US offers $5 million rewards for information on Mexican drug traffickers

FILE - In this June 29, 2017 file photo, investigators mark the spot where spent bullet casing fell next several bodies lying on a road in the town of Navolato, Sinaloa state, Mexico. For people in Mexican towns and villages where criminal gangs, armed groups and drug traffickers hold more sway than the state, the novel coronavirus is just the latest danger. The threat of death and the inability to move freely are nothing new. (AP Photo/Enric Marti, File)

The United States State Department has announced rewards of up to $5m each for information that will help authorities capture and convict four Mexican drug cartel leaders, including the brother of infamous trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Along with Aureliano Guzman-Loera, US authorities are also upping their pursuit of brothers Ruperto Salgueiro-Nevarez, Jose Salgueiro-Nevarez and Heriberto Salgueiro-Nevarez.

The quartet has been “charged in US indictments for violation of US drug laws, to include international conspiracies to distribute marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Friday.

The highly dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl is “responsible for more than 63 percent of the 96,779 drug overdose deaths in the United States between March 2020 and 2021,” Price added.

The four men operate under the umbrella of the federation of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficking groups, which El Chapo led until his most recent capture and imprisonment in 2016.

Guzman was extradited to the US a year later and has since been sentenced to life in prison. His wife was arrested in the US in February and later pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs, conspiring to launder money and engaging in financial dealings with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

The State Department announcement comes the same day as a Justice Department announcement of indictments charging the four with violating international trafficking laws.

For more than 10 years, the US and Mexico have worked together to fight drug trafficking under a programme called the Merida Initiative, with Washington providing military firepower, technical support and security training.

In October, the neighbouring states agreed to overhaul their approach, which Mexican officials have long portrayed as a relic of the past, and to instead step up efforts to address the root causes of crime and curb cross-border arms smuggling.

Mexico is plagued by cartel-related bloodshed that has seen more than 300,000 people murdered since the government deployed the military in the war on drugs in 2006.

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