"Los Chapitos" Deny Their Involvement With Fentanyl

I'm catching up on the latest news and rumors about "Los Chapitos", who I think are victims of the DEA and Justice Department's latest smear campaign, intended to prejudice a future jury in the event they are captured and extradited. At least the Chapitos are fighting back. Here are the details of the lengthy letter their lawyer says they wrote and he submitted to the media in Mexico in response. An English translation is here.

Los Chapitos said that the purpose of their letter, which was addressed to the production team of a Milenio Televisión program, was to “clarify several points.”

They asserted that they are not the “head” of the Sinaloa Cartel and are not interested in leading the criminal organization. They also say that small and large “independent” cells of the cartel use their name or that of their father while carrying out illicit activities.


The brothers deny any involvement with fentanyl, and ask the media and the Government to conduct a fair investigation:

“We have never produced, manufactured or commercialized fentanyl or any of its derivatives,” the brothers said...“We are victims of persecution and have been made into scapegoats.”

They claimed that no judge will treat them fairly due to the fear of persecution, and challenged the media and authorities to “thoroughly investigate the issue of fentanyl” in Sinaloa and Mexico.

“Who produces it? Where are the ingredients obtained? How does it get to the United States? We are certain that any impartial investigation will reach the same conclusion.

"Los Chapitos" is the media's name for some of the sons of El Chapo, including Ovidio Guzmán López (in custody, awaiting extradition), Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar and Joaquín Guzmán López.

Back to the letter: As to the Government's cooperators -- they say most of them claim to work with the brothers, but no investigation is performed to see if the claims are accurate. (That's because cooperators know they get much more of a sentencing benefit if they implicate someone the Government is highly interested in, rather than the Joe Blow next door. And to implicate a different cartel, like the more violent CJNG, would come with a much greater risk of being killed).

“For example, to work with complete impunity, [the cells] make their suppliers and customers think that they are our partners or intermediaries in order to negotiate better,” the brothers said. When they have problems with authorities, the letter continued, “they involve us to obtain benefits,” even though they have nothing to back up their claim that they are associates of Los Chapitos.

...“If they are caught, whoever they are, [they should] face up to their own situation without involving us. … We will always look out for our own safety and that of our family. We didn’t choose to be where we are. No one can choose their birthplace. We would have liked to have chosen a different life with a good education … [but] that was denied at the time due to the hunt for our father,” Los Chapitos said.

And then there's the complicit media:

“Media outlets regularly publish stories with our name in the headline, or even on front pages, just to sell newspapers or get clicks … on their web pages,” they added. ...The use of our name by other people to get rid of problems, avoid problems or solve problems is becoming a real danger for us,” ...

They also deny the allegations they fed people to tigers. “We don’t have nor have we had tigers. Easy and simple to investigate,”. Or that they killed anyone with a baseball bat. They deny ever being at war with the Zetas.

The brothers confirm there are labs making fentanyl in Sinaloa, but they say it's not by them. They say everyone in Sinaloa knows who owns and commissions the labs. And no, they won't be the rats to identify them. Shorter version: Memo to the DEA - Put in some effort. Use some elbow grease rather than snitches and text messages which are too easily taken out of context and figure out who the real culprits are.

I think the U.S. has been tooled by the likes of Damaso Lopez-Nunez and his son Mini-Lic. The Sinaloa Cartel has not been a hierarchal organization for many years. I think the sons of El Chapo were given Culiacan after el Chapo's last arrest and extradition. That is a tiny portion of the Sinaloa cartel's area of domination. El Chapo gave the rest of his holdings to Damaso Lopez-Nunez, who led his own violent group, Dámaso Special Forces (FED), and shipped huge amounts of drugs internationally, and who, in 2001, used his position as prison chief to help El Chapo escape. He was extradited in 2018, pleaded guilty and agreed to a life sentence. Who does that other than someone about to sing for his supper? And, of course, after testifying at El Chapo's trial, his sentence was reduced and he is no longer in federal custody.

His son, Damaso Lopez-Serrano, aka "Mini-Lic", who is El Chapo's godson and was once tight with the Chapitos, turned himself into authorities in San Diego. He pleaded guilty and got time served. Damaso (the father) is widely believed to have ordered the hit on Mexico journalist Javier Valdez. One of the three assassins was captured and said so at his trial.

There has been some serious reporting on Damaso's adoption of "information operations" aka information warfare. From one report:

The move to social media and new forms of communication by journalists and others seeking to reappropriate freedom of information legitimizes this new cyberspace. Once these new forms of communication gain legitimacy, they become new centers of power of information. This new power transforms these cyberspaces into new battlegrounds where information operations by cartels seek to regain control of the information being spread about them online.

This Damáso López campaign to discredit the sons of “El Chapo” centered on the use of social media as cartels understand the importance of spaces like Facebook for information operations. Cartels can take advantage of these new communication spaces as new technologies facilitate the creation of disinformation and allow for the mass distribution of their digital propaganda. The creation of fake entries shows how the cartels can manipulate other cartel members' understanding of the violence they experience to cast a particular part of a cartel as the aggressors.

In this case, López blamed the violence on the sons of “El Chapo,” Iván and Alfredo, as the smear campaign accused them of giving up cartel members in exchange for their father’s protection.[45] The campaign gave them the nickname “Los Sapitos” (another form of saying the informers), and López created the now-defunct website Culianinformado. [46] Dámaso carefully supervised the content and monitored how many views the website and blogs would get.[47] Cartels can also use information operations to show themselves as the protectors while discrediting the government.

There's so much more on Damaso and the Chapitos, but this post is already long enough.

Ismael Zambada-Garcia has his own areas of dominance and has always (in my opinion) been much bigger than El Chapo. As for the violence, Zambada-Garcia and El Chapo each had their own armed wings. But a lot of the violence has been delegated to smaller armed groups called "bacrims" and to local gangs, who are involved with all sorts of crimes, from kidnapping and extortion to human trafficking, not just drugs. All of the groups had police and military on their payrolls.

So, are the Chapitos shipping cocaine, meth, and marijuana to the U.S (and to a much lesser extent, heroin)? I think it's likely. Are they charging other groups who want to use Culiacan as a transit point for their own products headed to the U.S.? Very possible. Do they have cooperative agreements with competing groups when it comes to transporting drugs from other countries to Culiacan? Likely. Are they armed to the teeth with weapons that come in from the U.S. (including through U.S. stings gone awry or the general incompetence or complicity of misguided operations of the ATF or HSI or other agencies?) Yes, but they have reason to be, given the daily threat of extinction they and their families live under.

It's a whole other story to accuse them of intentionally manufacturing tens of millions of pills in Mexico from chemical precursors acquired in China, which they then turn into fentanyl, and lace the fentanyl into acetominaphen, cocaine, meth or heroin and disguise the whole she-bang as pharmaceutical oxycodone or hydrocodone, considering that each pill reportedly has enough fentanyl to kill. Or of shipping massive quantities of fentanyl powder to the U.S. for distribution. I think they are too far down the list in terms of the geographic area they dominate, and the limited control they have been given, to be in charge.

I also doubt they have any interest in controlling anything other than their immediate territory in Culiacan and Sinaloa and protecting their lives and the lives of their family members.

Just my opinion.

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