.

As Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman faces likely extradition to the United States, the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel is challenging the primacy of the Sinaloa cartel drug gang he once led. Some security experts say that the two gangs could be on the path to a bloody confrontation.

In June, a group of 150 armed men broke into the home of Mr. Guzman’s mother, stealing cars and motorcycles and killing at least three people, including a neighbor, reported El Pais. 

At least one of his grown sons has been targeted, too. On Tuesday night, Jalisco state attorney general Eduardo Almaguer confirmed that Guzman’s son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, had been kidnapped by the Jalisco New Generation cartel from a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta along with five other men. 

Another son of the kingpin, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, may have been among those kidnapped as well. On Tuesday, Mexican newsweekly Proceso reported that family members of Guzman had confirmed the second son’s abduction, though authorities did not comment on the matter.

Samuel Logan, managing partner at the business and security consulting firm Southern Pulse, told the Associated Press that the kidnapping "could indicate an escalation" of conflict between the rival gangs.

"It doesn't surprise me that they would push to escalate this to the next level," he said. "And if anything I think it will be the next week to 10 days are going to confirm that. These guys aren't going to wait around to push back."

Since being captured by the authorities for the third time in January, Guzman seems to be detained in markedly harsher conditions, according to his testimony in one of the cases against him, in which he complains of being constantly woken up by prison authorities. In March, the AP reported that Guzman was seeking to accelerate the process of his extradition to the United States, where he hopes to be given a shorter sentence in a medium-security prison, though narcotics officials say it’s unlikely that such a deal would be negotiated prior to extradition.

Guzman was believed to be exercising some degree of control over the cartel's operations from prison during his last stint there. This time, experts say Ivan has taken the reins, which may not bode well for the Sinaloa cartel: He has cultivated a boisterous social-media presence, showing off expensive cars, clothes, liquors and weapons.

Raul Benitez, a security specialist and political scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told the AP that Ivan was "a bit crazy."

"He spent all his time posting things on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter. A serious narco doesn't do that.... He didn't have the ability to run the cartel."

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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