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Meet the up-and-coming narcos who could be worse than El Chapo

February 26, 2016
The shrine to Malverde, the patron saint of outlaws and drug traffickers, in Culiacán draws visitors who leave donations in the hope that their prayers for protection be answered.

The shrine to Malverde, the patron saint of outlaws and drug traffickers, draws visitors who leave donations in the hope that their prayers for protection be answered.

There was a time, the story goes, when if a local collided with a drug trafficker’s car on the streets of Culiacán — a bastion of the infamous Sinaloa cartel — the narco was likely to hop out to check that everything was ok.

“They’d say: ‘If you have any problems call this doctor and I’ll pay,'” says journalist Javier Valdez, who specializes in delving into the entrails of drug trafficking culture in Sinaloa. “Not anymore. Now they’ll get out of the car with a pistol. Not only will they not pay you; they’ll beat you, threaten you, or kill you.”

Such tales of shifting mafia etiquette are part of the legend of the underworld in Sinaloa but, close observers like Valdez say, there is also truth to the idea that the newer generations rising up within the Sinaloa drug trafficking scene are more violent and impulsive. And none more so than the one emerging to take control right now.

Some of Sinaloa’s most notorious kingpins are buried at the Jardines de Humaya cemetery in lavish, air-conditioned mausoleums bigger than many people’s houses.

Some of Sinaloa’s most notorious kingpins are buried at the Jardines de Humaya cemetery in lavish, air-conditioned mausoleums bigger than many people’s houses.

Many in Sinaloa today fear that the recapture in January of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Sinaloa cartel’s highest profile leader and one of the last of its so-called elder statesmen, could accelerate this transition to rule by the so-called narcojuniors.

Few in Culiacán dispute Chapo’s status as a ruthless and bloodthirsty operator, but many credit his generation of Sinaloa traffickers with ensuring the cartel is still considered less wholeheartedly exploitative and sadistic than some other Mexican groups, such as the Knights Templar or the Zetas. While the point is often overstated, the Sinaloa cartel leadership has traditionally limited the expansion of side-rackets, such as extortion and kidnapping, at least on its home turf…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News.

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