Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, formerly an important figure in Sinaloa Cartel, told a Newsweek reporter the story of how he used U.S. Federal Agents to his advantage in smothering out cartel competition. At 54 years old, ten years after he escaped from a Mexican prison and three years running on the Forbes billionaire’s list– Guzman is at large and is the most powerful drug lord in the world.
“There are usually three ways for a trafficker to leave a Mexican drug cartel: Go to prison, get killed, or become a government informant.”
This all began when Guzman was told by his boss, a Sinaloa top manager, to meet with U.S. agents. He was to walk into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and offer them intelligence.
“It was his boss, a top manager at the Sinaloa cartel, who encouraged him to help the Americans. Meet with the U.S. investigators, he was told. See how we can help them with information.”
It is reported that to Guzman’s surprise, agents were very welcoming and polite.
“One of the ICE agents said they were here to help [the Sinaloa cartel]. And to fuck the Vicente Carrillo cartel. Sorry for the language. That’s exactly what they said.”
With that single event another aspect of the controversial drug war began: “an extensive operation by Chapo Guzman’s forces to manipulate American law enforcement to their own benefit.”
During this event Sinaloa was in the midst of a brutal war with the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes cartel (VCF). By passing on information; both true and false, Sinaloa used American agents to remove the VCF from the map. With the VCF out of the way and U.S. agents following Sinaloa cartel tips, Guzman’s forces began to take over other territories.
By placing his top cartel lieutenants as informants for the DEA and ICE Guzman was able to use U.S. power against the weaker, rival cartels. Eliminating their rivals and spawning in their territory, the Sinaloa cartel is moving towards its goal of being the “dominant criminal force” with worldwide connections.
“…the Sinaloa cartel “is duping U.S. agencies into fighting its enemies,” says Prof. Tony Payan of the University of Texas at El Paso, who studies the cartel wars in Juarez. Typical counterintelligence stuff. It’s smart, it’s so smart…“Now the Sinaloa cartel understands how you [U.S. Agencies] work, who your agents are, and what you want. They are using you, and in the end that particular cartel is going to come out of it strong. The Sinaloa cartel is not only virtually untouched but it is magnified … They don’t have any Mexican competition. At home, they are king.”
Another DEA informant was Guzman’s “former advisor”, a Mexican Lawyer named Humberto Loya-Castro. He led agents to “arrest, seizures and headlines.” These events were dual victories as they benefitted law enforcement as well as the Sinaloa.
In 1995 Loya-Castro was indicted in the U.S. Why? Well, charges report that he “protected the drugs and money of the Guzman organization in Mexico by paying money to Mexican authorities” and “ensured that if key members of the Guzman organization were arrested they did not remain in custody.”
Five years later and with Guzman still behind bars Loya-Castro offered to be an informant for U.S. officials. It is reported that in order to understand the magnitude of this relationship–its potential value that you do the following: “…imagine if the leader of North Korea or Iran had a lawyer who offered to become an undercover U.S. operative.”
Being a close confidant to many Sinaloa top players including the boss, Loya-Castro had information that investigators “could only fantasize about.” After Guzman’s escape in 2001, Loya-Castro continued his intelligence feed to U.S. agents. Reportedly, in 2005, he signed paperwork making him an official confidential informant for the DEA. In order for this to happen a special committee of the DEA had to sign off on the entire deal because of his fugitive status and an outstanding warrant.
He was considered valuable as he handed over seemingly ever important information; of course, often about the enemies of the Sinaloa cartel. Because of this considerably rich information, in 2008, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego threw out the indictments against Loya-Castro. In 2009 the world “trumpeted” over an operation that would result in the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva, a leading drug lord who had split off from the Sinaloa. Report and sources say that this event was also the result of information from Loya-Castro.
“In essence, it seems he had helped the Americans put a feather in their cap, while killing off one of his master’s worst enemies”
David Gaddis, a former top DEA official who left the force in 2011 recalls questioning the intelligence as well as its source. Though he requested the heat be turned up on Loya-Castro and that agents should refocus on the “No. 1 guy” (Guzman), nothing happened.
“You should not allow the informant to control you. That doesn’t mean they won’t try. Manipulation is a part of life.” says John Fernandes – 27 year veteran of the DEA
Gaddis states he once believed that Loya-Castro was a “double agent.” As he also believed he was feeding intelligence to U.S. agencies while maintaining a beneficial relationship with Guzman and his organizations. Though rare, when Loya-Castro gave information on the Sinaloa–it was never about their top players. Now. Gaddis admits that Loya-Castro was probably a “triple agent”
To give you an idea of how deep the corruption goes and how far it reaches, check this out:
Six years ago Chapo Guzman wanted to make his move to control Ciudad Juarez, a city once known for it’s violent killings, massacres and beheading. When he decided to do this he hired the local police captain. Through testimony Newsweek reports that former Capt. Manuel Fierro Mendez was hired and placed into the hands of U.S. law enforcement to feed them intelligence on behalf of Guzman’s organization. Though Fierro Mendez is now in a U.S. prison, serving 27 years, he assisted the accomplishment of Sinaloa cartel taking over Ciudad Juarez.
In 2010 while in court testifying on behalf of the prosecution, Fierro Mendez spoke up and openly about his orders from the Sinaloa and how they used his position with U.S. officials to nothing else but their advantage.
“Was the Sinaloa cartel trying to use ICE to eliminate its rivals in La Linea?” a prosecutor asked. “That’s right,” Fierro Méndez replied. “And was Chapo Guzmán aware?” came the question. “That’s right,” said the former police officer…He made it plain that that the cartel strictly forbade him to give up anything about the Sinaloa cartel, however. “Were you allowed to give information about Chapo?” “It wasn’t allowed,” the dirty cop said, “and it wasn’t asked of me.” In other words, he testified, the ICE agents he spoke to never required him to provide intelligence about the boss of his own criminal organization.
Aram Roston with Newsweek says in his phenomenal article that at least five important figures in the Sinaloa cartel have relayed information to ICE and DEA agencies. By giving up information and tips on everything from safe houses to trafficking routes the Sinaloa has made itself a key and center play in the worldwide narcotics trade. Presently, with investigations of agent behavior in Ciudad Juarez by ICE, many details are unknown and are inevitably on their way to the surface. However, it is important that we acknowledge that detail does not constitute truth. As you’ve read, every story has at least two sides.
Image Via The Daily Beast and the Newsweek original article