Things That Matter

One Of ‘El Chapo’s’ Sons Threw A Lavish Christmas Party For The Sinaloa Community And Even Gave Out Free Cars

Since the mid 1980s, when the Guadalajara Cartel became the prime exporter of cannabis to the United States first, and then acted as intermediary between the Colombian cartels and the US market, illegal trafficking organizations have become an important yet controversial institution in many parts of Mexico. We use the word “institution” a bit ironically, but there is some truth to it. Because state and federal governments often fail to provide even the most basic services to rural communities, drug kingpins, often of origen humilde themselves, are famous for giving back to their people, and then some. 

Not only in Mexico, but also in Colombia drug lords have built houses, churches, roads, clean water, schools and all sorts of basic amenities for marginalized communities. Pablo Escobar is famous for building houses for the most impoverished sections of his native Medellin. As the Daily Mail reminds us: “The Colombian drug lord once ordered the construction of more than 200 homes for poor families living in the Medellin slum of Moravia, and also built more than 50 soccer pitches. He also made his henchmen delivers loads of gifts ahead of Christmas.”

In Sinaloa, Mexico, El Chapo is revered and famous for his generosity, perhaps on par with the infamous violence he has unleashed for years. State governments often stay out of cartel territory as the population itself has chosen sides a long, long time ago. All of this comes with a prize, of course, and that often comes in the guise of social disruption and turf wars among the cartels and between cartels and the military, which results in death and anguish. 

In many regions of Mexico, cartel kingpins are basically Oprahs, and so much more.

Yes, cartel leaders love to display their wealth and their generosity. They often fulfill roles that the government is just disinterested in when it comes to taking care of the population.

As this author stated on an academic paper, drug kingpins have become mythical figures that have become fascinating to people and the entertainment industry: “Because the federal government has failed to provide basic services for large segments of the population, Mexican narcos are immortalised in popular lore as modern day Robin Hoods who distribute wealth in a more just, if unlawful, manner. The celebre Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán, for example, has been the subject of movies and documentaries (Chapo: el escape del siglo (Axel Uriegas, 2016); El Chapo: CEO of Crime, 2013), as well as a 2017 quality TV show coproduced by Univisión and Netlix, El Chapo”. 

This is Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán, son of El Chapo and allegedly one of the current bosses of the almighty Sinaloa Cartel.

We all know that El Chapo is currently behind bars and will remain there for the rest of his life. There are conflicting reports on who runs the Sinaloa organization today. Some accounts claim that Mayo Zambada, El Chapo’s compadre, has always been the true boss. He has been elusive and has never been caught by the authorities. Other’s say that it is El Chapo’s son, Ivan Archivaldo, who truly runs the cartel and that there are sometimes conflicts in the highest spheres of the organization. 

As shown on a video leaked online, Ivan Archivaldo threw a lavish Christmas party for his town.

Credit: Daily Mail UK / YouTube

What has become clear, however, is that the cartel remains powerful even in the face of the competition from the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, CJNG, which has conquered plenty of territory in recent years. The recent find and then release of Ovidio, Ivan Archivaldo’s brother, demonstrated both the firepower and social influence that the Sinaloa Cartel holds in their home state, and the support it is still getting from the population in all corners of the state.

This event also demonstrated that the AMLO government is perhaps as incapable of asserting its authority over the cartels as previous administrations. The cartel had a lot of reasons to celebrate and they threw la casa por la ventana with music acts and dance, drink and music. 

He even gave away cars, complete with Mexican pinatas on top.

Credit: Daily Mail UK / YouTube

As the Daily Mail UK reports: “Videos uploaded across several Mexican social media accounts showed a row of at least 10 cars and SUVs lined up at the event at an unidentified town in Mexico.”

Ivan Arcvhivaldo remains at large, so the use of social media is often discouraged in these type of gatherings. But there are always a few videos that record these parties. 

And the kids got toys, and there were electronics galore as well.

Credit: Daily Mail UK / YouTube

Allegiance to the cartels starts at a young age, and kids shouted “Gracias, Don Ivan” as they got toys and pinatas fat with treats. 

