On Tuesday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that two woman identified as El Azul’s wives and four of his children were joining the blacklist. This freezes their US assets, and bars US citizens from doing business with them.
OFAC said that El Azul’s network of associates, including family members, helped him run a collection of businesses, including a real estate company in Jalisco and gas stations in Sinaloa (see Treasury’s diagram of the network).
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The addition of El Azul’s associates to the Kingpin List is the latest in a string of actions taken by US authorities this year to increase pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel leadership.
In early April, Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, a leading member of the cartel and brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, was extradited to the US to face drug trafficking charges. Later that month, the FBI unsealed the latest indictment against the Sinaloa Cartel bosses. In May, the Treasury added two of Sinaloa head Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman sons and two high-ranking members of the cartel to the Kingpin List. The same designation was placed on another of Guzman’s sons and an ex-wife last month after the US Treasury Department said they were key operatives in the cartel.
The three top leaders of the cartel have up to now eluded law enforcement, however. In February, El Chapo escaped a raid by Mexican authorities on his hideout in Los Cabos. El Azul avoided arrest during a raid conducted by 120 soldiers last month on a ranch in Colima.
The director of OFAC said that El Azul has tried to avoid detection by maintaining a low profile. Nonetheless, the kingpin, who has been involved in the drug trade for more than three decades, is wanted by both Mexican and US authorities. He was indicted by a federal court in 2003 on drug trafficking charges and US authorities are offering $5 million for information leading to his arrest.