Inside the Sinaloa Cartel’s Brutal Reign under the Chapitos’ Leadership

The Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most notorious drug cartels in the world, has been run by the Guzman family for decades. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former head of the cartel, is currently serving a life sentence in the US. However, his sons, Ivan Guzman Salazar, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, Joaquin Guzman Lopez, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, known as “the Chapitos,” have taken over the reins of the cartel and allegedly continued their father's legacy of violence and brutality.

Recent charges by US prosecutors against the Chapitos revealed their alleged involvement in numerous offences, including murder, fentanyl trafficking, money laundering, and firearm charges. The charging documents lay bare the sheer brutality of their criminal enterprise, including allegations that the Chapitos fed rival traffickers and government officials who refused to cooperate to their pet tigers.

Torture sessions were commonplace at the cartel's ranch belonging to eldest brother Ivan, where captives were taken, including rival traffickers and officials who threatened the cartel's operations. The cartel's "ninis," a particularly violent group of sicarios or hitmen, carried out waterboarding and electric shock on the captives. They would also rip out muscles using corkscrews and pour hot chilli into open wounds and noses of their victims.

The Chapitos' leadership has allowed the cartel to gain near-total control over all drug-trafficking activity in many parts of Mexico, including the manufacturing and importation of fentanyl into the United States. The gang would even test their drugs on their captives before ultimately killing them.

Ovidio Guzman Lopez, one of the Chapitos, was arrested in January 2023 in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, where he had been hiding after an aborted operation to capture him three years earlier. Nicknamed the Mouse, he had not been one of El Chapo's better-known sons until his arrest.

The US remains in the grip of a devastating overdose crisis, largely due to fentanyl poisonings. Nearly 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, a record-setting number. The wide-ranging case against the Chapitos highlights the urgency of tackling drug trafficking and the need for international cooperation to combat drug cartels.

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