MEXICO CITY – The Sinaloa drug cartel became more powerful during kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman’s most recent 17-month prison stay, Mexico City daily El Universal reported, citing information obtained from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office.
Guzman was captured on Feb. 22, 2014, in Mazatlan, a Pacific coast city in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, and imprisoned at the Altiplano I maximum-security penitentiary until he escaped on July 11 of this year through a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) underground tunnel that led from his cell to a deserted building.
During his time behind bars, the cartel expanded its presence from six to seven states (Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora) and increased the number of criminal groups at its service from eight to 10.
Since Guzman’s second escape from a maximum-security prison (the first occurred in 2001), Mexican authorities have offered a 60-million-peso (some $3.6-million) reward for information leading to his capture.
A Mexican judge in late July also approved an order to extradite the drug kingpin to the United States, about a month after Washington had sent an extradition request.
Washington for its part has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of the notorious drug lord, whose organization is considered to be one of the main sources of illicit drugs entering the United States.
The information from the AG’s office, dated June 30 and published Friday by El Universal, indicates that the number of drug cartels in Mexico remained unchanged at nine over the past year, although the number of criminal cells working for those organizations fell from 43 to 36.
Los Zetas and the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) lost ground over the past 12 months, while the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion’s territorial presence was unchanged.
Three Zetas cells currently operate in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, whereas a year ago the cartel had nine gangs working for it in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato and Quintana Roo.
Mexican authorities have captured 25 Zetas leaders over the past two years, including Miguel Angel Treviño Morales in July 2013 and Omar Treviño Morales in March of this year.
The Templarios, meanwhile, have been weakened by the January 2014 deployment of thousands of federal forces to fill a security vacuum in the western state of Michoacan, that cartel’s main stronghold.
Since then, the cartel has ceased to have a presence in more than a half-dozen states and also seen its leaders arrested or killed in gun battles with security forces.