Did the US Help Sinaloa Cartel Win Turf War?

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A prominent news site has released information suggesting US officials allowed informants from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel to continue trafficking drugs during a turf war with the Juarez Cartel, but did officials really aim to help the cartel gain the upper hand in the conflict?

Based on federal court and police records, testimony and interviews, the Daily Beast reported that the actions of US agencies between 2007 and 2010 “directly served the interests of El Chapo [cartel boss Joaquin Guzman] and the Sinaloa Cartel.” As evidence of this, the publication pointed to claims and indications that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials processed visas for Sinaloa Cartel informants that facilitated the movement of major drug shipments into the US, helping fund the groups’ war with the Juarez Cartel.

In the case of Fernando Arambula, a high-ranking Sinaloa lieutenant who reportedly continued moving multi-ton marijuana shipments during his time as an informant, his lawyer claimed after his 2010 arrest that the US Attorney’s Office had given him license to move freely across the border. 

ICE Special Agent Louie Gomez later said in court that the agency had been informed of Arambula’s continued illicit activity by an unidentified government body prior to his arrest.

Another case was that of Mario Nuñez Meza, alias “M10,” a Sinaloa plaza chief who worked in Chihuahua and is believed to be responsible for some 388 murders. Between 2007 and 2008 he was allowed free entry to the US to meet with ICE officials, according to a former police captain and informant.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Daily Beast’s report adds to previous claims the US government has favored the Sinaloa Cartel over other Mexican groups and facilitated their activities. Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Sinaloa leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, also claimed after his 2009 arrest that the US allowed him to continue trafficking cocaine in exchange for information.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profiles

Nonetheless, there is reason to be cautious with the analysis. US meetings with cartel informants are a common tactic used to glean information, and while unsavory, the idea these informants are given certain privileges is not particularly surprising. The provision of a free US pass for Sinaloa informants does not necessarily indicate the US aimed to give the cartel a strategic advantage in the Juarez war, as the Daily Beast suggests.

The case may speak more of how government investigations can go wrong — like the infamous “Fast and Furious” anti-gun trafficking operation that turned into a gun-running disaster. There have also been various cases of officials allegedly turning a blind eye to criminal activity on the border, while over 2,000 US officials have been investigated this year for suspected cartel links.

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