Small Wars Journal

Some Thoughts on the Possible Imminent Extradition of Chapo Guzman

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 12:51pm

Some Thoughts on the Possible Imminent Extradition of Chapo Guzman

Molly Molloy

SWJ El Centro Fellow Molly Molloy shares her thoughts on the possible imminent extradition of El Chapo Guzmán. [1] SWJ

Various leaders of Mexican criminal organizations have been killed, jailed, and/or extradited since 2007. Their activities alone did not cause the explosion of violence, nor has the violence diminished significantly with these people being dead, in jail or extradited.  Is El Chapo really as important/powerful/controlling as he is portrayed in the media?   I don’t know the answer to that, but considering how long he has been around, both in jail and out, I don't see any significant changes in the overall level of violence in Mexico based on whether or not he is in or out of jail.

The violence exploded in 2007, shortly after Felipe Calderón sent thousands of military troops and federal police forces into the towns and cities of Mexico.  Consider that this militarization of the so-called "drug war" caused the huge increase and continuation of violence, not the killing, capture and/or extradition of the various criminal kingpins. 

Some scholars [2] have looked for correlations between presence of the military and increasing violence as measured by homicides.  And they find them, especially in the case of the hyper-violence that occurred in Ciudad Juárez from 2008-2012. It is also worth noting that at least seven execution-style murders have already occurred in the first seven days of May 2016. The overall numbers of murders in Juárez are greatly diminished, but the violence continues at the rate of slightly more than one murder per day in the city.

Did the Military Interventions in the Mexican Drug War Increase Violence? [3]

This question is common and unresolved when discussing the Mexican drug war.  

It is not so simple as to believe that militarization is the singular cause of the violence. We have to look at general social and economic conditions, perhaps most significantly the social upheavals, population movements and even armed rebellions that came after the huge economic and political changes spurred by implementation of the NAFTA in 1994. In Table 1 and table 2 (below), it is interesting to look at the high number of homicides during the Salinas sexenio. In terms of population growth since, it was probably almost as violent as Calderón's term. 

It is also necessary to consider what will be revealed (or not) if Guzmán faces trial in federal court in the United States. Other high level traffickers who have been brought to the U.S. have made plea deals rather than go through a full trial. It is doubtful that either the U.S. or the Mexican governments have an interest in full disclosure of recent “arrangements” with the Sinaloa Cartel. [4]

As reported in The Guardian, “The young Mexican drug lord Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla made headlines three years ago when he claimed the United States government had protected his father's drug cartel in return for providing information against rival cartel members. Now, with the revelation this week that Zambada's legal team and the US attorney's office signed a secret plea agreement a year ago, he has struck a deal of his own.” [5][6]  Zambada the son of “El Mayo” Zambada (Ismael Zambada García), El Chapo’s partner in the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel.  The following quotes provide insight into his “arrangements” with U.S. prosecutors:

  • “Court documents from three years ago said the Sinaloa cartel had been given most favored status to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into the US while its leaders were protected from arrest and prosecution at home. His defense strategy was clear: threaten to unravel the US "war on drugs" in Mexico.” [7]
  • “Chapo [Guzman] was protected by Mexican federal agents and military, by the Mexican government,” claims retired US special agent Hector Berrellez, who previously served as DEA’s chief investigator in Mexico and played a lead role in tracking down slain DEA agent Kiki Camarena’s murderers. “He was making [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto look bad, and so the government decided to withdraw his security detail. Chapo was told he could either surrender, or he would be killed.” [8]
  • “On multiple occasions,” the plea pleadings state, “(Zambada Niebla) arranged for the payment of bribes to local, state, and federal law enforcement officials in the Mexican government, for the purpose of facilitating the Sinaloa Cartel’s narcotics trafficking business.”

The full plea agreement is available here: [9]

The Statistics on Violence

Below is a summary of the data available on homicides in Mexico from official sources. For a more detailed look behind these numbers see: The Mexican Undead: Toward a New History of the “Drug War” Killing Fields. [10]


An average of 56 homicides PER DAY from January 2007-March 2016

If we add approximately 25,000 people missing and/or disappeared as reported by the Mexican government***, then the number of people killed or disappeared since 2007 is at least: 212,451.

*Homicide totals 2007-2014 from INEGI:

**Homicide totals 2015-2016 from SESNSP:


Homicides have gone down slightly during the first three years of Enrique Peña Nieto’s sexenio, but the average # of homicides PER DAY still stands at about 56—the number for all 6 years of Calderón’s term. And that number was DOUBLE the number of homicides per day during the sexenio of Vicente Fox.

Table 2: Homicides by Sexenio

*INEGI homicide data for 1990-1994 plus SINAIS (Sistema Nacional de Informacion de Salud) for 1989.

Editor’s note:  At this time the extradition of El Chapo (Joaquín Guzmán Loera) remains a future potential.  There is significant pressure from US authorities for extradition.  While a Mexican judge cleared El Chapo for extradition his lawyers have appealed that ruling and several procedural steps, including approval by Mexico’s Foreign Ministry remain. Guzmán was recently moved from Altiplano prison to Cefereso No. 9, a prison on the outskirts of Cd. Juárez.


[1] The potential extradition of Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo) to the United States appears more likely and may be imminent.  See Azam Ahmed and Paulina Villegas, “Judge in Mexico Says El Chapo Can Be Extradited to U.S.,” New York Times, 09 May 2016 at and Dolia Estevez, “Is Mexican Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzmán's Extradition Imminent?” Forbes, 09 may 2016 at

[2] This question is a recurrent theme when reviewing the Mexican drug war.  See for example Valeria Espinosa and Donald B. Rubin, “Did the Military Interventions in the Mexican Drug War Increase Violence?” The American Statistician, Vol. 69, No. 1, 2015, pp. 17-27 at

[3] Ibid.

[4] Associated Press in Chicago, “Top Sinaloa cartel member co-operating with police in Guzman case,” The Guardian, 10 April 2014 at

[5] Ibid. The Guardian, 10 April 2014.

[6] Ibid. See also Bill Conroy, “US Court Documents Claim Sinaloa “Cartel” Is Protected by US Government,” The Narcosphere, 31 July 2011 at

[7] The Guardian, 10 April 2014.

[8] Bill Conroy, “Zambada Niebla’s Plea Deal, Chapo Guzman’s Capture May Be Key To An Unfolding Mexican Purge,” The Narcosphere, 12 April 2014 at See also Bill Conroy, “Assassinated DEA Agent Kiki Camarena Fell in a CIA Operation Gone Awry, Say Law Enforcement Sources,” The Narcosphere, 27 October 2013 at for additional background.

[9] ‘High-Level Sinaloa Cartel Member’s Guilty Plea Unsealed; Zambada-Niebla’s Cooperation With U.S. Revealed,” Chicago: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, 10 April 2014 at

[10] Molly Molloy, “The Mexican Undead: Toward a New History of the “Drug War” Killing Fields,” Small Wars Journal, 21 August 2013 at“drug-war”-killing-fields.

Categories: El Centro