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 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.

“I am unable to 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 the Chapitos began to feel the pressure once they raised the bounty on their heads. It seems like they are attempting to create a grand illusion in order to divert attention away from themselves,” he stated. “It’s almost like a large-scale campaign to convince the United States that they have no involvement. In reality, it is nothing but sheer 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 distribution 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 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 plan is to distance themselves from drugs derived from plants such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin,” Vigil explained. However, relinquishing 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 American prosecutors against Ovidio Guzmán and his siblings. The indictments provided a thorough account of how, after their father was extradited and received a lifelong imprisonment in the United States, the brothers progressively shifted the cartel’s focus towards synthetic substances 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 originating from China and heading to the U.S., while the U.S. government and Mexican military claim that Mexico is a significant producer of fentanyl. Fentanyl holds great importance 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 capital city of the state, where the Sinaloa cartel holds almost absolute power.

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