If you don’t know, the reach of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel extends well beyond the Mexican border into the United States. The cartel’s main point of contact in The States has been Chicago, where they have reportedly supplied 80% of the drugs present in the city. There is no way “El Chapo” and his minions could pull this off without the cooperation of high-ranking authorities in the United States. A 2014 report from the Business Insider details a plea deal of sorts between the Sinaloa Cartel and the DEA.
The relationship between Sinaloa and the DEA began with the arrest of Sinaloa “logistics coordinator” Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, one of the cartel’s shot callers. In a Chicago court, DEA agent Manuel Castanon stated:
“On March 17, 2009, I met for approximately 30 minutes in a hotel room in Mexico City with Vincente Zambada-Niebla and two other individuals — DEA agent David Herrod and a cooperating source [Sinaloa lawyer Loya Castro] with whom I had worked since 2005. … I did all of the talking on behalf of [the] DEA.”
A few hours later, Mexican Marines arrested Zambada-Niebla (a.k.a. “El Vicentillo”) on charges of trafficking more than a billion dollars in cocaine and heroin. Castanon and three other agents then visited Zambada-Niebla in prison, where the Sinaloa officer “reiterated his desire to cooperate.”
It was reported that DEA agents met with high-level Sinaloa officers more than 50 times since 2000. A Justice Department prosecutor told the court that DEA special agent Steve Fraga said that Castro (the Sinaloa lawyer) “provided information leading to a 23-ton cocaine seizure, other seizures related to ‘various drug trafficking organizations,'” and that “El Mayo” expressed that his son was fully on board to cooperate with the United States.
The DEA went on to meet with cartel members to collect information on their rivals in exchange for suspended charges in the U.S.. Business Insider concluded:
After being extradited to Chicago in February 2010, Zambada-Niebla argued that he was also “immune from arrest or prosecution” because he actively provided information to U.S. federal agents.
Zambada-Niebla also alleged that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals. (If true, that re-raises the issue regarding what Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the gun-running arrangements.)
A Mexican foreign service officer told Stratfor in April 2010 that the U.S. seemed to have sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.
El Universal said that the coordination between the U.S. and Sinaloa peaked between 2006 and 2012, which is when drug cartels consolidated their grip on Mexico. The report ends by saying that it is unclear whether the arrangements continue.
Read the court documents here.