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Biden celebrates arrest of Sinaloa cartel faction security chief, thanks López Obrador

The Mexican National Guard has arrested Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, the reputed security chief of a faction of the Sinaloa cartel. Pérez Salas is known widely throughout the country as “El Nini”

Mexican forces arrest El Chapo's son, Ovidio Guzmán López, who was extraditied to the U.S. for criminal prosecution | EFE

November 24, 2023 12:18pm

Updated: November 24, 2023 12:18pm

President Biden celebrated Wednesday's arrest of Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, the reputed security chief of a faction of the Sinaloa cartel, and thanked his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for his country's cooperation. 

Pérez Salas is known widely throughout the country as “El Nini.” The purported high ranking cartel officer is accused of leading a team of bodyguards who acted as a security detail for the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

The sons, often called “Chapitos” (little Chapos), took over a powerful faction of the cartel after their father was brought to justice in the United States.

U.S. authorities detained “El Chapo” after they offered $3 million for information leading to his capture to prosecute him for drug trafficking and weapons charges.

His prosecution comes amid an intense effort being led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to stop the flow of fentanyl from Mexico. U.S. law enforcement agencies have increased their efforts against Mexican  cartels that have been smuggling the synthetic opioid.

According to the DEA, three of El Chapo's sons, Ovidio Guzmán López and his half-brothers Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and Iván Archivaldo have trafficked millions of doses of fentanyl into the U.S. since their father’s capture.

Ovidio Guzmán López, also known as “El Ratón” (The Mouse), was extradited to the U.S. in September and has pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

The two other “Chapitos” have not yet been brought to justice. 

President Biden saluted Mexican law enforcement in a statement released by The White House. 

For nearly three years, El Nini has been one of Mexico’s and the United States’ most wanted criminals, indicted by the United States for his roles in perpetrating violence and illicit fentanyl trafficking into the United States, and both our countries are safer with him behind bars and facing justice for his crimes,” the statement said. 

According to U.S. law enforcement agents, “El Nini” is a Chapitos assassin who has kidnapped, tortured and murdered rival cartels. They believe has led a violent group protests all of the brothers. 

He was held by law enforcement agents in Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa, the cartel stronghold of the same name.

The capture of “El Nini” was dramatic. National Guard soldiers and police swept through the Colinas de Rivera neighborhood trying to detain the cartel officer. Local media reported he tried to escape by climbing on to the rooftop of a house.

He surrendered after National Guardsmen began firing shots in his direction.

After being detained, the soldiers transported “El Nini” to the Mexican capital and assigned extra security to Culiacán to deter any violent reactions.

Such violent outbreaks occurred the first time Ovidio Guzmán López was arrested.

Authorities have suggested “El Nini” orchestrated the cartel's retaliation for Ovidio Guzmán López's 2019 arrest, which resulted in a string of shootouts and prison riots. 

The violence became so extreme that López Obrador temporarily released Guzmán López. He was detained against in 2023 and extradited to the U.S. for federal prosecution.

Biden also thanked López Obrador in the Nov. 22 statement. 

These arrests are testament to the commitment between the United States and Mexico to secure our communities against violence, counter the cartels, and end the scourge of illicit fentanyl that is hurting so many families, Biden said.

We will continue working as strong partners to do everything possible to hold criminals accountable for jeopardizing public health and safety in our two countries. As I told President Andrés Manuel López Obrador when we met in San Francisco on November 17, nothing is beyond our reach when Mexico and the United States stand together.