On Saturday, 150 heavily armed men reportedly stormed into the community of La Tuna, the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s mother in Mexico’s Sinaloa state, looting homes and leaving multiple people dead in what may be a salvo in a nascent cartel war.
Local news site Riodoce reports that as many as eight people were killed in the raid, but neither publication could confirm the number of deaths.
The raiding party also sacked the home of Consuelo Loera, the mother of “El Chapo” Guzmán, who lives in a house built by Guzmán in the community where he was born, which sits in the middle of the Golden Triangle, an area of heavy drug production solidly in the control of his cartel. They took two vehicles called Razers and at least three all-terrain motorcycles and cut telephone and internet lines.
The attackers also took vehicles from residents of nearby communities, prompting many inhabitants in the area to relocate to the municipal capital of Badiraguato and to the state capital, Culiacán.
According to Riodoce, the attack was orchestrated by members of a criminal group formed by the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) and Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, aka “Chapo” or “Chapito.”
The US government has considered “Chapito” Isidro a large-scale trafficker since 2000, running his operations out of Guasave, in northern Sinaloa state. When the BLO and “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel split in 2008, “Chapito” Isidro remained with the BLO, acting as a high-level hit man and leading a group called “Mazatlecos,” according to Insight Crime.
“Chapito” Isidro is also believed to head a group called “Oficina,” consisting of members of the Familia Michoacana, the Zetas, the Gulf cartel, and the BLO. The Oficina operates in Baja California Sur, according to Insight Crime, a state adjacent to Sinaloa, were Guzmán’s cartel has a considerable presence.
In early 2013, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated the Meza Flores Drug Trafficking Organization, made up of “Chapito” Isidro, several family members, and three companies, under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
The Meza Flores DTO, the Treasury Department said, “has been responsible for the distribution of large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and cocaine to the United States” since 2000.
The US government said in its designation announcement:
The Meza Flores DTO is one of the primary rivals to the Sinaloa Cartel in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. As a result of this rivalry, the Meza Flores DTO has engaged in an extremely violent turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel which has resulted in the quadrupling of drug-war killings in the last four years and an increase in kidnappings and arson within the state of Sinaloa.
Based in Guasave, “Chapito” Isidro’s group has a strong grip on northern Sinaloa state. Banners taunting Guzmán for his inability to take control of the area have appeared in Guasave as long ago as 2011.
According to the latest National Drug Threat Assessment from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the BLO — wracked by infighting and fragmentation in recent years — has maintained an enclave in northern Sinaloa, where “Chapito” Isidro is presumably in control.
A raid by “Chapito” Isidro’s Mazatlecos on Guzmán’s hometown may be a sign that a struggle for control of lucrative drug-cultivation and trafficking territory in Sinaloa could be in the offing.
With Guzmán imprisoned and other Sinaloa cartel leaders aging, “Chapito” Isidro may have decided that the time is right to expand his territory.