Monday, June 17, 2024

Head of security for ‘Los Chapitos’ arrested in Culiacán

Mexican federal forces have arrested Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, alias “El Nini,” the security chief for the “Los Chapitos” faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

Army and National Guard agents captured Pérez at 1:27 p.m on Wednesday, at a house in Culiacán’s Colinas de la Rivera neighborhood. Although he tried to escape over the rooftops, he was detained with only two shots fired and handed over to the Special Attorney General’s Office for Organized Crime (Femdo) in Mexico City by 3:47 p.m.

Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas reward poster
Pérez Salas is wanted in the United States for fentanyl conspiracy, fentanyl trafficking conspiracy, possession of machine guns and destructive devices, conspiracy to possess machine guns and destructive devices and money laundering conspiracy. (DEA)

Pérez is accused of heading “Los Ninis,” the security apparatus of Los Chapitos, which is led by the sons of jailed capo Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Mexican Army documents identify him as responsible for ordering the Culiacanazo – the violent outbreak in Culiacán that followed the arrest of Los Chapitos’ leader Ovidio Guzmán in October 2019 and forced President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order Guzmán’s release.

Pérez has also spearheaded Los Chapitos’ war against rival criminal group Los Rusos – another faction of the Sinaloa Cartel which is led by former Sinaloa second-in-command Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García – for control of Mexico’s northwest border region.

In February 2021, a federal grand jury in the United States indicted Pérez for conspiracy to traffic cocaine and methamphetamine, possession of machine guns and destructive devices and retaliation against witnesses. In April of this year, another U.S. federal grand jury indicted him for additional crimes including fentanyl trafficking and money laundering for Los Chapitos.

The U.S. State Department has offered a US $3 million reward for information leading to Pérez’s capture since December 2021.

In an interview with newspaper El Universal, national security expert David Saucedo explained that Pérez’s capture is a clear sign that U.S. and Mexican forces are still taking a hard line against Los Chapitos. Since the successful capture of Ovidio Guzmán in January 2023 and his extradition to the U.S. in September, Los Chapitos have attempted to lessen the pressure on themselves by publicly declaring a ban on fentanyl production and trafficking.

“By sending an open letter, Los Chapitos have attempted to convince and influence public opinion, trying to counter the DEA’s narrative that points to them as the main smugglers of fentanyl into U.S. cities,” Saucedo said. “None of this has worked… Washington is still on the trail of the structure led by El Chapo’s sons, which it wants to dismantle completely.”

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office (FGR) estimates that Los Chapitos is made up of at least 5,000 armed men and controls drug trafficking in northern Sinaloa, western Sonora and the states of Nayarit, Chihuahua and Baja California Sur.

With reports from Milenio and El Universal

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