By Nelson Matta Colorado, EL COLOMBIANO, April 24, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
In the race to dominate the world market for cocaine, two Mexican cartels are surpassing all others, as they are inundating Colombia with their corrupt money: Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation.
Sources in the Colombian Antinarcotics Police and in the United States government have confirmed to EL COLOMBIANO that those are the international organizations that are investing the most resources in coca planting, chemicals, cocaine production laboratories, warehousing,, and aerial and maritime transportation of the merchandize.
In other words, that means that they are the principal financers of these illegal activities in this country and, indirectly, of the violence generated by all that.
The Sinaloa cartel, also known as “the Federation:, is the one that has been in the business longer. It was created in 1989 and established alliances with the Medellín and Cali cartels; and when those were dismantled in the ‘90’s, they knew how to maintain their contacts with the heirs of the Colombian drug traffic.
The one from Jalisco, on the other hand, is a newer organization, created with blood and fire in 2010, but with a capacity for expansion that is now outdoing its competitors.
There is a greater presence of Mexican narcos in Colombia because of mistrust and rivalry.
The race to commit crimes
The Sinaloa cartel is made up of three big companies confederated: the one headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, extradited in 2017 and sentenced to life imprisonment in the U.S.; the one headed by Juan Esparragoza (“El Azul”), who some people think has been dead since 2014, but there is no corpse to confirm that; and the one headed by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Faced with the misfortunes of his partners, whose businesses are now in the hands of their families, “El Mayo” became the maximum leader of the organization. At 74 years of age, he is one of the oldest of the active narcos, and that experience has served him to maintain a federation with tentacles on the five continents.
The Sinaloa cartel dominates border crossings and drug-dealing hangouts in U.S. territory, the ones where Colombian cocaine has been positioned as a “high quality product” for decades.
Its main enemy right now is the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
It emerged in 2007 as a command for hitmen at the service of other factions, distinguishing itself by its bloody methods of intimidation. At that time they used to call it “The Zeta Killers” because they were at war against the cartel known as “The Zetas”.
In 2010, after the captures and deaths of several bosses in that battle, the group inherited routes and contacts in the business of drug trafficking, and they turned into the CJNG. Their leader was Nemesio Oseguera, alias “El Mencho”, an avocado grower turned into an assassin.
Under his command, the Jalisco cartel displaced the rival organizations in Mexico and in the U.S., to the point of fighting them one on one in the plazas of Sinaloa.
The DEA calculated in 2019 that the illegal fortune of “El Mencho” amounted to a billion or so US dollars. Even though the most lucrative trafficking business is in methamphetamines and opioids, like Fentanyl and heroin, which are in style globally among the users, the cocaine reresents an important line of business.
In the Colombian market, according to Police sources, the CJNG has replaced the Cartel del Golfo and “The Zetas”, which up until 2016 were the majority financers, together with Sinaloa. Those groups gave ground after the arrests and killings of their maximum leaders.
The White House offers a ten million US dollar reward for information that could lead to the capture of “El Mencho” and fifteen million for “El Mayo”.
Interests in Colombia
Intelligence agents have indicated that in our country, the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels are financing the plantings and the production in the coca-growing enclaves in Nariño (Tumaco-Barbacoas hub), Cauca, Putumayo, Norte de Santander (Catatumbo) and Antioquia (Valdivia, Anorí, and Tarazá triangle).
Their concern is to produce a cocaine of high quality, as that is what lets them position their brand among the consumers in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia.
That explains why it’s more and more common to find their representatives negotiating in person in Colombia, as this newspaper analyzed in a recent article.
The most recent leader captured in Cali, two weeks ago, was Brian Olguín Berdugo (“Pitt”), a representative of Sinaloa.
“The Mexicans are paying for the production in advance. What other agricultural product has its sale guaranteed before it’s even planted? None ever!” reflected a judicial official.
These narcos also finance clandestine laboratories, supplies of chemicals, and illegal refineries. Indirectly, they foment the theft of fuel from the Ecopetrol pipelines, because it’s the crude they use as a solvent for the coca leaves, to give them a better consistency; and the environment is contaminated in that process.
Those stimulants for the fabrication of cocaine have maintained a constant level in Colombian production, in spite of the reduction in the hectares being cultivated.
According to the most recent monitoring of plantings by the UN, in 2019 there were 154,000 hectares, which decreased to 143,000 hectares in 2020. In spite of that, in that same period, the potential production of coca leaves increased from 993,100 metric tons to 997,300 metric tons, and the potential production of chloralhydrate of cocaine increased from 1,137 metric tons to 1,228 metric tons.
How is it possible that with fewer hectares more cocaine is produced? Well, the Mexicans, along with their Colombian allies, achieved a better yield with the process. According to the UN, in 2019, the narcos obtained 6.7 kilos of cocaine for every hectare planted, while in 2020, that yield increased to 7.9 kilos.
Cartels from other countries have also benefited from this bonanza, like the Italians, the Spanish, Netherlanders, Balkans, and Moroccans, who are supplying their plazas with Colombian product.
Among the principal partners in the Sinaloa and the CJNG are the Clan del Golfo, “Los Pachenca”, FARC Dissidents, the new “Drug Traffic Board of Directors”, “Los Puntilleros”, “Los Pelusos”, the ELN, “The Office”, and “La Cordillera”, as well as the Venezuelan cartel, “Los Soles”.
They work together on the details of the production, internal transportation, and export to the U.S. by water, air, or land. Those agreements are usually reached in meetings in apartments in Miami, Mexico City, Acapulco, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cartagena, and Caracas.
One of the issues that attracted the investigators’ attention is that the war being fought by Sinaloa and CJNG for the plazas of Mexico and the U.S. has not moved to the production centers in Colombia. On the contrary, they “push” in peace, knowing that there’s enough for everybody.
Beyond this situation, the money the Mexicans are paying is being converted to weapons and logistical resources with which the local groups maintain their conflicts in Chocó and the Pacific shore, Bajo Cauca, Catatumbo, Arauca, and the Plains. In spite of that, in Colombia, there is not one single legal proceeding against “El Mayo” and “El Mencho”, who instigate in the shadows the business that is bleeding Colombia.