Things between the cartels and the population are not black and white, there are many shades of gray (much more than 50!)

Credit: Daily Mail UK / YouTube

From a Global North perspective it might be easy to blame the population for being complicit with the cartels, but things are not that simple. In places like Sinaloa, which is a rural state crossed by impenetrable mountain ranges, government aid is hard to come by. So what would anyone do if someone brings mild prosperity to a godforsaken land? See? Not that easy to see it in terms of “good guys versus bad guys” is it?

Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

Things That Matter

Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

@MarinaNacionalMX / Twitter

The cartel wars in Mexico have produced their fair share of larger-than-life characters and stories of success and terrible failure that have to be read to be believed. Such is the case of La Catrina, a hitwoman for the vicious Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which after the demise of Los Zetas and considered the somewhat diminished capacities of the Sinaloa Cartel has surged as the most powerful and violent drug trafficking organization in the world. As Post Media News reminds us, the CJNG is perhaps one of the most complex global players in trafficking, and “responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico. The cartel is said to operate in 75 per cent of Mexican states, and to have operations in Europe, Asia and Australia as well as across the Americas”. Its leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes “El Mencho” is one of the most wanted criminals in the world. 

Among its ranks, the CJNG has had some female dealers and killers. Among them, the most legendary and powerful was a young woman of vicious looks, a killing fashionista by the moniker of La Catrina. She was only 21-years-old, but was known for her savage methods.  Her real name:  María Guadalupe López Esquivel. As CE Noticias Financieras reminds us, she was born and raised in one of the most violent regions of the country: “Although she was born in Buenavista, María Guadalupe was taken to live in Tepalcatepec, where she attended primary school, counted by settlers from that municipality of Tierra Caliente”. 

La Catrina was a sicaria and led a group of assassins who were accused of ambushing a police convoy.

La Catrina committed the ultimate crime in the world of the Mexican cartel wars: she and her sicarios ambushed a police convoy and ended the lives of 13 officers in the much disputed state of Michoacan. She then became a prime target for the army and the newly formed Guardia Nacional. La Catrina was infamous for her bloody methods and cruelness. 

She got into the cartel when she fell in love with one of its most powerful members.

As often happens, she was led into a life of crime out of love, as she started dating one of the cartel strongmen. As news.com.au reports: “It is believed that La Catrina joined the CJNG in 2017, having fallen in love with another leader, Miguel “El M2” Fernandez. She rose rapidly through the ranks under El M2, living a glamorous lifestyle within the cartel. When she died she was in charge of paying fellow criminals and lead assassinations, extortion and kidnappings”. She often flaunted her lavish lifestyle on social media, posing in designer clothes and holding weapons made out of pure gold. 

An online bodycam video shows the moment when security forces found her gasping for air as a river of blood emanated from her neck.

The video is a gruesome reminder of the consequences that individuals who decide to dedicate their lives to crime might ultimately face. As the camera approaches we can see a young woman dressed in sweatpants and what seems to be a hoodie sitting on the floor. She is gasping for air and the sound is chilling, a premonition of certain death. The soldier tells her “hang on, mija, we are waiting for a helicopter to take you.”

But as luck would have it, it was way to late and the sad legend of La Catrina was born. It was a moment that will perhaps be turned into a movie scene someday, as Post Media News reports: “An amateur tourniquet draped around her neck, she can be seen sitting slumped in the dust beside a wall, blood dripping from her hand and neck as she gasps for breath. Glancing up at the officer approaching her, she seems resigned to her fate.”

She died while arrested, as a helicopter was trying to take her to hospital.

The mission in which La Catrina was killed and six other cartel members were captured involved state trooperes, state police and the National Guard. It all happened in a village called La Bocanada in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, a territory known for the cruel disputes among cartels. They were found in a safe house after a tip led the authorities to capture one of the CJNG’s biggest fish.

La Catrina’s death is a big step, at least in terms of media reach, for the AMLO government, which has failed to reign in the cartels and has so far been unsuccessful in curbing violence and killings in the country. 2019 was the bloodiest year to date in modern Mexican history and the government seems to be at the mercy of the cartels. 

