A Deal with the Right Devil

How do you replace an El Chapo? Insert an El Mayo. The thing about arresting a drug lord is, it rarely makes any difference.

If, as expected, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada-Garcia replaces Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera—the kingpin arrested February 22, as head of Sinaloa—the close relationship between the U.S. government and the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world seems likely to continue.

This relationship was revealed during the trial of El Mayo’s son, Sinaloa logistics coordinator Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla. Court documents show that, by the U.S. government’s own admission, a lawyer for the cartel served as an intermediary between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Sinaloa leadership. For nearly ten years, that lawyer, Humberto Loya-Castro, provided the DEA with information the defense characterizes as intelligence on rival cartels.

The arrangement, according to the defense, gave the cartel’s leaders immunity and free rein “to continue their narcotics trafficking business in the United States and Mexico without interference.” Other evidence reported by WhoWhatWhy and Narco News lends credence to the possibility that such a deal was in fact reached.

Drug kingpins tend to become unpredictable troublemakers, and El Chapo’s arrest may have been a way to get a more cooperative El Mayo in power. El Mayo tried to arrange a deal with the DEA in January 2009. That’s when Loya-Castro told the agency El Mayo wanted his son to cooperate with them to work off his pending drug charges...


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