With street prices of cocaine, heroin and marijuana continuing to fall in the United States at the same time that the number of seizures is increasing, there also doesn’t seem to have been much of an impact on supply.
It also seems plausible that Guzmán’s capture could lead to an uptick in violence. The Sinaloas have reached an extraordinary level of dominance, largely edging out their rivals for control of the smuggling corridors of Tijuana and Juárez. They are thought to control most of the Pacific coast and central Mexico as well as having assets in every continent on Earth. According to a Bloomberg investigation last year, they supply “heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine” in Chicago.
This dominance wasn’t easy to come by. In particular, the battle with the Zetas for control of Juárez may have cost 10,000 lives between 2010 and 2013. If Juárez is more peaceful today, it’s likely partially because the Sinaloas have fewer serious rivals to fight with.
But with Guzmán now out of the picture — assuming the authorities can actually hold on to him this time — one of the world’s most lucrative criminal empires may be vulnerable to competition again, not to mention the likelihood of intracartel violence as rival leaders seek to maintain control over supply routes. And keep in mind, the Sinaloas actually have a reputation for being less brutally violent than their rivals the Zetas, or Michoacán’s Knights Templar.
Guzmán may be the biggest arrest yet in the eight years of the drug war. But putting famous men in handcuffs every few months hasn’t had much success as a strategy so far.