'You Have Been Warned. Respectfully, Chapitos'

Sinaloa cartel puts up banners in Mexico saying it's abandoning fentanyl, but could be 'pure propaganda'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2023 1:10 PM CDT
'You Have Been Warned. Respectfully, Chapitos'
Ovidio Guzman Lopez being detained in Culiacan, Mexico, Oct. 17, 2019. Mexico extradited Guzman Lopez, a son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzm?n, to the United States on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, to face drug trafficking charges.   (CEPROPIE via AP File)

Banners appeared Monday in northern Mexico purportedly signed by a faction of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel claiming that the gang has sworn off the sale and production of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. But, as the AP reports, experts quickly cast doubt on the veracity of the claim, saying that fentanyl—which has caused tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the United States—remains one of the cartel's biggest money makers. Prosecutors in Sinaloa confirmed that the banners appeared on overpasses and near roadways, but could not say whether they were authentic or who had hung them up.

The machine-printed banners purportedly signed by the sons of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman claim they have prohibited the sale or production of fentanyl in the northern state of Sinaloa. The sons are known as "the Chapitos" after their famous father. "In Sinaloa, the sale, manufacture, transport or any other business dealing with fentanyl, is strictly prohibited, including the sale of chemicals used to produce it," the banners read. "You have been warned. Respectfully, Chapitos." Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said there is concrete evidence that "Sinaloa is the biggest producer of fentanyl in Mexico" and that there has been no sign the cartel is moving away from it.

"I think the Chapitos started feeling the pressure when they increased the reward for their capture. I think they are trying to create a massive illusion to take the pressure off," he said. "It's almost like a big campaign to convince the US they're not involved. It's nothing more than pure propaganda." In September, Mexico extradited Ovidio Guzmán López, one of the Chapitos, to the United States to face drug trafficking, money laundering, and other charges. Mexican security forces captured Guzmán López, alias "the Mouse," in January in Culiacan, capital of Sinaloa state, the cartel's namesake. In May, the Chapitos claimed in a letter that they were not involved in the fentanyl trade.

story continues below

"The Sinaloa Cartel strategy is to move away from plant-based drugs" like cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, Vigil said. Giving up fentanyl "is going to give (the rival Jalisco gang) the keys to basically overshadow them in terms of money." In April, US prosecutors laid out how the Chapitos steered the cartel into synthetic drugs like meth and fentanyl. The indictment said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price. Fentanyl is so cheap to make that the cartel reaps immense profits even wholesaling the drug at 50 cents per pill, prosecutors said. An estimated 109,680 overdose deaths occurred last year in the US, according to the CDC. About 75,000 of those were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

(Read more El Chapo stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.