Former Drug Cartel Members Share Why The Drug War Will Continue To Fail And What Is Needed Instead

Things That Matter

Former Drug Cartel Members Share Why The Drug War Will Continue To Fail And What Is Needed Instead

Alfredo Estrada / Getty

The strategy that the Mexican government has employed during the past 13 years, since then incumbent president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa basically declared national war against the global trafficking organizations operating out of Mexico, has been nothing short of catastrophic. More than 200,000 people have died and at least 60,000 have disappeared. Whole communities have fled their lands, other crimes such as sex trafficking and illegal organ harvesting, as well as kidnapping and financial fraud, have increased and morale is low in many regions of the country. 

We often get the government’s perspective in the media. Reports also focus on the effect that cartel violence has had in the individual and collective wellbeing of victims. However, save a few notable examples such as Everardo Gonzalez’ poignant documentary “La libertad del diablo”, the view of current or former sicarios is rarely shared. The Spanish newspaper El Pais has just published the doctoral findings of Karina Garcia Reyes, a woman from Northern Mexico whose city has lived dantesque levels of violence and who did a postgraduate degree overseas to find out what was the rationale behind cartel members’ actions and lifestyle. She is currently a Professor in Bristol, United Kingdom. 

Garcia Reyes interviewed 33 former cartel members and wrote their biographies.

Credit: El Pais

Garcia Reyes interviewed former cartel members in both sides of the border. Some belonges to the biggest criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas Cartel or the Gulf Cartel, although the majority used to belong to independent cartels. This speaks of the probable fear that former cartel members might experience and their reluctance to speak out. 

This is the first academic study that includes interviews with real narcos, in which they talked about their early years.

The study is extremely relevant and innovative, as Garcia Reyes did not make suppositions on what these men think or feel: she actually got them talking about drugs, alcohol, street violence and their entry into the criminal underworld. Chief among the findings is how narcos perceive themselves: there is a lack of self esteem that can lead to a life of violence and illicit livelihood. 

The study revealed that narcos do not see themselves as “victims” and that the “no other option” narrative is misleading.

One of the prevalent reasons given to the rise of cartel violence is the lack of opportunities and socioeconomic vulnerability. Media narratives indicate that young men are lured into the narco world because that is their only chance to make a living. The subjects interviewed by Garcia Reyes claim that, contrary to popular belief, they are not victims and they were making ends meet in the informal economy. They just wanted “more”. They wanted tu pursue a lifestyle that an everyday job would not give them. 

They feel they are “disposable” and that their life has little value, and that death is “a relief” sometimes.

Credit: J Bustamante / Reuters

According to the researcher, former cartel members don’t see themselves as monsters and reject the media depiction of them as bloodthirsty bad hombres. Instead, they see themselves as free agents whose life is dispensable.Sometimes, they said, death is a relief. 

Poverty is a constant trigger for cartel activity and a “survival of the fittest” mentality.

Through her 33 respondents, the researcher found that there is an Us vs. Them mentality among former cartel members when it comes to social class. As one of the participants argued: “I knew that I would live and die in poverty and I asked God ‘Why does it have to be me?’’. Poverty is seen as something that cannot be avoided and that determines your fate for life. A respondent called Rigoleto said: “I knew I was all alone, if I wanted something I would need to get it myself”. 

Gangs are seen as the only way to survive the streets and that is why the government is losing the war.

Credit: Alfredo Estrada / Getty

According to the men interviewed, there is a sense of inevitability when it comes to being a male in poverty-stricken Mexico. You will become an addict and you will be a victim of street violence. That is unless you become a gang member yourself. Gangs are seen as the only way to survive in a “kill or be killed” type of environment. 

Former cartel members believe they will die tragically so they want to live each day as if it was the last.

An overdose or a bullet, plain and simple. That is how former cartel members thought their lives would end and there was no other alternative. Because they have this pessimistic view of life, many cartel members want to live a life of excess and luxury.