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The border city of Juarez has been racked by violent drug-related crime, making it one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico's war on drugs.
That is probably one of the two biggest threats to the Sinaloa cartel: It’s literally killing its customers.
The other is the upstart Jalisco New Generation cartel, which has tried to stage incursions into Sinaloa territory, sparking bloody turf battles in places like Tijuana.
There’s also a world of professionals such as architects, jewelers and even musical groups, who provide entertainment and launder money.
Perhaps most important, Sinaloa continues to control what’s referred to as the “last mile” in the United States, using its wholesale distribution network to get drugs into the hands of local gangs and street dealers.
Although drug use is often discussed as a local or a national issue, it’s also an international one.
The American taste for heroin, marijuana, and cocaine creates a black market that stretches around the globe.In the international war on drugs, Mexico has been particularly hard-hit.A good deal of drug trafficking proceeds through Mexico, and the United States has frequently pressured its southern neighbor to adopt more stringent interdiction policies.It also controls seaports to get drugs and precursor chemicals shipped in from around the globe; employs labs and chemists to process them; bribes corrupt cops to ensure the drugs can be moved to the border; has engineered multimillion-dollar tunnels to smuggle tons of marijuana and cocaine under the frontier; and pays “mules” to ferry shipments in cars and trucks.That doesn’t even count the armies of hitmen and enforcers who moonlight in extortion and kidnapping, plus the money launderers, front corporations and political contacts.Zambada has proven more elusive, simply by staying in his rural stronghold where the cartel holds sway.If Guzman had done like Zambada “and just stayed up in the mountains, perhaps he would still be a free man,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA.Today the cartel is seen as firmly under the command of Zambada in partnership with Guzman’s sons Ivan, Archivaldo and Alfredo, known collectively as “los Chapitos,” or “the little Chapos.” Ismael Bojorquez, director of the Riodoce newspaper in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan, said the Chapitos “control street-level drug dealing, especially in Culiacan, and the defense operations, the weapons,” while “El Mayo takes care of the big deals.” Guzman, whose conviction Tuesday in New York likely means he will spend decades behind bars in the United States, is famous for twice pulling off brazen escapes from maximum-security prisons, earning him international notoriety perhaps rivaled only by the late Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.He is said to have a voracious appetite for luxury goods and women, marrying multiple times, including to an 18-year-old beauty queen in 2007.Often, says lead essayist Jorge Castañeda, these policies are politically unpopular, expensive, and ineffective. S.-Mexican relations while failing to deliver on their promises. To discuss Castañeda’s provocative thesis, we’ve invited a panel of three experts on international affairs: Stephanie Hanson of the Council on Foreign Relations, Jim Roberts of the Heritage Foundation, and Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute.A skull of someone thought to be a victim of drug violence lies on the ground in Ciudad Juarez in early 2010.