Banners purportedly from Sinaloa cartel say gang has sworn off sales of fentanyl

MEXICO CITY — Banners appeared Monday in northern Mexico purportedly signed by a faction of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel claiming that the gang has sworn off the sale and production of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

However, specialists promptly questioned the accuracy of the statement, stating that fentanyl, responsible for numerous overdose fatalities in the United States, continues to be a major source of income for the cartel.

The banners that appeared on overpasses and near roadways in Sinaloa were confirmed by prosecutors, but they were unable to determine their authenticity or identify the individuals responsible for hanging them.

The machine-printed banners purportedly signed by the sons of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman claim they have prohibited the sale or production of fentanyl in the northern state of Sinaloa. The sons are known as “the Chapitos” after their famous father.

“The sale, production, transportation, or any other commercial activities involving fentanyl are strictly forbidden in Sinaloa. This also includes the sale of chemicals utilized in its manufacturing process,” stated the banners. “Consider this as a warning. Sincerely, Chapitos.”

Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said there is concrete evidence that “Sinaloa is the biggest producer of fentanyl in Mexico” and that there has been no sign the cartel is moving away from it.

“I believe that the Chapitos began to feel the pressure once they raised the bounty for their capture. It seems like they are attempting to create a large-scale deception in order to alleviate the pressure,” he stated. “It’s almost as if they are running a major campaign to persuade the U.S. that they are not implicated. Ultimately, it is nothing but blatant propaganda,” Vigil expressed.

In September, Ovidio Guzmán López, a member of the Chapitos, was extradited from Mexico to the United States. He was sent to face charges related to drug trafficking, money laundering, and other offenses. Guzmán López, also known as “the Mouse,” was apprehended by Mexican security forces in January in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, which shares the same name as the notorious cartel.

In a letter released in May, the Chapitos denied any involvement in the fentanyl trade. The sons of Guzmán stated that they have never engaged in the production, manufacturing, or sale of fentanyl or its derivatives. According to the letter, they consider themselves victims of persecution and believe they have been unfairly blamed for these activities.

Vigil argued that it was false to claim that the cartel would cease fentanyl production as it is their primary source of income. He further stated that the remaining members of the Sinaloa Cartel would strongly oppose any decision to halt this profitable operation.

“The Sinaloa Cartel’s approach is to distance themselves from drugs derived from plants, such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin,” stated Vigil. However, relinquishing control of fentanyl, which could potentially empower their rival gang Jalisco, “will essentially allow Jalisco to surpass them in terms of financial power.”

In April, extensive charges were revealed by U.S. prosecutors against Ovidio Guzmán and his siblings. These charges provided a thorough account of how, after their father was extradited and received a lifelong imprisonment in the U.S., the brothers started focusing more on synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The indictment unsealed in Manhattan said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price. Fentanyl is so cheap to make that the cartel reaps immense profits even wholesaling the drug at 50 cents per pill, prosecutors said.

The Chapitos gained notoriety for their extreme brutality, which seemed to exceed the limits of self-control exhibited by previous cartel leaders.

López Obrador acknowledges that his country serves as a transit point for precursors from China to the U.S., but disputes the claims made by the U.S. government and his own military regarding significant fentanyl production in Mexico. The issue of Fentanyl has gained significant importance in the bilateral security relationship.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 109,680 deaths resulting from overdoses were recorded in the United States last year. Out of these, around 75,000 were associated with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

According to U.S. prosecutors, a significant portion of the production takes place in and near Culiacan, the capital city of the state. The Sinaloa cartel is said to have almost total dominance in that area.

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