Former Mexico Intelligence Chief Brands El Chapo ‘Business Genius’

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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.

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