With drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán locked up and facing U.S. extradition, his enemies are starting to pick apart his once-mighty empire.
Mexican officials said Tuesday that one of Guzmán’s sons, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, was among the six men kidnapped by an armed gang a daily earlier from a swanky cafe in Puerto Vallarta.
Eduardo Almaguer, the attorney general in the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located, told reporters Tuesday that investigators have confirmed that Guzmán Salazar, 29, was part of the group abducted in a raid on the upscale restaurant La Leche just after 1 a.m. Monday.
Guzmán Salazar and his older brother Iván Archivaldo have reportedly been trying to take over the family business from their jailed father, clashing at times with his former associates in the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s more powerful trafficking organization.
Like his father, Guzmán Salazar is wanted in the United States on drug smuggling charges.
It’s unclear how the gunmen grabbed him, as no shots were fired in the raid. Authorities said nine female companions of the victims were not taken by the kidnappers.
Officials said earlier Tuesday officials they believed the older Guzmán son Iván Archivaldo had been taken captive, but Almaguer said authorities now believe it was younger sibling Jesús Alfredo.
Both are viewed in Mexico as “narcojuniors,” aspiring drug lords brought up in a luxury world of guns and cash.
Guzmán Salazar’s kidnapping is the latest setback to his father’s hopes of keeping rivals at bay and the family business running from behind bars.
In June, a large convoy of drug commandos attacked his tiny home town of La Tuna in the Sierra Madre, forcing their way into the house of the kingpin’s elderly mother. They shot up the town’s highway sign and torched several homes and vehicles, though 86-year-old Consuelo Loera de Guzmán was reportedly unharmed.
Mexican news reports attributed the raid to upstart gangster Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán, 24, a.k.a. “El Mochomito” (the Little Desert Ant). He is the son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva (the Desert Ant), a former business partner of Joaquín Guzmán’s turned mortal enemy, who blames his 2008 arrest on a betrayal by Guzmán.
It’s a blood feud, literally: The Little Desert Ant and El Chapo are cousins.
The Beltrán Leyva clan has battled the Sinaloa cartel for dominance of the lucrative drug trade in Mexico’s western Sierra Madre ever since. In 2008, Gúzman’s 22-year-old son Edgar was killed in a hit blamed on Beltrán Leyva gunmen in the parking lot of a tire shop in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan.
The Guzmáns have a long list of enemies, but authorities hinted Tuesday that the kidnapping was believed to be carried out by the Jalisco-based New Generation cartel that is challenging the Sinaloa organization for supremacy along Mexico’s Pacific coast smuggling routes.
Joaquín Guzmán, who has escaped twice from Mexico’s toughest prisons, is locked up at a facility just south of the U.S. border. His attorneys claim he has been the victim of “cruel and unusual punishment” from prison authorities, who allegedly keep him in solitary confinement and interfere with his sleep.
Guzmán faces a slew of drug trafficking charges in several U.S. federal courts. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry has given the green light to his extradition, but Guzmán’s legal team is fighting his transfer across the border.
According to Guzmán’s lead attorney, the world’s most notorious drug lord has been “depressed.” But Mexican officials insist that his health is fine.