Incarceration in a U.S. prison might be a different matter, though. And that would test Chapman’s proposition that the Sinaloa organization has an orderly succession plan for a new CEO. Perhaps it does. But we have already witnessed bloody leadership succession struggles in other drug trafficking organizations, including the Tijuana cartel, the Beltran‐Leyva cartel, and La Familia. Such struggles usually led to the marginalization or the disappearance of such organizations. A similar internecine conflict in Sinaloa would have far‐reaching implications, since that cartel dominates the U.S. drug market. Indeed, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that the Sinaloa organization controls about as much of the U.S. retail illicit drug market as all of the other Mexican trafficking cartels combined.
An internal struggle for power within Sinaloa would create irresistible temptations for the cartel’s rivals. Indeed, much of Sinaloa’s growth over the past two decades came from exploiting internal feuds in other trafficking organizations. That was especially true of the schisms in the Tijuana, Beltran‐Leyva, Juarez and Gulf cartels. All of those organizations were once far more powerful than they are today, and Sinaloa was the principal beneficiary of their decline.
Guzman’s capture may create an opportunity for competing cartels (including some newer players, such as the Zetas) to reverse that process and try to gain market share by any available means. Such a development would not be good for Mexico. Drug‐related violence in that country has ebbed in the past few years after explosive growth during the presidency of Felipe Calderon (2006–2012). The ebbing of violence coincided with the expansion of the power of the Sinaloa cartel and the increasing marginalization of its rivals. It is unlikely that such stability will persist if there is either an internal power struggle in Sinaloa or renewed turf fights between that cartel and its adversaries.
U.S. and Mexican officials might think about such matters while they are cheering Guzman’s capture. El Chapo is assuredly a violent, evil man. But his removal does nothing to change the robust demand for his product. And continuing to insist on a prohibitionist strategy regarding narcotics means that other evil, violent men, rather than legitimate business types, will be the ones to satisfy that consumer demand.