Thirteen years passed since the famous Sinaloa Cartel leader, Joaquin Guzman “El Chapo” escaped from prison and ran free across the border between Mexico and the United States. Today, President Peña Nieto announced that the cartel leader has been captured. The relevancy of this event is already making the front page of different news sources since El Chapo was among the most wanted criminals both in Mexico and the USA.
However, the capturing of the cartel leader came two days after the meetings of President Peña Nieto and President Barack Obama in Toluca which has raised some questions and skepticism. Was this a cooperative operation? Was there some type of mandatory request from the United States? Maybe there are parallel unrelated events and this was in fact an operation of intelligence but the coincidence is startling.
Additionally, the capturing of El Chapo also comes shortly after Time Magazine portrayed President Peña Nieto as the “Savior of Mexico” and received lots of criticism for it. This will certainly add points to Mr. Peña Nieto's reputation as some journals have already suggested that the president might bring drug violence in Mexico to an end.
Nevertheless, whether is a political strategy, a mandate from the United States, or a successful operation, the capturing of El Chapo brings the question of what will happen in terms of violence.
For some authors, the capture or killing of a cartel leader brings disputes among sub-leaders in order to gain the control of that particular organization. Additionally, rival cartel groups such as the Zetas, Tijuana and Juarez cartels might see this as an opportunity to gain territories. Therefore, places like Ciudad Juarez, that have been in dispute for some time, might increase its competition for the plaza in the short run. However, there are two factors that need to be considered.
1) After El Chapo Guzman, the leader in command is Ismael Zambada Garcia, “El Mayo”, who has run the organization for some time now. Therefore there is still a clear hierarchy. Disputes among sub-groups of the Sinaloa are not likely to happen unless El Mayo is also arrested.
2) Rival criminal groups have also been weakened by the Federal Police and military, therefore they may not have the strategic resources or power to confront the Sinaloa Cartel.
Overall, competition may rise disputes and some homicides may occur in certain areas, but this will not extend to an outstanding national level.
Furthermore, even if some sort of competition rises in certain cities, this will not raise the perception of insecurity in Mexico. The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) has made it clear that the main objective of their administration is economic growth and competitiveness and are pushing the topic of violence further down their political agenda and out of the official discourse. In my opinion, even though violence may have not decreased significantly, the perception of violence will decrease. The absence of violence, security and crimes in official media, and communication strategies, will most likely bring a sense of security in public opinion. By capturing El Chapo, President Peña Nieto has done a good job pushing the perception of insecurity down and his popularity up.