One of Mexico’s “big demon” cartels — the Sinaloa gang — is being eyed in the slaughter of nine Americans, including 8-month-old twins, near the border Monday.
The cartel has been at war with the Mexican government — even after the arrest of kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — and now President Trump has vowed to help “wipe them off the face of the earth.”
“The Sinaloa cartel is one of the most sophisticated and fearsome mafias in our hemisphere, if not the worst,” said Sam Quinones, author of the bestselling book “Dreamland” about the Mexican illegal drug trade.
“They have firepower and a global reach,” Quinones told the Herald on Tuesday, soon after the murders of the three women and six children were announced. “There’s a crying need for prolonged collaboration … to focus on these cartels.”
Sinaloa members are experts at drug trafficking — from fentanyl, heroin, meth and pot — along with money laundering, kidnapping, gun running, human trafficking and sending messages to rivals through brutality.
Gladys McCormick, an associate history professor at Syracuse University, said there are nine big cartels in Mexico in a country that is in the midst of a unprecedented wave of violence.
“The level of violence is brutal,” said McCormick, a national expert on organized crime and violence in Mexico. “There have been 150,000 murders in Mexico since 2006 … and this year is already the worst with 34,000 murders reported.”
She said the head of the military in Mexico is blaming the Pacifico cartel for the murders of the women and children. Others are eyeing the Sinaloa cartel because the ambush of a so-called Mormon sect took place in a remote, mountainous area in northern Mexico where the Sinaloa cartel has been engaged in a turf war.
“The last four weeks have been horrible for Mexico,” McCormick added. “The zone where the attacks took place is also up for grabs. One of the big demon cartels is responsible.”
Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said the gunmen may have mistaken the group’s large SUVs for those of rival gangs.
Around the ambush scene, which stretched for miles, investigators found over 200 shell casings, mostly from assault rifles.
“Lately it’s getting worse. This is a whole new level,” said Taylor Langford, a relative of the dead who splits his time between the Mexican community and his home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman, Utah.
Retired FBI agent Dennis Franks, who tracked Mexican and Colombian drug cartels for decades, said the cartels are often “better equipped” than the military — and always better than local police.
“The cartels operate like they are gods to some extent,” Franks said. “They won’t hesitate to show their power.”
He said the cartels would be dismantled, but they would grow back. “It’s like cutting off the head of a snake only to see it grow back,” he added.
He said the cartel leaders are out for power — and nothing, including women and children, can get in their way.
“Cartels are fearless, almost omnipotent, and they are not afraid of the military,” he added. “The people of Mexico are wonderful, but the corruption is a tremendous problem.”
And that keeps the cartels killing, he added.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.