Monday, June 24, 2024

‘El Nini,’ alleged security chief for Sinaloa Cartel, extradited to US

Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, the alleged security chief for the “Los Chapitos” faction of the Sinaloa Cartel known as “El Nini,” was extradited to the United States on Saturday, U.S. authorities said.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland both issued statements to announce the extradition of Pérez, just six months after his arrest in Culiacán, Sinaloa, last November.

The U.S. ‘grateful’ for alleged security chief’s extradition

Biden noted that the suspect known as “El Nini” faces charges in the United States “for his role in illicit fentanyl trafficking and for murdering, torturing, and kidnapping numerous rivals, witnesses, and others.”

“This is a good day for justice,” he said before thanking President Andrés Manuel López Obrador “for his decision to extradite this dangerous criminal.”

Garland said that U.S. authorities “allege El Nini was one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s lead sicarios, or assassins, and was responsible for the murder, torture, and kidnapping of rivals and witnesses who threatened the cartel’s criminal drug trafficking enterprise.”

A U.S. wanted poster offering a reward of $3 million for information on Nestor Isidro Pérez Salas, aka El Nini.
Prior to his extradition, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency was offering up to US $3 million for information on El Nini. (U.S. DEA)

“… I am grateful to our Mexican government counterparts for their extraordinary efforts in apprehending and extraditing El Nini. With this enforcement action, El Nini joins the growing list of cartel leaders and associates indicted in, and extradited to, the United States,” added the attorney general.

Pérez faces organized crime, weapon possession, fentanyl trafficking and money laundering charges in the state of New York. He also faces a range of charges in the District of Columbia.

Prior to his arrest, U.S. authorities were offering a US $3 million reward for information leading to his capture.

El Nini: The mind behind the Culiacanazo?

Pérez is allegedly responsible for the Sinaloa Cartel’s response to the 2019 arrest of Ovidio Guzmán, a son of convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Federal authorities released Ovidio after the cartel unleashed a wave of attacks in Culiacán. The so-called battle of Culiacán on Oct. 17, 2019, is colloquially known as the Culiacanazo.

Mexican authorities recaptured Ovidio Guzmán in early 2023, triggering a wave of violence in Culiacán that left 30 people dead including 10 soldiers. He was extradited to the United States last September. Guzmán’s extradition and that of El Nini are among the highest-profile extraditions during the presidency of López Obrador, who took office in late 2018.

Pérez is allegedly the leader of “Los Ninis,” the security apparatus of Los Chapitos, led by sons of El Chapo, including Ovidio until his arrest.

El Nini allegedly spearheaded Los Chapitos’ war against rival criminal group Los Rusos — another faction of the Sinaloa Cartel led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García — for control of Mexico’s northwest border region. His nickname is a derogatory term for a person who neither works nor studies.

After his arrest in late 2023, security expert David Saucedo said that Pérez’s capture was a clear sign that U.S. and Mexican forces were still taking a hard line against Los Chapitos, despite the group’s claim that it had banned the production and sale of fentanyl in Sinaloa.

Biden said Saturday that the U.S. and Mexican governments “will continue to work together to attack the fentanyl and synthetic drug epidemic that is killing so many people in our homelands and globally, and to bring to justice the criminals and organizations producing, smuggling, and selling these lethal poisons in both of our countries.”

With reports from Aristegui Noticias

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