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 truthfulness of the statement. They pointed out that fentanyl, responsible for tens of thousands of 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 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 them. It seems like they are attempting to create a major deception in order to alleviate the pressure,” he stated. “It’s almost like a large-scale campaign to persuade the U.S. that they are not implicated. It is merely 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 crimes. Guzmán López, also known as “the Mouse,” was captured by Mexican security forces in January in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, which is named after the cartel.

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. According to the letter, they consider themselves victims of persecution and have been unfairly blamed for it.

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 operation.

According to Vigil, the Sinaloa Cartel’s approach involves distancing themselves from drugs derived from plants, such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. However, relinquishing fentanyl, which could potentially empower their rival gang Jalisco, would essentially allow Jalisco to surpass them financially.

In April, Ovidio Guzmán and his brothers were charged by U.S. prosecutors with extensive crimes. The indictments revealed that after their father’s extradition and subsequent imprisonment in the U.S., the brothers took control of the cartel and focused more on producing 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 disputes the claims made by the U.S. government and his own military regarding Mexico’s significant fentanyl production. Fentanyl remains a key 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 capital city of the state, where the Sinaloa cartel holds almost absolute power.

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