Meet El Mayo: The Likely New Chief of the Sinaloa Cartel

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Now that El Chapo has been captured by the Mexican government, there is one man who is poised to take over the Sinaloa Cartel.


His name is Ismael Zambada, aka El Mayo, and his experience in the criminal underworld is just as lengthy and broad as El Chapo's.

Here are some things to know about El Mayo, the 64-year-old Sinaloa native who is the most likely successor of El Chapo Guzman.


1. According to several experts El Mayo's standing within the Sinaloa cartel is already equal to Guzman's. ad

Insight Crime says that both men worked as partners within the drug trafficking group and adds that El Mayo's alliance with Guzman "is a big reason why the Sinaloa Cartel is the strongest in the hemisphere."

2. El Mayo's standing within the group means that El Chapo's capture is not much of a blow for the Sinaloa cartel.

"[Guzman's] arrest is important but it does not weaken the Sinaloa cartel, nor does it force it to cease operations," Anabel Hernandez, the author of a well-known book on Mexico's narco leaders told Mexican radio station MVS on Saturday.


3. El Mayo hails from Sinaloa, the same state as Guzman.

But El Mayo's career in drug trafficking took off when he began to work with the Juarez Cartel on the U.S. border. He formed his own organization in the late 90s after Juarez Cartel leader, Amado Carrillo, died during plastic surgery.


4. El Mayo and El Chapo have history.

El Mayo started to work with Guzman in 2001, helping the Sinaloa cartel to expand smuggling routes through the states of Sonora and Baja California.


5. Two of his sons are already in U.S. jails.

Two of El Mayo's sons are currently detained in U.S. prisons. One of them, Serafin Zambada, made headlines in November when he was detained at a border checkpoint in Arizona. Serafin became famous for sharing pictures of his extravagant lifestyle on Twitter.


Like this picture of a cheetah which he apparently kept as a pet.— Serafin Zambada (@ZambadaSerafin) July 13, 2013

And this picture of the vast sums of money handled by his men.

Pesando el dinero— Serafin Zambada (@ZambadaSerafin) July 11, 2013


6. He's media savvy.

In 2010, El Mayo requested an interview with Mexican news magazine Proceso. In the interview, which took place deep in the Sierra Madre mountains. In the interview, El Mayo rejected rumors that he was planning to assassinate then Mexican Felipe Calderón. He also said that he liked to work as a cattle rancher, when he was not tending to drug trafficking deals.


7. He's elusive.

The Mexican government has made several attempts to capture El Mayo. In mid February the Mexican navy embarked on a major operation to capture the cartel leader in the state of Sinaloa. El Mayo remains at large, but a key member of his inner circle, Jesus Peña, was captured on Thursday. Peña was El Mayo's chief of security according to Mexican newspaper Excelsior.


Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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