Arrest of Joaquin Guzman 'won't slow Asia push' of Sinaloa cartel

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2014, 6:06am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2014, 6:06am

The capture of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is unlikely to halt his cartel's push into Asia, but it could lead to gangland violence in the longer run, observers say.

Prior to his arrest in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan eight days ago, the 1.68 metre billionaire - whose nickname means Shorty - headed up the notorious Sinaloa cartel, which recently expanded into Hong Kong, the Philippines and elsewhere in the region.

"The arrest of El Chapo will have absolutely no impact upon current Sinaloa cartel expansion plans into Asia," Professor Robert Bunker of the US Army War College said. "Relationships have been established between the Sinaloa cartel and Asian organised crime - those people have not been removed."

The cartel was a conglomerate of like-minded criminal entrepreneurs who had participated in the horizontal and vertical integration of the syndicate, said Samuel Logan, managing director of risk advisory firm Southern Pulse.

"The organisation as a whole will carry on. Economics demands it," he added.

But if a power struggle caused the cartel to fragment in the long run, violence might ensue as competing factions fought to dominate the Asian market, Bunker said.

"This may or may not also result in a spike in violence among Chinese mobsters as trafficking alliances shift and change."

For US National Defence University professor Robert Ellis, the decapitation of the Sinaloa cartel was reminiscent of the take-down of drug lord Pablo Escobar, and the ensuing dismantling of his Medellin cartel in Colombia.

"I suspect something similar will happen here," he said.

"The emasculation of Sinaloa will probably free up new trans-Pacific connections, both by other, less capable Mexican cartels, as well as increased eastward reach by Asia-based groups such as the 14K and Sun Yee On."