Dismembered Bodies in Mexico Rep. Pic
"El Nini" was arrested in November last year ev/Unsplash.

Néstor Isidro Pérez Salas, a top member of the "Los Chapitos" faction of the Sinaloa Cartel was extradited to the United States during the weekend, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced.

Known as "El Nini," the Department of Justice described him as "one of the Sinaloa Cartel's lead sicarios, or assassins, and was responsible for the murder, torture and kidnapping of rivals and witnesses who threatened the cartel's criminal drug trafficking enterprise." The statement also alleges that he was a part of the cartel's "production and sale of fentanyl, including in the United States."

"With this enforcement action, El Nini joins the growing list of cartel leaders and associates indicted in, and extradited to, the United States. The Justice Department will continue to go after the cartels responsible for flooding our communities with fentanyl and other drugs," the statement concludes.

Pérez Salas, the "Chapitos" cartel's head of security, was arrested in late November. His extradition was halted twice as a result of legal maneuvers by his lawyers, but the procedure finally moved forward this weekend. There was a $3 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.

A picture of 'El Nini'
Perez Salas was arrested in November US Department of State

President Joe Biden had publicly recognized the detention, praising Mexican authorities and cooperation between both countries for the result: "Both our countries are safer with him behind bars and facing justice for his crimes," Biden said.

The 'Chapitos' cartel is considered to be the successor of the Sinaloa cartel ran by Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, who is currently serving a life sentence in Colorado for his role in it.

Guzman's sons stand accused of leading the ensuing cartel and playing a key role in the trafficking of fentanyl across the U.S. southern border. One of them, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, was arrested last year and extradited to the U.S. in September. The U.S. government holds him primarily responsible for the rise in overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl.

According to an InSight Crime report, there has been a cessation of fentanyl production and trafficking by the Chapitos faction of the Sinaloa Cartel in Sinaloa.

However, the arrests take place following a notable increase in illicit fentanyl seizures along the US-Mexico border during the 2023 fiscal year, totaling 12,119 kilograms (26,718 pounds), an almost 90% surge compared to the 6,397 kilograms (14,104 pounds) seized in the previous fiscal year.

In 2022, opioids, primarily illicit fentanyl, contributed to approximately 75% of the 110,000 recorded overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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