US State Department raises reward for key cartel members

World

(NewsNation Now) —  The U.S. State Department is increasing the reward for information on key members of Mexico’s most dangerous drug cartel. The Sinaloa cartel, formerly led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is in the middle of a power struggle that has officials at the border on high alert.

The department increased its reward by $15 million for information leading to the capture of any of those in the battle for Sinaloa control, most especially the sons of Guzman, known as the Chapitos, and current syndicate leader Ismael Zambada.

“Ismael Zambada is the, I guess, old school cartel and obviously, Chapo sons are the younger ones,” said Robert Almonte, the former U.S. marshal for the western district of Texas.  “They’re newer, so eventually, one way or the other, the Chapitos are going to take over because Zambada is into his 70s.”

Almonte says the reward is about the cartel’s impact north of the border.

“They’re spreading their muscles throughout Mexico,” Almonte said. “They’ve had a big impact in the United States. The biggest impact, in my opinion, is going to be through their trafficking and distribution of fentanyl.”

A State Department release announcing the reward last month stated that fentanyl is responsible for more than 63% of the 96,779 drug overdose deaths in the United States between March 2020 and 2021, but capture is difficult.

Michael Vigil, the former Drug Enforcement Administration chief of international operations, knows the challenges.

“I have been up in those mountains and if you don’t want to be found, you’re not going to be found,” Vigil said. “They keep in hiding in these rural areas where, you know, they can’t be found and they move, you know, constantly from safe house to safe house. So the rewards are largely very symbolic.”

Amid this struggle for control, Vigil and Almonte encourage Americans to stay out of Mexico.

“You’re taking your life into your own hands because the cartel gunmen are very unsophisticated, they’re uneducated, the only thing they know how to do is pull the trigger,” Vigil said.

While tourists are not generally targeted, they could be caught in the crossfire.

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