What El Chapo’s Guilty Verdict Means For Drug Violence

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Notorious drug kingpin El Chapo (real name Joaquin Guzmán) was found guilty on all charges in federal court Feb. 12. According to NBC, El Chapo will likely spend the rest of his life in a Supermax prison. His sentencing is tentatively scheduled for June 25.

The counts for which Guzmán was found guilty involve weapons charges, drug trafficking, and operating a criminal enterprise. Guzmán’s trial lasted 12 weeks; the jury unanimously found Guzmán guilty of all 10 counts against him.

Despite Guzmán’s likely life sentence, experts say that the drug cartel which he oversaw will be only slightly affected by the verdict. As Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, told CNN, “The Sinaloa cartel is still basically operating with the same power and reach…. They continue to be the most powerful drug organization in the world.”

During Guzmán’s time actively working within the Sinaloa cartel, he implemented a power structure that would easily withstand the removal of high-power cartel members such as himself. Thus, following his arrest in January 2016, the cartel has continued to operate in its native Mexico. Shortly after Guzmán’s extradition to the US, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada took  charge. As Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who studies Mexico’s cartels, told CNN, “El Mayo Zambada and Sinaloa have continued and thrived and flourished.”

Although Guzmán’s arrest may appear to be a good thing, Bagley says it could have negative impacts, one of which is especially concerning. “There’s going to be more bloodshed,” Bagley told CNN. “Every time there are these transitions … there is a period of adjustment.” Journalists have commented that Guzmán’s arrest is more symbolic than it is a solution to drug-related violence, and Bagley’s statement may affirm this belief.

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