A widely propagated myth would have us believe that Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera and his Sinaloa Federation are less violent than many of their competitors. Statements from journalists and analysts allege that Sinaloa is more businesslike than Los Zetas, whose reputation for brutality is well-documented, and that this business savvy somehow renders the group relatively benign. In turn, this has led many to believe that the Mexican government could broker a deal with the leader of one of Mexico's largest criminal organizations.
However, a close examination of Sinaloa's evolution demonstrates the group is hardly the hallmark of civility. In fact, the history of Mexico's cartel wars over the past decade reveals that Guzman, his Sinaloa Federation and the various cartels with which they partner have been more territorially aggressive than any other Mexican cartel.
Sinaloa incursions upset the balance of power that Miguel Angel "El Padrino" Felix Gallardo established in the late 1980s when he appropriated criminal territories to Guzman and his other lieutenants. Tens of thousands of people have died from the wars that arose from this imbalance.
This is because Guzman's expansion efforts necessarily entailed encroaching on a rival's turf. In the early 1990s, he sent forces from Sinaloa state into Tijuana, Baja California state -- controlled at the time by the Arellano Felix brothers -- to buy stash houses and construct a tunnel for moving drugs across the border. In response, the brothers tortured and killed Sinaloa operatives in Tijuana; they even tried to assassinate Guzman. Sinaloa retaliated in November 1992, when its operatives tried to kill Francisco Javier and Ramon Arellano Felix in a Puerto Vallarta nightclub.