El Chapo's Son: Kidnapped in Puerta Vallarta or Not?

It's amazing how bad some news reports are. They just publish without fact-checking. Memo to the AP, AFP and Australia News and other news outlets: This photo is not Alfredo Guzman-Salazar or any son of El Chapo. It's a nobody 23 year old used car salesman named Felix Beltran Leon that police mistook for Alfredo in 2012

The stocky, baby-faced suspect had been presented as the son of Guzman, the chief of the Sinaloa Cartel, and a Navy official described him as a rising operator in the international drug trafficking organization. But Beltran Leon's wife, Karla Pacheco, said he is the father of a toddler and works with his mother-in-law at a used car dealership.

The Attorney General's Office said that "necessary tests" had proved that he wasn't the drug lord's son, but said he would remain under investigation for the guns and money found during his arrest.


How did the Mexican government blow it so badly in 2012? According to the Mexican Attorney General, they relied on information from the U.S. The DEA says it relied on information from Mexico.

Back to Puerto Vallarta: Yesterday officials in Jalisco (state where Puerta Vallarta is located) said 16 people were kidnapped, including "presumably" El Chapo's son Ivan Guzman-Salazar. Today at a press conference, Jalisco officials say it was El Chapo's son Alfredo Guzman-Salazar who was kidnapped. The New York Times reports at the press conference the police said the identification of Alfredo was based on forensics and evidence found in the cars left behind (including phony IDs) and security footage.

Mexico hints that Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) is behind the kidnappings. Here's a news article from early 2016 on CJNC. Even as late as 2015, authorities were unclear as to whether the CJNC was still aligned with Sinaloa or enemies.

Here's a very long and complicated post I wrote about Ivan's San Diego indictment and Alfredo's Chicago Indictment.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Alfredo and Ivan (and their mother) were added to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated kingpin list in May and June of 2012. According to the Treasury chart of the Sinaloa cartel, Alfredo is on the bottom right. Ivan's face isn't clear in the Treasury chart, here's a better (although dated) photo of him.

Mexico has identified four of the six men kidnapped as:

  • Juan Daniel Tapia Calva, 53 years old.
  • Josiah Nahuali Gorgolla Rabago, 35 years old.
  • Galvan Victor Urena, 46 years old.
  • Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 29 years old.

Jesus Alfredo is 30 (not 29) if he was born in May, 1986 as the U.S. claims. Ivan was born in 1980.

Even the Guardian can't get names and dates straight. Today it recounts the Beltran-Leyva split from Sinaloa saying it began with the death of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in 2008.

Some analysts blamed that attack on Guzmán’s erstwhile allies, the Beltrán Leyva cartel, seeking revenge for the 2008 betrayal and death of one their leaders, Alfredo Beltrán.

Alfredo Beltran-Leyva is very much alive -- in jail in the District of Columbia awaiting sentencing following his February, 2016 guilty plea. DOJ is asking for life, his lawyers are asking for 25 years. He was arrested in 2008 and his brothers blamed El Chapo. Arturo Beltran-Levya is the brother who was killed -- in 2009, not 2008 -- in a shootout with police.

How is it that either son of El Chapo would be at a fancy restaurant in Puerta Vallarta with no bodyguards and no guns? How did 5 or 7 kidnappers overpower 6 men without a shot being fired?

Puerta Vallarta is a touristy town. It would hardly be good for tourism if criminals were kidnapping innocent tourists at upscale restaurants like La Leche. So I'm not surprised Mexico is quick to cast the kidnappings as one cartel vs another. But until more facts are known, that doesn't make it true.

Given the misreporting by the media and back-peddling by Mexican officials, I am not convinced that either of El Chapo's sons were kidnapped,that CJNG is responsible, or that the kidnappings are the result of turf wars.

When El Chapo's mother's house was attacked a few months ago, Mexico first blamed Chapo Isidro Meza-Flores, and then the son of Alfredo Beltran-Leyva. Mexican officials and journalists even claimed fugitive Rafael Caro Quintero had aligned with Beltran Leyva to order the attack, which Caro Quintero publicly denied a few weeks ago. While CJNG is the strongest group in the area, it's one of many potential rivals.

It's not even been proven that Ivan or Alfredo are leaders of Sinaloa -- as opposed to being in charge solely of Culiacan and surrounding areas. Ismael Zambada-Garcia and Dámaso López Núñez “El Licenciado”, are hardly about to take orders from El Chapo's sons. On the other hand, I also doubt that any of the twitter feeds currently attributed to El Chapo's sons are real. There are too many government pleadings describing the convoluted process by which they email. They don't post things themselves. I also discount the so-called experts sitting in some ivory tower who proclaim them nothing more than show-offs and junior narcos. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Kidnapping and torture is not something to wish on anyone. I hope both sons are alive and neither has been kidnapped. If kidnapped, unless faced with torture, I suspect they'd rather be killed than rescued by the Mexican Marines, who will turn them over to the U.S. for extradition.

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