Guzmán Departure Leads to Gang Violence in Mexico

Nearly 900 people have been murdered in his home state of Sinaloa over the first six months of 2017, almost twice the number as last year. The strategy of removing drug kingpins “doesn’t work,” says one expert.

The extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s long-dominant drug lord, has led to an explosion of violence in his home state of Sinaloa, the birthplace of Mexico’s narcotics industry, the Wall Street Journal reports. Rival factions are fighting over Guzmán’s billion-dollar empire as he awaits trial in solitary confinement inside a high-security prison in New York City. He was extradited to the U.S. in January on drug-trafficking and murder charges. Nearly 900 people have been murdered in Sinaloa over the first six months of 2017, almost twice the number of homicides over the same period last year, says the Sinaloa Attorney General’s Office. Most of the increase was due to drug-related killings.

In one outburst late last month, 19 people were killed in an incident that ended with gunmen battling police a short distance from the Pacific beach resort of Mazatlán, Sinaloa officials said. Five police officers were wounded. “It’s a war between two groups fighting for drug markets and routes,” said Genaro Robles, a retired Mexican army general who was named Sinaloa’s secretary of public safety in December. The war of succession has led to violence elsewhere in Mexico, as rival groups take advantage of a weaker Sinaloa cartel to try to poach turf from the gang, which has been atop the Mexican underworld for the past two decades. The violence underscores the drawbacks of a longstanding U.S. and Mexican government strategy to capture and kill narcotics kingpins. “The kingpin strategy doesn’t work,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “When a kingpin is removed, he is replaced by somebody else, violence increases, and there is more diversification of criminal activities.”