Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Sinaloan drug lord Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, was handed over to US authorities in Texas today. He's just the latest of hundreds of narcos to be extradited under the Calderon administration.
On the surface, this is another huge success in the drug war. (Expect a DEA or Justice Dept. announcement to that effect later today or tomorrow, praising extraordinary international cooperation etc etc yawn yawn.) A long-held complaint by US authorities is that cartel leaders can continue to run their operations from inside Mexican prisons, which they can't do in the US. Life inside a maximum security US prison has always been regarded as the worst possible fate for a narco short of death. (And even then, death is sometimes preferred.)
But what happens to alleged narco bigshots once in the US? In Washington, Zhenli Ye Gon's case was thrown out; the judge cited a lack of evidence.* Mexico is currently trying to get him extradited back to Mexico to face charges there. This has apparently happened on a handful of occasions with extradited alleged narcos.
But some of them talk in the US.
Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the Gulf cartel capo, is still awaiting trial in Houston; the trial keeps being delayed and delayed. He was extradited in 2007. This case is a weird one, because some of his accomplices have already fessed up, leading some to believe that he's talking too, behind closed doors.
Hector El Guero Palma was extradited in 2007, too, I haven't heard a peep from or about him since. Will check into that at some point in the near future. If he's talking, there should be no reason Chapo is still wandering around on the loose. He would know pretty much everything there is to know about SInaloa.
One of the Caro Quinteros pleaded guilty recently in Colorado, it's said he gave up some good information in the whole court process.
And now: El Vicentillo. Although only 34, he was a very high-ranking member of the Sinaloa cartel at the time of his capture. He had taken Mochomo Beltran Leyva's place since their split in 2008.
El Mayo has taken some serious hits of late. HIs nephew was cooperating with the feds before he killed himself; the protected witness killed at Starbucks late last year was doing the same. There's no way El Mayo's own son would turn on him – or is there?
The countdown until Chapo is caught: mid-April. I wonder if El Vicentillo will help bring him down.
* Zhenli wasn't extradited to US, he was arrested in Maryland. Point I'm trying to make is about narcos in US courts.
PS - there were a few good comments in response to my post about terrorists and cartels. Will post a followup tomorrow