Family of Fugitive “Godfather of the Drug World” Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Among the Ranks of Sinaloa Cartel
January 13, 2013
If there’s one rule to running the mob, it’s to keep your family close. For Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the cocaine kingpin of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, he’s kept his family so close to the business that it’s attracted the attention of the U.S. government.
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department added two top-level Sinaloa Cartel lieutenants to its list of designated foreign narcotics traffickers. According to the department, the lieutenants include Guzman’s father-in-law, Ines Coronel. The other is El Chapo’s right-hand-man, Damaso Lopez, who is also rumored to have family in the drug trade. And what a family: Among Lopez’s kin include an ex-politician, a brother alleged to work moving narcotics, and a purported young narco celebrity who’s also El Chapo’s godson.
But first, the U.S. rule, called the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, freezes whatever assets either of the two lieutenants may have inside the United States, and makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to do business with the pair. Doing so can cost you up to $5 million in penalties — double the penalty for corporations — and up to 30 years in prison. Guzman himself has been on the list since 2001. And it’s not like El Chapo can run the business all by himself. He’s the CEO and chairman of what’s arguably the world’s largest criminal organization, which counts thousands of traffickers and gunmen among its ranks. He’s Mexico’s most wanted man, and is believed to be in charge of half of all drug smuggling across the Mexican border.
The department isn’t very specific on what either of El Chapo’s deputies allegedly did. But Damaso Lopez has “become one of the top lieutenants of the Sinaloa Cartel,” Treasury spokesman John Sullivan tells Danger Room.
Lopez is a relatively obscure figure, which makes the U.S. designation notable by elevating him as one of the cartel’s top suspected capos. He’s known by nickname “El Licenciado” or “The Bachelor” (more accurately: a Spanish honorific meaning Bachelor of Arts degree) and the U.S. government believes he helped El Chapo break out of a maximum-security prison in 2001. Mexican newspaper Milenio even reported that Lopez was working in the prison at the time as the deputy director. El Chapo has been free since.
The deputy also had ties to politics. Lopez’s late father, according to newspaper El Universal, was an elected public trustee in the town of El Dorado in Sinaloa, the state where the cartel is based and takes its name. According to press reports, both Lopez and his brother, Adolfo, had popped up on Mexican military intelligence reports as far back as 2006. And Lopez is even rumored to have a son in the game. This isn’t confirmed, but “narco blogs,” which have partially filled the void left by the retreat of traditional Mexican media coverage involving the cartels, have speculated that a young gangster nicknamed “El Mini Lic” is Lopez’s purported son — and El Chapo’s godson.