Mexican marines on Thursday morning captured a man believed to be the son of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the leader of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel and the country's most wanted man, officials said. It is believed to be a major blow to the organization.
Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, 26, was arrested during an operation carried out by special forces of the Mexican Navy at a residential house in the Jardines de la Patria neighborhood of Zapopan, a municipality in the state of Jalisco. An alleged 19-year-old Sinaloa cartel member was also caught at the location.
Navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said the arrest of Guzmán Salazar, who is also known as 'El Gordo', which translates as 'the fat one', was the result of months of intense naval intelligence work and the information provided by agencies in the United States where a $5 million reward was issued for his arrest.
"Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, a native of Jalisco state, is considered one of the main leaders of the Sinaloa cartel and a key element of the criminal organization, not only because of his direct blood link with their leader who is known as "El Chapo" Guzmán, but also because he presumably was responsible for the management of his (father's) property," Vergara said.
The pair was caught with two assault rifles, two handguns, four grenades, a number of IDs with different names, two vehicles, and other items. Security forces also recovered 135,000 U.S. dollars (1.8 million Mexican pesos) and 295,000 Mexican pesos (21,270 U.S. dollars) in cash.
Vergara said Guzmán Salazar is also believed to have coordinated the movement of most of the drugs, including cocaine and heroin, sent to the United States. "Several (intelligence) sources claim that Guzmán Salazar was taking increasing control of the operations of the Sinaloa cartel," he added.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Guzmán Salazar and his father's wife, Maria Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez. The action prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with the two individuals and also freezes any assets they had under U.S. jurisdiction.
Guzmán Salazar and his father were indicted on multiple drug trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in August 2009. Maria Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez is accused of providing material support to the drug trafficking activities of her husband and the Sinaloa cartel, making her a key operative.
As the Mexican drug war continues, the country's Attorney General office (PGR) has said at least 12,903 drug-related killings were reported between January and September 2011, although figures for the entire year are not yet available. This will likely bring the total figure for 2011 to more than 17,000, the highest annual number yet.