An internal rift is underway between the two largest sects of the Sinaloa Cartel. The effects have the potential to be far-reaching into the organization’s global operations over the coming months. The primary agitators are the hyper-violent sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, known as “Los Chapitos” against their senior, Ismael “El Mayo or Mayo” Zambada Garcia.
In early November 2019, the first confirmed conflict featured sicarios loyal to the Chapitos under the command of Nestor Isidro Perez Salas, aka “El Nini,” when they were denied access to land controlled by Mayo. Nini reports to Ivan Guzman, the eldest of Los Chapitos. The incident occurred in northern Culiacán, known as Agua Caliente. Days later, dead Sinaloa Cartel operatives began surfacing from both sides in Culiacan.
On December 3, gunmen surged into northern Culiacan, Agua Caliente, and Tepuche. The Mexican government was forced to close schools and businesses in the area. Nothing more serious happened than the display of forces from both sides.
Up to this point, a kind of cold war was occurring. All of that would change on March 6 when a man injured in a shootout in Loma de Rodriguera was taken to a local hospital. Rival gunmen broke into the emergency room and abducted him. They overwhelmed site security with gunfire. After leaving hospital grounds, military personnel intervened for a second shootout, though no one was hurt.
After confronting elements of the National Guard and elements of the #SEDENAmx in the Jaramillo and Las Quintas colonies. Listen to the gunfire
— Narcology (@narcologyshow) February 27, 2020
Armed people opened fire inside of an #IMSS hospital in #Culiacan #Sinaloa when they tried to execute a patient #CDS #SinaloaCartel #Chapitos vs #Mayos #Ninis vs #Rusos @keegan_hamilton pic.twitter.com/0TYz3zUHAK
— Pau Wul (@Pautellsuso) March 6, 2020
#Culiacan #Sinaloa is under fire due to a presumed fractured with the #SinaloaCartel #Chapo s sons #Chapitos or #Menores are fighting against legendary Cartel leader #MayoZambada so there have been different shootouts in the last weeks today got worse pic.twitter.com/T2FAWQuG7n
— Pau Wul (@Pautellsuso) March 6, 2020
Its official: a war between the most powerful factions of the Sinaloa Cartel has begun: El Mayo vs Chapitos! pic.twitter.com/U0OJfkFA1J
— Miguel Angel Vega (@MAVEGAO) March 6, 2020
Back inside the clinic, chaos reigned for hours as police evacuated personnel and patients. Four gunmen were arrested at the scene with four long guns and two short weapons. The kidnap victim was also abandoned at the scene without additional injuries.
Breitbart Texas sources said at the time that increased tensions were caused by the October 2019 arrest of Ovidio Guzmán López. Internal frustration grew due to the overwhelming reactionary force used by the Chapitos against soldiers and their families to secure Ovidio’s release. Sources said the Chapitos in turn became frustrated with Mayo’s more relaxed response and overall lacking support.
Since the arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mayo has come to the rescue of Chapo’s sons during past situations like the kidnapping of Ivan Archivaldo, Ceasar, and Alfredo Guzman in August 2016. Sixteen Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) gunmen stormed a trendy restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, kidnapping all three. Mayo played a key role in securing their release days later.
The recent May 15 murder of Jose Rodrigo Arechiga Gamboa aka “El Chino Antrax” took the rift to a new level. “Chinese Antrax,” as he was also known, fled supervised probation from the U.S. earlier in the month and returned to Mexico. Within days of his release, sources in Culiacan told Breitbart Texas that he was granted safe passage with the intent to return to the organization.
Chino Antrax’s murder reportedly is not sitting well within the highest ranks of Mayo’s clique and fingers are pointed at Ivan Guzman as responsible. If true, Los Chapitos have removed a future rival general from the battlefield.
ALL EYES ON THE STATE OF SONORA
The brazen violence in Sonora has eclipsed everything mentioned so far and may be leading to an inflection point in Nogales. The shear amount of cartel hardware arriving in the area requires approval at the highest levels.
The Sonora turf grab may be proof that the internal strife is larger than initially perceived. The Chapitos have maintained strong allies with the “Salazars” in Sonora with marital ties. They continue to take rural turf surrounding Mayo’s holdings Nogales.
If the Sinaloa Cartel is fracturing for good, the nation risks unprecedented levels of damage and bloodshed.
The next big move is Mayo’s to make. He was historically loyal to El Chapo and his children by extension. This fact has likely kept the war more or less cold. Mayo’s traditional ideals are increasingly rare in Mexico’s underworld. The Chapitos also have a say, and their thirst for power is impatient.
Jaeson Jones is a retired Captain from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division and a Breitbart Texas contributor. While on duty, he managed daily operations for the Texas Rangers Border Security Operations Center.