The Mexican authorities seized El Chapo Guzman in February last year, in what was one of the most dramatic captures during their war on drugs. Of a list of 37 individuals released in 2009 containing the most wanted drug traffickers, the vast majority have been either killed or arrested.
Nonetheless, the disappearance of over 40 student teachers in Mexico last September, likely murdered by a local drug gang, was a painful reminder of the power that the drugs trade has in the country.
In other countries, including Colombia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are individuals who are wanted for their involvement in planning and distributing various drugs around the world. Whereas the drug cartels that operated in the past tended to be large organisations, the more modern organisations that have been developed are smaller and difficult to trace. They have also been able to profit from extreme instability in certain parts of the world, such as in the case of Afghanistan, where since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the country has become one of the largest exporters of opium. Even in Colombia, where the larger drug cartels were generally broken up, smaller organisations have emerged, which continue to be active and there are still several Colombians on the American most wanted list. As well as the remaining figures who have yet to be captured on the Mexican government’s list, the following list includes the most wanted drug lords from around the world.
10) Ismael Zambada-Garcia “El Mayo”
Zambada-Garcia is one of two leaders of the ‘Sinaloa’ cartel, a Mexican drug smuggling network responsible for bringing cocaine and heroin into the United States. He was originally a farmer and has an extensive knowledge of agriculture, but began his criminal career in the 1980s. He engaged in a brutal gang war with a rival cartel in the early 2000s over control of areas in the northwest of Mexico, as he sought to expand his cartel’s influence. He has also maintained connections to cocaine suppliers from Colombia, which he appears to have developed during his early career when he smuggled drugs. Now he is mainly responsible for the logistical side of the smuggling business. According to reports, he has had plastic surgery on several occasions and disguises himself well enough that he is able to travel around Mexico.
9) Juan Jose Esparragoza-Moreno “El Azul”
“El Azul” is the other major leader of the ‘Sinaloa’ cartel. In the 1970s, he began his career in the Mexican Federal Security Force, an organization which has since been disbanded. His ties to officers who were engaged in organized crime enabled him to found a cartel with other influential drug lords, which continued to operate until the late 1980s. However, following the capture and brutal torture of an American agent, a large police operation caught some of the gang’s leading members. He went on to join the ‘Juarez cartel’ in the 1990s, which is alleged to have received support from the Mexican justice system. The US is offering a reward of $5 million for his arrest, and the Mexican government is also offering its own $2 million bounty.
8) Juan Reyes Mejia-Gonzalez “El Quique”
Gonzalez is a major figure in Mexico’s Gulf cartel, the other main drug smuggling organization. The US is also seeking his detention and is offering a $5 million reward for any information on his whereabouts. The US authorities brought charges against him in Washington, D.C., in 2008. It is believed that he ordered the assassination of a rival drug lord in 2011, a move which triggered clashes between the two rival factions of the Gulf cartel. After the conclusion of this struggle, Gonzalez has not been heard from as much. There was even speculation that he had died, but this has not been confirmed.
7) Rafael Caro Quintero
Quintero was responsible for founding the ‘Guadalajara’ cartel in the 1970s, and then arrested in 1985 for his alleged involvement of the capturing of the American drug enforcement agent, which took place that year. Sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder, he was released in 2013, after a court ruled that he had been improperly tried in a Federal court. Since being set free, he has kept a low profile and not been seen. The US is demanding his extradition for pending charges there, although Mexico has indicated that should he be caught, they would not send him to the United States but put him on trial in Mexico. An Interpol most wanted person’s alert is also outstanding, meaning that if he was arrested anywhere internationally, he would immediately be sent to Mexico.
6) Servando Gomez
Gomez was involved in the ‘La Familia’ cartel, before breaking away a few years ago to form his own ‘Knights Templar’ organization. He has made the claim that the ‘Knights Templar’ is not a violent cartel, but is a necessary evil which is merely trying to protect the people in Mexico. However, in an indictment against Gomez in the United States, he is accused of procuring weapons for the La Familia cartel while still a member, as well as hindering law enforcement from breaking up the cartel. He is also accused of trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine in to the US. Originally a teacher, from where he takes his alias of ‘La Tuta’, some reports alleged that he continued to appear on the payroll of the Mexican education authority until 2011.
5) Dario Antonio Usuga David
David is a leading member of one of Colombia’s most violent and heavily armed gangs, ‘Los Urabenos’. The group is made up of individuals who kept their arms in the aftermath of a reconciliation drive by the Colombian government to resolve the country’s long-running civil war. ‘Los Urabenos’ has used these weapons to secure drug trafficking routes and processing laboratories, and also to fight brutal battles with rival gangs over territory. According to the US State Department, where David’s name is listed as part of the narcotics reward program, homicides went up in one region by 400 percent during the course of one of these struggles. Charges were laid against David in the state of New York in 2009, and the US is offering up to $5 million for information about him.
4) Maria Teresa Osorio de Serna
While Osorio de Sirna does not quite fit the description of a drug lord, in the opinion of the US and Colombian governments, she has played a key role in financing their activities. According to the State Department, which put her on their most wanted list in 2010, she has laundered tens of millions of dollars in drug money for Colombian drug cartels. She is believed to have made trips to Miami to carry out this task. The US authorities have proven unable to track her down thus far. Apparently all they know is that she is hiding out somewhere in Colombia to evade detection.
3) Ivan Dario Ramirez
Ramirez is indicted for possession of cocaine and has been on the United States’ most wanted list for many years. He has managed to evade capture even as other Colombians on the list have been nabbed by authorities. Alongside Mexico, Colombia is the main focus for the US war on drugs. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Ramirez also goes by the names of Martinez and Robert. The authorities have information suggesting that he lived in Miami at some point, but it is not clear when this was, or for how long he remained there.
2) Hadji Ehai Ibrahim
Hadji Ehai Ibrahim was indicted as far back as 1998, for conspiracy to import drugs to the United States from Pakistan. Since then, US agents have not been able to track him down. Part of the reason is that for around five years from 2001, he was assumed to have died following a botched attack on a rival. The attack was directed against his former partner with whom he had fallen out over control of areas in Karachi, one of Pakistan’s major cities. But he subsequently resurfaced and evidence was uncovered suggesting that he had paid money to a company in Moscow that had sold gun parts through illegal arms dealers.
1) Nilson Aristizabal-Tezna
Although operating on a much smaller scale than in the 1980s, drug gangs continue to do business in the Colombian city of Cali. That is were Aristizabal-Tezna is believed to be. Last year, he was indicted along with 19 others for their planning and directing of the importing of drugs through Puerto Rico. The island has become an increasingly popular route for traffickers, because once the drugs are smuggled there, they have already bypassed customs controls. But a number of leading drug lords on the island have been arrested over recent years. Aristizabal-Tezna has now been placed on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s most wanted list.
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