Although details on the killing of a power drug capo’s nephew are still scarce, there is reason to believe the murder foreshadows a conflict for Mexico’s mighty Sinaloa Cartel.
In the city of Culiacan, within the Sinaloa Cartel’s stronghold of Sinaloa state, a truck full of unidentified assailants reportedly opened fire on another truck full of men. As a result, Jose Vicente Zambada Reyes and two other men were killed, while another was injured, reported Proceso.
The 28-year-old Zambada was the nephew of Sinaloa Cartel faction leader Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo.” The Sinaloa Cartel is arguably Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, whose infamous leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from prison earlier this year.
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Zambada’s father and El Mayo’s brother is Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, who was extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges in 2012.
According to Milenio, none of the victims were armed and investigators found over 100 shell casing from ammunition for AK-47s and 9mm pistols.
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Although the attackers’ motive is still unknown, the amount of shots fired point towards a professional hit rather than a carjacking or robbery gone wrong. The real question is who was behind the attack.
The Sinaloa Cartel has made a number of enemies during its rise to dominance. The group fought with other organizations like the Tijuana Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and Familia Michoacana. But perhaps their bloodiest dispute was with former allies the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), who split with the Sinaloa Cartel in 2008.
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While most of their former enemies are now dead or in jail, most of these organizations continue on as splinter groups whose members may still hold a grudge against El Mayo and the rest of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Rising criminal group and possible competitor Cartel Jalisco – New Generation (CJNG) may also be motivated to target El Mayo’s family. A recent US Drug Enforcement Administration report noted that while the Sinaloa Cartel remains Mexico’s most dominant group, CJNG has come to rival them in certain trafficking areas.
Additionally, the CJNG has gained infamy with bloody and defiant attacks on government forces, including shooting down an army helicopter in May. An attack on El Mayo’s own family, within Sinaloa Cartel’s own stronghold, would fall in line with the aggressiveness previously demostrated by the group.
Lastly, there’s a possibility that the shooting was motivated by a conflict within the Sinaloa Cartel itself. While El Chapo is the top leader of the group, El Mayo heads his own powerful faction. Additionally the Sinaloa Cartel operates more as a federation than a top-down hierarchy, meaning different sub-groups’ operations could be entering into conflict with one other.
Whoever the culprit is, Mexican authorities may have to prepare themselves for a new wave of narco-violence. The murder of El Mayo’s nephew can be seen as an attack on his legacy, especially as most of El Mayo’s sons have already been captured. In 2004, the murder of one of El Chapo’s brothers sparked a bloody war with the Juarez Cartel, as did the killing of one of Guzman’s sons by the BLO in 2008. El Mayo’s response could be just as brutal.