MEXICO

The lavish lifestyle of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s sons

Kidnapping of drug lord’s heir apparent by rival organization highlights internal weaknesses, say experts

A photo posted on the social networks of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo with El Chapo's son.
A photo posted on the social networks of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo with El Chapo's son.

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The downfall in recent years of Mexican drug baron Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, culminating in his re-arrest in January, has hit the family of the head of the Sinaloa Cartel hard: his mother’s house in the town where he was born and grew up was ransacked, two of his nephews have been killed, and most recently, on Sunday evening, his son, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, was snatched at gunpoint from a restaurant in the Pacific state of Jalisco along with five other men by members of rival drugs cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

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The authorities have now launched a search for the missing men and are also looking into whether a seventh man, who managed to escape from the restaurant in Puerto Vallarta minutes before the kidnapping took place, is Iván Archivaldo, one of El Chapo’s nine children. Speculation has already begun as to whether he might even have betrayed his brother.

The authorities are looking into whether a seventh man, who managed to escape minutes before the kidnapping took place, is Iván Archivaldo, one of El Chapo’s nine children

All of El Chapo’s children, as well as his wife, Alejandrina Salazar, have been accused of involvement in the drugs trade and of carrying out killings on their father’s behalf.

Alfredo and Iván Archivaldo, aged 30 and 35 respectively, are closest to their father and considered the heirs apparent of the Sinaloa Cartel, regarded as the world’s largest criminal enterprise, employing thousands of people and with a presence in around 100 nations, as well as running more airplanes than Mexico’s flag carrier Aeromexico.

But while they may end up taking over their father’s business, assuming they live long enough, they do not seem to have inherited his discretion.

Born and brought up amid the kingpins of the global drugs trade, Alfredo is the youngest of the four children El Chapo had with his first wife.

However, at the tender age of 30, Alfredo is already a veteran. Over the last decade, as the Mexican army and the DEA closed in on El Chapo, he and his brother Iván were put in charge of his security detail. Both are mentioned in the recent story published in Rolling Stone magazine written by US actor Sean Penn, as well as being responsible for collecting him and Mexican actress and close friend of El Chapo Kate del Castillo when Penn interviewed the kingpin.

Members of a new generation of drug traffickers – dubbed the “narcojuniors” – El Chapo’s two sons have developed a reputation for taking risks and showing off, unsettling the old guard. The two young men frequently posted photographs and videos of their luxury lifestyle, as well as issuing threats to rival cartels.

All of El Chapo’s children, as well as his wife, Alejandrina Salazar, have been accused of carrying out killings on their father’s behalf

“They were show-offs, loud-mouthed and very indiscreet,” says Mexican journalist José Reveles, author of around a dozen books on his country’s drug trade. A Facebook page opened in the name of Alfredo shows photographs of piles of dollar bills, sports cars, and gold-plated weapons.

An indication of their lack of caution is that they were dining out in a well-known restaurant in the upscale tourist resort of Puerto Vallarta, an area disputed by the new kids on the block, Jalisco Nueva Generación, says Reveles. “It’s very likely that both of the sons were kidnapped, because they always hung out together,” he says. Journalist Anabel Hernández, who has written extensively about Mexico’s cartels, says that Iván Archivaldo has been kidnapped, and not, as the media and the authorities say, Jesús Alfredo.

Journalists at the AP news agency consulted by EL PAÍS say that the gradual decline of the Sinaloa Cartel has been matched by Guzmán’s downfall, and that his family name no longer instills the fear it once did. The series of attacks against Guzmán’s family in recent months is a clear sign that the family has lost control of the Sinaloa Cartel.

El Chapo ran the organization from his prison cell until he escaped from jail for the second time in 2015. After he was recaptured in January, he has been kept in solitary confinement, his only amusement a chess board. He is now awaiting extradition to the United States.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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