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, doubts were promptly raised by experts regarding the accuracy of the statement, as fentanyl, responsible for numerous overdose fatalities in the United States, continues to be a major source of income for the cartel.

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

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.

“I cannot reword”

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 when 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 similar to a major campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. that they have no involvement. Essentially, it is nothing but propaganda,” Vigil expressed.

In September, Mexico extradited Ovidio Guzmán López, one of the Chapitos, to the United States to face drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges. Mexican security forces captured Guzmán López, alias “the Mouse,” in January in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, the cartel’s namesake.

In a letter issued 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. The letter also expressed their belief that they are being unfairly targeted and made into scapegoats.

Vigil insisted that the claim of the cartel ceasing fentanyl production was false, as it serves as their primary source of income. Additionally, he stated that the remaining members of the Sinaloa Cartel would strongly oppose any attempt to halt this profitable operation.

“The Sinaloa Cartel’s approach involves distancing themselves from drugs derived from plants, such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin,” Vigil explained. However, relinquishing control of fentanyl, as it could potentially empower the rival Jalisco gang, “would 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’s extradition and subsequent lifelong imprisonment in the U.S., the brothers directed the cartel towards the production and distribution of 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 extremely violent actions, which seemed to exceed the limits of self-control displayed by previous cartel leaders.

Fentanyl has become a top priority in the bilateral security relationship. But López Obrador has described his country as a transit point for precursors coming from China and bound for the U.S., despite assertions by the U.S. government and his own military about vast fentanyl production in Mexico.

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

U.S. prosecutors claim that a significant portion of the production takes place in and near Culiacan, the capital of the state, where the Sinaloa cartel holds almost absolute power.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.