El Chapito and El Chapo

The US Treasury has formally recognized as a Drug Trafficking Organization a group based in Sinaloa, Mexico, claiming that the rivalry between this organization and the mighty Sinaloa Cartel has caused violence to intensify in the state.

The Meza Flores network was designated a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) (download a pdf of the Meza Flores structure below).

Operating out of Guasave in the state of Sinaloa, the organization has been trafficking large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine to the United States since 2000, according to the Treasury.

The Treasury’s statement claimed the cartel is one of the "primary rivals" of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel within the state, and blamed the rivalry between the two groups for the escalating violence in the region.

The Treasury identified Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, alias "Chapito Isidro," as the leader of the organization, and his wife, parents, sister and uncles as key figures in the operation. It also identified a grain transportation company, a gas and service station and a construction company as belonging to the group.

The ruling bans US citizens from doing business with the individuals and businesses listed by the Treasury, and freezes any assests the group has under US jurisdiction.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the Treasury’s designation of the Meza Flores operation as a DTO in its own right, Chapito Isidro has previously been identified as the head of a faction of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), and a loyal lieutenant to BLO head Hector Beltran Leyva.

Since 2008, the BLO has been embroiled in a bloody conflict with its former allies in the Sinaloa Cartel, a battle which has left the organization a shadow of its former self. In recent years, Sinaloa state has become a major battleground in the conflict, as the remnants of the BLO allied themselves with the Zetas in a bid to mount a counterattack against the Sinaloa Cartel.

Reports suggest that Chapito Isidro has played a pivotal role in this conflict. However, to place the blame for escalating violence in Sinaloa on a Chapo vs Chapito war is to ignore the wider context of the conflict. It is possible that Chapito Isidro is operating as part of the BLO/Zetas coalition, rather than the the head of an independent Meza Flores cartel.

However, with the BLO fragmented and weakened and any alliance with the Zetas always precarious, it is possible the Treasury’s decision to declare the Meza Flores operation a DTO is a sign of Chapito Isidros' growing influence and independence in Sinaloa.