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 significant source of income for the cartel.

The banners found 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 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 on their heads. It seems like they are attempting to create a large-scale deception in order to alleviate the pressure,” he stated. “It’s as if they are running a major campaign to convince the United States that they have no involvement. In reality, 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 May, the Chapitos stated in a written message that they had no involvement in the fentanyl business. The sons of Guzmán expressed that they had never produced, manufactured, or sold fentanyl or any related substances. According to the letter, they believed themselves to be victims of persecution and unfairly blamed for the situation.

Vigil claimed that the statement about the cartel ceasing fentanyl production was false, 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 production.

“The Sinaloa Cartel’s approach is to distance 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, “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 gradually shifted the cartel’s focus towards 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 displayed by previous cartel leaders.

López Obrador acknowledges that his country serves as a transit point for precursors from China to the U.S., but denies Mexico’s significant fentanyl production, which is a major concern in the bilateral security relationship.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 109,680 deaths due to drug overdoses took place 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 state capital, where the Sinaloa cartel holds almost absolute power.

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