Ex-CISEN chief Guillermo Valdez

The former head of Mexico's secret service has branded Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman a "business genius" in a frank interview looking back at security policy during the previous administration, in which he served.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Guillermo Valdes, who headed the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) intelligence service between 2007 and 2011 under former President Felipe Calderon, said El Chapo's had "leadership qualities and a strategic vision that no other drug traffickers have," before highlighting his "great ability to seduce people, and great imagination and entrepreneurial creativity." 

SEE ALSO: El Chapo Profile

As a December 13 report from Milenio underscores, as well as his business acumen, Guzman is also credited with maintaining an organizational structure which has prevented the Sinaloa Cartel descending into the sort of internal feuds seen among other criminal groups, such as the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. In keeping his organization's cohesion, Guzman has also come to dominate other cartels, including former rivals.

InSight Crime Analysis

Guzman is widely recognized for his logistical and business prowess, but to hear a one-time nemesis speak of him in such terms is notable. From his early years as an operative of the Guadalajara Cartel -- one of Mexico's first major transnational criminal organizations -- Guzman has risen to become the world's most famous drug trafficker still at large, a reported billionaire and one of the heads of Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking groups, the Sinaloa Cartel.

Under his watch, the tentacles of the Sinaloa Cartel have spread deep into Central and South America, and far beyond, while he has positioned himself to dominate the drug supply to Chicago -- a logistical keystone which gives the Sinaloa Cartel access to much of the rest of the United States.

However, while Guzman is undoubtedly deeply involved in directing the Sinaloa Cartel's expansion, the depiction of him as a lone mastermind seems somewhat simplistic. The Sinaloa Cartel is often referred to as "The Federation" because of its decentralized structure, with Ismael Zambada, alias "El Mayo," and Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul," heading their own factions and holding considerable sway. As court documents from the ongoing drug trafficking trial in Chicago of Zambada's son Vicente appear to demonstrate, Guzman and Zambada carry out their own negotiations and are sometimes in competition with each other.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...