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El Chapo sons criminally charged, alongside other cartel members

By Savannah Hamilton
|
April 16, 2023

Three members of the Sinaloa Mexican cartel were charged with drug trafficking over the weekend following an operation run by Chinese chemical companies. The three members were sons of the infamous drug kingpin “El Chapo,” who is largely blamed for the ongoing fentanyl crisis in the US.

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, is the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel but is currently serving a life sentence in the United States.

His sons, Ovidio Guzman López, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Sálazar, and Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar, are known as the Chapitos or “little Chapos.” They are said to be some of the most violent members of the cartel.

Another 25 Sinaloa cartel members were charged as well. In addition, four Chinese citizens and one Guatemalan were indicted and sanctioned for allegedly supplying chemicals necessary for fentanyl production.

According to Anne Milgram, chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Chapitos are largely responsible for the U.S. fentanyl crisis that has been spiraling out of control.

"They know that they're poisoning and killing Americans. They just don't care because they make billions of dollars doing it," said Milgram, adding, “Their greed is shocking and without bounds.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has also described this as "the largest, most violent, most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world."

Fentanyl Is a Serious Problem

America is no stranger to opioid addiction and the introduction of fentanyl to the illicit drug market has only made things worse.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be as much as 50 times stronger than heroin. It is highly addictive and easy to overdose on. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Americans die from fentanyl abuse every year.

Considering that around 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control, fentanyl is responsible for a large percentage of them.

China to Blame?

The fact that China was involved in the operation is not a coincidence. 

Over the last few years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has repeatedly asked the Chinese government to address the drug proliferation issue considering that “Chinese companies are the largest producers” of the chemicals used in fentanyl manufacturing.

Garland has long called out the Chinese government for not doing enough to "stop the unchecked flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals that are coming out of China.”

Iowa’s Republican Senator Joni Ernst has also spoken out before, accusing China of “intentionally poisoning” the American people.

Alongside the arrest of the Sinaloa cartel members, the U.S. Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on two China-based chemical companies, Wuhan Shuokang Biological Technology Co. Ltd and Suzhou Xiaoli Pharmatech Co. Ltd. for “international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production.”

Considering that the anti-drug cooperation between China, the U.S., and Mexico “remains minimal,” according to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, sanctions are currently considered one of the best solutions to addressing the problem. 

Felbab-Brown believes that the sanctions will force better cooperation between governments.