The night that Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman arrived at a New York airport, ending his long criminal career at the helm of the Sinaloa Cartel, The two agents who escorted him were wearing jackets with the initials of the agencies that took the recognition for the recapture of the drug trafficker: give (Drug Enforcement Administration) and HSI (National Security Investigations, which is an agency of the Immigration and Customs Service or ICE).
Now, HSI agents in California and Arizona are spearheading operations to arrest Guzman’s four sons, who inherited his drug empire: Ovidio, Joaquín, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo. The government assures that the first two have their own criminal organization identified by their surnames, ‘Guzmán López’; and that the latter lead another which they call ‘Guzmán Salazar’. Both form a dangerous faction of the Sinaloa Cartel that continues to grow at the point of bullets, bribes and threats.
It is HSI officers in San Diego and Nogales who are receiving information leading to the arrest of ‘Los Chapitos’. For each of them, the State Department offers a reward of 5 million dollars, the same amount that was established to facilitate the capture of his father.
The HSI even asks for clues to be sent through WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, platforms used by some cartel operators because their encrypted messages allow them to evade authorities.
If this ICE unit is in charge of locating the children of ‘El Chapo’ it is because has collected more information about them, even more so than the DEA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), although the three agencies work together in coordination with the Mexican government.
This is what happened at the DEA office in Los Angeles, California, which is charged with arresting Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), because an anti-narcotics police from that city, Kyle Mori, began investigating ‘El Mencho’ since 2011.
An ICE spokesperson told Univision Noticias that could not provide details on his role in the hunt for ‘Los Chapitos’ “due to the ongoing investigation,” although he explained that HSI “has broad legal authority” to conduct federal criminal investigations into drug trafficking and other crimes.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of ‘El Chapo’ and who has been serving a sentence for two weeks three years in prison for conspiring to import drugs and launder money, was also an HSI target. She would have been in constant communication with elements of that agency, the DEA and the FBI since 2017, when her husband was in a New York prison, according to the magazine Process.
In her husband’s case, a decade-long investigation was conducted by HSI agents in New York and Phoenix, Arizona. For this reason, one of his officers escorted the capo when he arrived in this country, undoing the plans for a third escape from a prison in Mexico. In 2019, when he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Brooklyn federal court, the then associate director of HSI, Dereck Benner, declared: “The reign of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera in the Sinaloa Cartel has ended.”
“They have expanded their company”
Without his father, the influence of ‘Los Chapitos’ has spread on the criminal map of Mexico and the world, according to a new report.
“After the arrest and subsequent extradition and conviction of their father in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), the Guzmán-Salazar brothers have increased their power within the Sinaloa Cartel,” he mentions an information sheet on Jesús Alfredo and Iván Archivaldo prepared by the State Department.
“They have expanded their company with sophisticated fentanyl laboratories in Culiacán, Mexico, and have expanded their transportation operations using maritime and air transportation, as well as tunnels and border crossings,” adds the agency.
While his younger brothers, Ovidio and Joaquín Guzmán López supervise around 11 laboratories in Sinaloa that produce between three and five tons of methamphetamine each month, which they distribute in the United States through agreements with traffickers from that country and Canada, according to the information sheets about both.
Ovidio Guzmán became infamous in 2019 for a disastrous military operation in which he was released on the orders of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, because the cartel gunmen exceeded the authorities’ capacity to fire. That incident is known as ‘The Culiacanazo’.
The government assures that this young 31-year-old capo also inherited the bloodiest side of his father, as he ordered the murder of a “popular Mexican singer” who did not want to go to his wedding. In the trial of ‘El Chapo’ it was revealed that he killed a drug trafficker just because he did not shake his hand.
From drug trafficking to child exploitation
The Homeland Security Investigations unit is the main investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Unlike ICE, its work is not focused on detaining undocumented immigrants, but on tracking down dedicated international criminal organizations drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and child pornography.
In fact, especially in the Trump administration, the proposal of separate HSI from ICE, so as not to tarnish a reputation that has been increasing due to the results of its operations and so that local police officers agree to work with the unit without fear of the perception that they participate in immigration raids.
This agency is looking at the leader of the La Luz del Mundo church, Naasón Joaquín García, who is being held in California on multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors. The Mexican pastor has pleaded not guilty and will be tried in May 2022.
HSI Agents participated in his capture at the Los Angeles airport in June 2019, and subsequently officers at his San Diego office began to interview whistleblowers, according to Univision Noticias sources.
HSI’s workforce consists of more than 7,100 agents assigned to 220 cities in the United States and 80 locations in 53 countries, including Spain, France, England, Israel, India, China, Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. In Mexico they have a presence in Ciudad Juárez, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Mexico City, Monterrey and Tijuana. ICE has not disclosed how many items are in that country.
The HSI deployment represents the largest investigative overseas police presence of the Department of Homeland Security and “one of the most important international footprints in the application of United States law,” describes the unit in its Internet portal.
Mexican drug traffickers have known for several years about the investigative work of HSI agents in that country and planned an ambush against two of their elements who were traveling on a highway in San Luis Potosí in February 2011, according to the account of one of the survivors, Víctor Ávila, then in charge of money laundering and drug, arms and human trafficking cases.
Ávila told the reporter specialized in drug trafficking Ioan Grillo how a group of Los Zetas gunmen forced them to stop on Highway 57, after a few miles ago a man in a police uniform and an assault rifle observed them pass by.
The criminals ordered them to get out and one of the hitmen managed to put the barrel of his rifle through a space in the window and pulled the trigger. The gusts hit the driver of the armored van, ICE agent Jaime Zapata.
“Jaime was shot several times and fatally with a round from an AK-47 rifle that hit his left leg. There was intense bleeding, “said Ávila, who claims to have yelled at the Los Zetas gunmen that they were” diplomats “and” employees of the United States embassy, ”in an attempt to prevent them from hurting them.
“There are DEA and FBI agents who have been pointed with weapons many times in different parts of the country, in Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana, even in Mexico City, and when the criminals find out that they are federal agents of the America walks away and lets them go. But Los Zetas operated differently at that time: they made the conscious decision to open fire, even knowing that we were Americans, ”Ávila told the journalist.
Seven Zetas who participated in that shooting, who were part of a command called ‘estacas’, which was in charge of stealing vehicles to use in cartel actions, they were extradited and they pleaded guilty to the murder of Zapata and the attempted murder of Avila. In 2017, two of them, José García and Jesús Quezada, were each sentenced to two life sentences.