Arrest of ‘El Chapo’ is expected to disrupt Colorado drug supply
While dealing a “strong blow,” the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Grand Junction said direct fallout in western Colorado from the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman remains to be seen.
“Frankly the impact of Guzman’s arrest on western Colorado drug supply is unknown,” Jim Schrant, DEA’s agent in charge in Grand Junction, said in an email. “A major event to disrupt one of the premier drug trafficking organizations in Mexico will impact the cartel’s ability to produce, transport, distribute and conduct money laundering operations.”
Impact will be measurable in terms of prices, availability and purity of methamphetamine and cocaine, Schrant said. Guzman’s arrest was of particular interest to DEA and law enforcement locally because of “several significant investigations” tied to cartel activity over the past five years.
“The vast majority of those cartel associations have been with the Sinaloa cartel,” Schrant said.
He said that influence is related to Colorado’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexican border, where the Sinaloa cartel has its strongest influence. The U.S. Justice Department released a report in 2010 identifying the Sinaloa cartel as the most active in the Grand Valley and was believed, at the time, to be active in about 75 cities in the United States.
Guzman was named last year by Forbes as the world’s 67th most powerful person, while the Sinaloa cartel was believed to have annual revenues of $3 billion.
Guzman’s capture Feb. 23 came on the heels of more than a dozen arrests of key lieutenants and lower-level operators in recent months. Yet the cartel still has a worldwide distribution network and is the major supplier of cocaine to the United States. The arrest did not touch the cartel’s immense political power, nurtured through the bribery of corrupt officials, or its thriving money laundering operations.
“As long as these other structures remain in place, all things being equal, Sinaloa will be able to continue to operate if not as normal, at least as the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico,” said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico Project.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.