Stewart Scott

Many people interested in security in Mexico and the Mexican cartels will turn their attention to Chicago in the next few days. Sept. 11 is the deadline for the U.S. government to respond to a defense discovery motion filed July 29 in the case of Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, aka “El Vicentillo.” El Vicentillo is the son of Ismail “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, a principal leader of the Sinaloa Federation. While not as well-known as his partner, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, El Mayo nevertheless is a very powerful figure in Mexico’s cartel underworld, and one of the richest men in Mexico.

The Mexican military arrested El Vicentillo in March 2009 in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Grand juries in Chicago and Washington had indicted El Vicentillo on drug smuggling charges, prompting the United States to seek his extradition from Mexico. Upon his February 2010 extradition, it was decided he would first face the charges pending against him in the Northern District of Illinois. According to the Justice Department, El Vicentillo is “one of the most significant Mexican drug defendants extradited from Mexico to the United States since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the accused leader of the notorious Gulf Cartel, was extradited in 2007.”

The Zambada legal team’s July 29 motion caused quite a stir by claiming that the U.S. government had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation via the group’s lawyer, Humberto Loya Castro, in which El Chapo and El Mayo would provide intelligence to the U.S. government regarding rival cartels. In exchange, the U.S. government would not interfere in Sinaloa’s drug trafficking and would not seek to apprehend or prosecute Loya, El Chapo, El Mayo and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership — a deal reportedly struck without the Mexican government’s knowledge.


Stewart Scott

Stewart Scott is a security analyst for Stratfor.