On Friday July 7, Mexico extradited to the United States a senior lieutenant of the Sinaloa Cartel drug gang formerly headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the attorney general’s office said.
Dámaso López, known as “The Graduate” (El Licenciado) because of his higher education studies, was a former security official in Sinaloa state who rose to become one of the leaders of the cartel, authorities say. He was arrested in Mexico City last year.
Mexico’s acting attorney general, Alberto Elías Beltrán, said López was seen as an important witness in the case against Guzmán, who was extradited to the United States in January 2017 to face drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.
“He’s a key person as much as for the United States government as for the Mexican government,” Beltrán told a local radio program. “We can bring to a good conclusion the process the United States is carrying out against Guzmán Loera.”
Armed policemen led López, handcuffed and wearing a tactical vest with “detainee” written on it, onto a plane at an airport in Ciudad Juárez, television images released by authorities showed.
At the time of López’s arrest in May 2017, Mexican officials said he was believed to have been seeking an alliance with Guzmán’s rival, the Jaliso New Generation Cartel.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made security at the southern border an administration priority, arguing his plan to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall would stem the flow of drugs into the United States.
He has also issued executive orders aiming to improve coordination between U.S. law enforcement and their Mexican counterparts.
Mexico’s next president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won by a landslide on Sunday and will take office in December, opposes the wall and has said he aims to stem drug trafficking by alleviating poverty and other root causes.
Trump and López Obrador discussed security issues as well as trade and immigration in a phone call on Monday, amid tensions between the neighbors over those issues.