The U.S. Department of the Treasury froze the assets of four key operatives of the feared Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, including two sons of drug kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera, in the fifth such designation directed against the Sinaloa Cartel's leadership.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) used the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which prohibits U.S. nationals from conducting business with designated persons and freezes the U.S. assets of such persons.
OFAC designations act as a double-edged sword against the cartels. Not only do they freeze money and financial assets that could be used by the cartels, but they deal a serious political blow to the cartel's operatives. When the Treasury Department names drug traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, word can quickly spread internationally, cutting off support for the individuals.
"They are drug traffickers and they don't want people to know what they do ... It makes it much more difficult for them to operative," Treasury Department spokesman John Sullivan said Tuesday.
The amount of assets frozen on Tuesday was not disclosed.
"OFAC will aggressively target those individuals who facilitate Chapo Guzman's drug trafficking operations, including family members," OFAC director Adam J. Szubin said.
The Treasury Department designated two sons of the infamous drug kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar and Ovidio Guzman Lopez. Both were targeted by the Treasury Department for their alleged involvement in their father's drug trafficking organization. Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar was arrested by Mexican authorities in 2005 on money laundering charges, however, he was later released. Ovidio Guzman Lopez was described by the Treasury Department as playing "a significant role in his father's drug trafficking activities.
Noel Salguiero Nevarez, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel in the Mexican state of Chihuahua was also designated by OFAC, as was Ovidio Limon Sanchez, "a major operative for the Sinaloa Cartel in Sinaloa state." Noel Salguiero Nevarez has been in Mexican custody since October for his involvement in Chihuahua's bloody turf war. Ovidio Limon Sanchez is also currently in Mexican custody and was indicted in California in 2009 on multiple counts of drug trafficking.
In freezing the assets of Guzman brothers and their compatriots, the Treasury Department worked closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
"DEA is attacking the Sinaloa Cartel and other organizations at every level like never before, so they are put out of business and their leaders are brought to justice," DEA chief of financial operations John Arvanitis said.
The latest move against the Sinaloa Cartel comes just days after 23 bodies were discovered in the violence-wracked border town of Nuevo Laredo. Nuevo Laredo is in the midst of a turf war between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas. A banner, possibly written by members of the Zetas, was hung in the plaza of the town and called out an enemy gang for "heating up the plaza".
The bodies, which were found Friday, included five men and four women hanging from a highway overpass, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some of the bodies were blindfolded and showed signs of torture. Authorities also found 14 headless bodies in garbage bags, all men in their mid-20s. Their heads were later found in three ice chests near the City Hall, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Violence of the sort seen in Nuevo Laredo has been mounting among Mexico's drug cartels, and the Treasury Department has been stepping up its designations under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Tuesday's designation marked the fifth designation about the Sinaloa Cartel. In January, the Treasury Department designated three members of the cartel.
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