Mexico’s Captures Most Feared Drug Lord’s Henchman

In a dramatic operation, Mexico's National Guard apprehended Nestor Isidro Pérez Salas, the notorious "El Nini," alleged security chief for the Sinaloa drug cartel's "Chapitos" wing. His capture exposes a reign of unimaginable violence.

Mexican Army soldiers

11/22/2023.- Mexican Army soldiers guard the headquarters of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime (Femdo), following the capture and transfer of Néstor Isidro García “El Nini”, alleged head of security for the Los Chapitos criminal group, in Mexico City, Mexico. EFE/Isaac Esquivel

Latin American Post Staff

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Leer en español: México captura al secuaz más temido del narcotraficante

Mexico's National Guard Strikes a Devastating Blow to Sinaloa Cartel

In a stunning turn of events, Mexico's National Guard has dealt a decisive blow to the Sinaloa drug cartel by arresting Nestor Isidro Pérez Salas, the alleged hyper-violent security chief for the notorious "Chapitos" wing.

Known by his alias, "El Nini," Pérez Salas' capture comes after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had posted a staggering $3 million reward for his apprehension, with charges including conspiracy to import and distribute fentanyl in the United States. However, Pérez Salas' notoriety extends far beyond drug trafficking, as he allegedly left a trail of murder and torture in his wake throughout Mexico.

"This guy was a complete psychopath," commented Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the DEA. "Taking him out of commission is a good thing for Mexico."

Pérez Salas played a pivotal role in safeguarding the sons of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the incarcerated drug lord, and actively supported their drug operations. The Chapitos faction is infamous for being one of the primary exporters of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, to the U.S. market, which has been responsible for approximately 70,000 overdose deaths annually.

Prosecution in the Southern District of New York

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege that Pérez Salas oversaw security operations for the Chapitos in Sinaloa state and was among nearly two dozen defendants indicted earlier this year. He led a security team known as the "Ninis," a particularly violent group with extensive military-style training in various combat areas, including urban warfare, special weapons and tactics, and sniper proficiency.

The nickname "Nini" derives from Mexican slang, describing youths who neither work nor study. Pérez Salas' brutality was evident in a horrifying incident in 2017 when he allegedly participated in the torture of a Mexican federal agent for two hours. The torturers inserted a corkscrew into the victim's muscles, ripped it out, and placed hot chiles in the wounds.

Gruesome Acts of Violence and Torture

According to the indictment, the Ninis, led by Pérez Salas and Jorge Figueroa Benitez, committed gruesome acts of violence. Captured rivals were taken to Chapitos-owned ranches for execution. Some victims were shot, while others were fed, dead or alive, to tigers kept as pets by the Chapitos.

In a chilling revelation, the Ninis conducted human testing on kidnapped rivals or addicts by injecting them with fentanyl until they overdosed. In one instance, they experimented on a woman, repeatedly injecting her with a lower potency of fentanyl until she tragically overdosed and died.

Prosecutors noted that the purity of the cartel's fentanyl varied widely depending on the manufacturer's method and skill. Despite overdoses from a particular batch, the Chapitos continued to ship it to the U.S.

Shift in Sinaloa Cartel Dynamics

The dynamics of the Sinaloa cartel underwent a dramatic shift, with the elder Guzmán and fellow leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada facing legal issues. The Chapitos emerged as an aggressive force, unleashing unrestrained violence in their pursuit of power.

Also read: Colombia's Keeps Battling Cocaine Production Amid Fentanyl Growth

Pérez Salas' arrest coincided with a recent meeting between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and U.S. President Joe Biden in San Francisco. This trend of significant arrests occurring before or after meetings with President Biden has raised eyebrows, with some speculating that López Obrador seeks to demonstrate goodwill during his final months in office, as he is set to leave the presidency in September.

The capture of "El Nini" has sent shockwaves through the drug trade, disrupting the Chapitos' operations and dealing a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel's influence. As the investigation unfolds, Mexico and the United States are jointly tackling the scourge of drug trafficking, aiming to curb the relentless violence that has plagued the region for far too long.

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