Authorities Underestimated the 'Little Chapos'

Reuters looks at how 4 sons of drug kingpin El Chapo have built a fentanyl empire
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2023 5:35 PM CDT
Authorities Underestimated the 'Little Chapos'
This frame grab from video, provided by the Mexican government, shows Ovidio Guzman being detained in Culiacan, Mexico, Oct. 17, 2019.   (CEPROPIE via AP File)

They are collectively known as Los Chapitos, or the "Little Chapos"—Ivan, Jesus Alfredo, Joaquin Jr., and Ovidio Guzman. Ranging in age from 33 to 40, they are the four surviving sons of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is serving a life sentence in the US. For years as their father ruthlessly ran the Sinaloa drug cartel, they were dismissed and even mocked as spoiled brats more interested in flaunting their wealth on social media (think pet tigers and Ferraris) than in taking up the family business, writes Drazen Jorgic for Reuters. Today, it's a much different tale. "The rapid ascendancy of Los Chapitos ... shows how authorities may have underestimated the former party boys," writes Jorgic, whose in-depth story is based on interviews with cartel operatives and dozens of US and Mexican officials.

The "brothers have resuscitated a drug empire teetering after their father was locked behind US bars and diversified the business by embracing a new line of synthetic drugs," per the story. That includes fentanyl in particular, with US authorities blaming them for pioneering new ways of manufacturing and trafficking the drug that has fueled this nation's opioid epidemic. The brothers deny it, as they deny running the cartel and inflicting grisly forms of torture on their enemies recounted in the story. Of the four, Ovidio is currently imprisoned in Mexico. The story notes that the brothers' rise has dovetailed with new policies of Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrado that de-emphasize confrontation with the cartels. Related to that, "DEA operations have been hobbled on his watch." Read the full story. (Or check out other longform stories.)

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