Authorities report that following the imprisonment of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán for life, his sons have assumed control of the family enterprise and expanded into fentanyl trafficking, resulting in fatal consequences for the U.S. market.
The recent indictment unsealed in Manhattan revealed that although El Chapo’s criminal activities were connected to cocaine, his sons, who were among the 28 Sinaloa cartel members arrested last month for fentanyl trafficking, are actively engaged in the production of the most potent fentanyl and its sale at the lowest cost in the United States.
In under ten years, they transformed from having one basic lab to operating a series of facilities across Sinaloa. It only takes one fentanyl “cook” to produce 100,000 pills daily, which are camouflaged as Xanax, Percocet, or oxycodone.
“These are not super labs, because they give people the illusion that they’re like pharmaceutical labs, you know, very sophisticated,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former head of international operations. “These are nothing more than metal tubs and they use wooden paddles — even shovels — to mix the chemicals.”
The “Chapitos,” as they are called, are infamous for their brutal tactics. Among those named in the recent indictment, the sons Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar and Jesus Alfredo Guzmán Salazar hold prominent positions. Another indictment pertains to Ovidio Guzmán López, also known as “the Mouse,” who authorities allege orchestrated the cartel’s shift towards fentanyl. Currently detained in Mexico, the U.S. has requested his extradition.
Additionally, Joaquín Guzmán López is facing charges in the Northern District of Illinois.
The yearly fatalities from fentanyl exceed the total number of Americans who perished in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan conflicts combined. Due to the significant differences in dosage, even non-regular users or non-addicts can easily overdose on the pills.
Over the course of August 2021 to August 2022, synthetic opioids, particularly fentanyl, contributed to the death of over 107,000 Americans. The indictment filed in New York noted that in 2022, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized more than 57 million fraudulent prescription pills containing fentanyl.
“It’s not a drug problem; it’s a poisoning problem,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico who died on Friday. “Very few people go out deliberately looking for fentanyl.”