The aftermath of the shootout in Navolato, Sinaloa

Several media reports point to the recent extradition of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán as the cause behind climbing violence in Mexico, but it may be premature to draw a direct line behind the cartel's troubles and a rise in homicide rates across the country.

On February 21, at least thirty pickup trucks rolled up to Navolato, Sinaloa. The ensuing shootout in the middle of the street was carried out by two clashing Sinaloa Cartel factions, one led by Guzmán's sons and the other by Dámaso López Núñez, alias "El Licenciado," according to Zeta Tijuana.

The violent incident is just the latest indication of an internal power struggle within the cartel following the extradition of El Chapo in January. Earlier in February, Guzmán's sons and cartel leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada were on the receiving end of an ambush that they said was ordered by El Licenciado. The extradited drug lord's sons are also disputing with their uncle, Aurelio Guzmán, alias "El Guano," for control over the criminal group, according to El Universal.

El Chapo's extradition has also reportedly prompted rival drug trafficking organizations to go on the offensive against a seemingly weakened Sinaloa Cartel in other parts of the country.

"The Jalisco Cartel - New Generation [CJNG] has launched attacks against the Sinaloa Cartel," professor Jiménez Ornelas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) told Sin Embargo. "These groups have sustained confrontations especially in Colima, one of the key plazas for the control of drug trafficking in the Mexican Pacific."

Both BBC Mundo and Sin Embargo credited El Chapo's extradition and the subsequent cartel battles for the current "wave of violence" in Mexico, and Sinaloa in particular. Mexico's homicide tally in January was 30 percent higher than it was in January 2016, reported BBC Mundo. January was also one of the most violent months for Sinaloa in recent years, according to government homicide data (pdf). 

InSight Crime Analysis

The Sinaloa Cartel certainly appears to be experiencing some turmoil due to the fall of El Chapo and the internecine clashes it has seemingly produced. Yet it's probably too early to assert that the capo's extradition is responsible for elevated homicide rates nationwide. 

As InSight Crime has previously noted, clashes within the Sinaloa Cartel may contribute to high levels of insecurity in certain areas, but there has been evidence of both internal and external cartel disputes for years.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profile

Likewise, violence began climbing across Mexico long before Chapo's extradition. According to Animal Político, 25 of the country's 32 states witnessed an increase in homicides last year.

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