Culiacán, Sinaloa – In the middle of the night on September 1, Jesús Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán was freed from a Mexican prison without fanfare after serving five years of a 10-year sentence for drug trafficking.
Beltrán Guzmán is the son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, aka “El Mochomo,” a longtime Sinaloa Cartel associate who broke away in the late 2000s and formed the rival Beltrán Leyva Organization.
Beltrán Guzmán, known as “El Mochomito,” is also the nephew of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, and his release adds to the list of players thought to be battling for control of the Sinaloa Cartel.
El Chapo’s brother, his sons, his nephew, and his shadowy former peer in the cartel, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, are fighting over what’s generally considered to be one of the most powerful criminal groups in the world.
US authorities also recently increased the reward for two of those men: $5 million is now on offer for El Chapo’s brother, Aureliano Guzmán Loera, aka “El Guano,” and $15 million is being offered for Zambada.
Old rivalries, new fighting
The Beltrán Leyva Organization was run by Alfredo and his brothers, Arturo, Héctor, and Carlos. They began their criminal careers alongside El Chapo, first as an armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel and later on their own.
Alfredo was arrested in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, in January 2008. Arturo was killed by Mexican marines in the city of Cuernavaca in December 2009. A few days after Arturo’s death, Carlos was also captured in Culiacán. Hector was captured in the state of Guanajuato in October 2014.
After the arrest of the Beltran Leyva Organization’s top bosses, Beltrán Guzmán stepped up as the new boss. He then declared war on the Sinaloa Cartel.
Beltrán Guzmán was arrested on December 9, 2016, in the city Zapopan in the state of Jalisco while fleeing a military operation to capture him. He is allegedly responsible for kidnapping two of El Chapo’s sons, Jesús Alfredo and Iván Guzmán Salazar, from a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, also in Jalisco.
Shortly before fleeing to Jalisco in 2016, Beltrán Guzman led about 50 armed men into a shootout near La Tuna, a rural town in Sinaloa, where they robbed El Chapo’s mother’s home. They were reportedly looking to kill El Chapo’s brother, Aureliano.
According to a Sinaloa Cartel operative who asked for anonymity to avoid reprisal, Aureliano has an old vendetta against El Mochomito.
“These people never forget. What El Mochomito did before being arrested, and the fact that the Guzmán Loeras firmly believe they were betrayed by the Beltráns, is an old problem that has not been solved,” he said.
The operative said Guzmán, Beltrán Guzmán, three of the Guzmán Salazar brothers, and Zambada, are all still in Sinaloa, but only the Guzmán Salazars, who are El Chapo’s sons, live in Culiacán.
“Everything is in a tense calm. I personally know El Mochomito, and the morning he got out he returned to one of his ranches here in Sinaloa. The government returned everything they seized during his arrest,” the operative added.
Mexican authorities were not able to confirm or deny these allegations.
Aureliano “El Guano” Guzmán has kept a low profile, remaining outside the Sinaloa Cartel until very recently when the US put out a $5 million reward for him. A 2020 DEA report describes Aureliano as a “notable” Sinaloa Cartel commander and as responsible for shipping “large quantities of fentanyl” from contacts in China.
Aureliano is known for being “much more violent than his brother,” shown when “he killed Ernesto Guzmán, Mochomito’s grandfather, for being considered as unreliable,” two official sources told Insider.
The fighting may remain between members of the Guzmán family, according to Mike Vigil, former chief of the DEA’s Mexico bureau.
“Mayo Zambada has a stronghold in the Sinaloa Cartel. He is too strong and too respected for someone like Aureliano, Mochomito, or Los Chapitos to fight him,” he said, using a nickname for El Chapo’s sons.
Vigil — who infiltrated the Guadalajara federation before it broke into competing cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, in the late 1980s — said Zambada’s leaders had kept the Sinaloa Cartel “as the biggest cartel in the world.”
“Zambada is an intelligent man, keeping his low profile but at the same time keeping a pyramidal organization in the Sinaloa cartel,” he said.
War on and in cartels
Mexican media reported in late 2020 that more than 17 factions of the Sinaloa Cartel were fighting for control of the cartel, and another source within the cartel told Insider that the Guzmán Loera family’s fight against El Mayo has already started in some parts of Mexico.
According to the source, the state of Durango is today where Aureliano’s, Zambada’s, and Mochomito’s factions are fighting over the cartel.
“El viejón [Zambada] has his people fighting for Durango. They are called Fuerzas Especiales Barrera, and very recently they were attacked by Los Guanos, an armed group by El Guano,” the source said.
“They can’t fight inside Sinaloa, [which] is a sacred territory where the order and the agreement is to keep things calm,” the source added.
The Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel remain the largest and most powerful in Mexico, but the country has more than 400 gangs operating inside it. Their proliferation is a consequence of the “war against cartels” started by right-wing Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2006.
“The current Mexican security policy approach of ‘hugs not gunshots’ is clearly not working. Mexico needs more cooperation with the US and to have a frontal strategy against criminal groups,” Vigil said.
Source: Business Insider