(NewsNation) — As Mexican cartels smuggle a record amount of lethal fentanyl into the United States, the family members of some of the most powerful drug lords continue to live lavish lives.
From luxury cars to private planes, the so-called “Narcos Juniors” aren’t afraid to flaunt their wealth on social media.
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A Twitter account belonging to Ivan Guzman — the son of former Sinaloa Cartel leader “El Chapo” — has photos of gold-plated weapons inside expensive vehicles. In a post from 2014, Guzman showed off 14 sets of car keys, including those for a Ferrari and a Porsche.
He’s one of three El Chapo sons who are known to U.S. authorities. They’re often referred to as “Los Chapitos,” or “Little Chapos.” The U.S. State Department is offering up to $5 million for information leading to Ivan’s arrest.
But away from U.S. law enforcement in Mexico, experts say relatives of wealthy drug traffickers continue to live comfortably.
“Many members of El Chapo’s family grew up in areas of extreme wealth within the capital state of Sinaloa,” said Benjamin T. Smith, a professor of Latin American history in the United Kingdom who has written the book “The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade.” “They grew up in very wealthy neighborhoods, they went to private schools, they went to private universities.”
Smith said some of the social media accounts linked to El Chapo’s sons have since been taken down, but others like Ivan’s remain public, out in the open for all to see.
It can be a frustrating dynamic for U.S. authorities, as some of the country’s most wanted criminals hide in plain sight. Although there has been progress in recent months.
In January, Ovidio Guzman-Lopez, another of El Chapo’s sons, was arrested in Mexico. The operation set off a torrent of violence as suspected cartel members fought back. In the span of just a few days, nearly 30 people were killed in the gunfire.
It’s still unclear how much of a day-to-day role Guzman-Lopez had in Sinaloa Cartel operations, but Smith believes it was a relatively small one. He said he doesn’t expect the arrest will slow down the flow of drugs to the U.S.
Part of that, he said, is because of how the cartels are organized.
“Most cartels are not organized in a terribly hierarchical manner, they’re much more horizontal than we given them credit for,” Smith said. “Ovidio is a really small node in a chain of producers, chemists, importers, exporters and transport specialists.”
In the meantime, the Narcos lifestyle has emerged as an affluent subcultural, one that is even characterized by its own music genre, Smith said.