The sons of notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and their cartel associates used corkscrews, electrocution, and hot chiles to torture their rivals while some of their victims were “fed dead or alive to tigers,” according to an indictment recently released by the U.S. Justice Department. The three Guzman sons charged — Ovidio Guzmán López, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, and Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar, known as the Chapitos, or little Chapos — were among 28 Sinaloa cartel members charged in a massive fentanyl-trafficking investigation announced last week.
The Justice Department accused the cartel members of running “the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world,” it also detailed the brutal methods of torture and executions used by the cartel to extend its power and intimidate enemies.
According to the indictment, rival drug traffickers, law enforcement officers and members faithful to other cartel factions were among those interrogated by the Chapitos at the Navolato, Sinaloa, ranch owned by Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar.
“Once the information was obtained by these captives, typically through torture, these individuals were killed — either by or at the direction of the Chapitos themselves — and the bodies disposed of throughout the area. While many of these victims were shot, others were fed dead or alive to tigers” belonging to Ivan and Alfredo, the indictment says.
In another chilling description, federal prosecutors alleged that two of El Chapo’s sons were involved in the capture and murder of two Mexican federal law enforcement officers in 2017. One of the officers was interrogated and killed while the other was tortured in front of El Chapo’s sons by the cartel’s hitmen, known as “Ninis.”
“For approximately two hours, members of the Ninis tortured Victim-5 by inserting a corkscrew into Victim 5’s muscles, ripping it out of his muscles, and placing hot chiles in his open wounds and nose” before being shot dead by Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Sálazar, the indictment alleges. The victim and his fellow slain officer were then dumped near a motel off of a highway near the ranch, federal prosecutors said.
The indictment goes on to allege that El Chapo’s sons used electrocution and waterboarding to torture members of rival drug cartels as well as associates who refused to pay debts. Federal officials that the Chapitos also tested the potency of the fentanyl they allegedly produced on their prisoners.
Of the three Chapitos charged, only Ovidio Guzmán López has been captured. He was arrested in January in the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan.
Army soldiers drive past a destroyed vehicle on the streets of Jesus Maria, Mexico, on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, the small town where Ovidio Guzman was detained earlier in the week. Thursday’s government operation to detain Ovidio, the son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin Guzman.
“Death and destruction are central to their whole operation,” DEA chief Anne Milgram Milgram said Friday, calling the Chapitos and the global network they operate “a network that fuels violence and death on both sides of the border.”
El Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel’s founder, is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2019 on charges including drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons-related offenses.
In January, El Chapo sent an “SOS” message to Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, alleging that he has been subjected to “psychological torment” in prison.