AMLO slams covert DEA operations in Mexico that led to indictment of ‘Los Chapitos’

By April 20, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)’s infiltration of the Sinaloa Cartel an abusive intrusion and accused the U.S. government of espionage. 

During his morning press conference on April 17, López Obrador criticized the covert operation in which, for over a year and a half, DEA agents infiltrated the Sinaloa Cartel and one of its leading factions, allegedly controlled by the sons of the imprisoned and former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, known as “Los Chapitos.” 

“An abusive, arrogant intrusion that should not be accepted under any circumstances. How can they be spying! We do not do that […] But they cannot be using acts of espionage to find out what our security institutions are doing. Moreover, with the arrogance of leaking the information to the Washington Post,” said López Obrador. 

The DEA’s infiltration of the cartel led the U.S. Justice Department to press charges against some of its most prominent figures, including Iván Guzmán Salazar,  Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar,  Joaquin Guzman López, and Ovidio Guzmán López, all sons of imprisoned drug kingpin El Chapo. 

Ovidio Guzmán López.

However, López Obrador criticized the agency itself and its credibility by recalling the case of the former head of the DEA in Mexico, Nicholas Palmeri,  who was ousted from the agency last year for having ties with drug traffickers’ lawyers. 

“And how can we blindly trust DEA agents when it has been proven that many of them — or some of them, not to exaggerate — maintain or maintained ties with organized crime? Like what happened with the former head of the DEA in Mexico, who was discovered to have relations with representatives of the drug cartels, and suddenly he was removed and was never heard of again,” said the president. 

On April 14, the Southern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois, and the District of Columbia announced charges against the leaders and top capos of the Sinaloa Cartel — which the U.S. has accused of being one of the largest smugglers of fentanyl and other illegal substances into U.S. territory.  

According to U.S. authorities, the Sinaloa Cartel is the most “prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world,” relying on Chinese chemical precursors and pharmaceutical companies and later manufacturing the synthetic drug in Mexico. 

The Justice Department announcement contradicts both the Mexican and Chinese governments, with the former denying that fentanyl is produced in Mexico and the latter stating that there are no chemical precursors or chemicals transported into Mexico from China. 

Reportedly, the United States government is offering rewards of up to USD $25 million for information leading to arrests or convictions of 27 “fentanyl traffickers.” 

Specifically, the Department of State is offering USD $10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Ivan Guzman Salazar, Alfredo Guzman Salazar, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, and up to USD $5 million for Joaquin Guzman Lopez.

Following El Chapo’s  arrest in January 2016 and his extradition to the United States in January 2017, the Chapitos allegedly assumed their father’s former role as leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.