U.S. Targets Traffickers Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

By Dialogo
February 25, 2011

The United States on 23 February levied sanctions on more than 70 individuals and entities in six countries linked to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa cocaine cartel.

The Treasury Department targeted a supply group — headed by Colombia’s Jorge Cifuentes Villa — on allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering activities spanning Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Spain and the United States.

The group was chiefly accused of supplying cocaine for the Sinaloa gang, which controls many of the drug routes from Mexico’s Pacific coast into the United States — the world’s largest market for cocaine.

The Mexican cartel is led by the elusive Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman, who made the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires in 2010 for his allegedly illicitly earned fortune.

Guzman gained notoriety in Mexico after escaping from prison in a laundry truck 10 years ago. He is the subject of a $5 million bounty for help to nab him.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials have long reported deep ties between Mexican traffickers and their Colombian counterparts.

While Colombian groups were at the forefront of the international cocaine trade in the 1980s, they gradually shed their high profile role, in favor of outsourcing much of legwork to increasingly violent Mexican groups.

Wednesday’s move revealed anew the extent of those connections, with everything from a Colombian scuba-diving school to a Panamanian childrens’ clothing company to an Ecuadorian airline linked to the drugs trade.

“Targeting the corporate empires of narcotics traffickers is at the core of our efforts to degrade these dangerous organizations,” said the Treasury Department’s Adam Szubin.

“Cifuentes Villa will no longer be able to masquerade as a legitimate businessman while supplying cocaine to the Sinaloa cartel.”

The entities and individuals will have their assets in the United States frozen and Americans will be barred from doing business with them.