Mexico just extradited a top Sinaloa cartel member who turned on 'El Chapo' Guzman to seize control of the cartel

Mexican attorney general/TwitterDamaso Lopez Nuñez, seen during his extradition from Mexico to the US, July 6, 2018.
  • Damaso Lopez Nuñez, a former high-level member of the Sinaloa cartel, was extradited to the US on Friday.
  • Lopez was a Mexican security official from Sinaloa state who left government work to join the cartel.
  • He led one faction that fought and lost a bloody struggle to control the cartel after the extradition of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

On Friday, Mexico extradited to the US a senior lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel drug cartel once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the attorney general’s office said.

Damaso Lopez Nuñez, known as “El Licenciado,” or “the Graduate,” because of his university studies, was once a security official in Sinaloa state who rose to become one of the leaders of the cartel, authorities say. He was also subdirector for security at Puente Grande prison, a high-security facility Guzman broke out of in 2001.

Guzman was arrested in Mexico in January 2016 and extradited to the US in January 2017. In the months afterward, violence in Sinaloa state and elsewhere in Mexico rose as factions of the cartel – including one led by Lopez and his son and another led by Guzman’s sons – fought for control of the cartel, which is considered one of Mexico’s most powerful.

Lopez was arrested in Mexico City in May 2017. Lopez’s son, Damaso Lopez Serrano, nicknamed “El Mini Lic,” surrendered to US authorities at the US-Mexico border in Mexicali, south of California, in July 2017. The younger Lopez pleaded guilty to drug-smuggling charges in San Diego in January.

Lopez Serrano was believed to be cooperating with US authorities at the time of his plea. On Friday, Mexico’s acting attorney general, Alberto Elias Beltran, said Lopez was seen as a key witness in the case against Guzman. Mexico’s attorney general’s office said requests would be made to suspend the charges pending against the elder Lopez in Mexico in order to avoid violating due process guarantees.

Armed policemen led Lopez, handcuffed and wearing a tactical vest with “detainee” written on it, onto a plane at an airport in Ciudad Juarez, television images released by authorities showed.

(Reporting for Reuters by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Bill Trott)

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