January 25th, 2015

‘El Mayo’ the successor to captured cartel boss Guzman

Crime WorldBy Gerard Couzens
Ismael Zambada, aka 'El Mayo'
Ismael Zambada, aka 'El Mayo'

THIS is the gang boss set to take over from captured Mexican drugs baron Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman.

Former cattle herder Ismael Zambada - alias 'El Mayo' Zambada - has never spent a night in jail despite half a century trafficking drugs.

Authorities in the US have offered a $5m reward for his capture.

The 66-year-old dad-of-seven admitted in his only-ever newspaper interview four years ago he was terrified of being caught and vowed to kill himself rather than let himself be taken alive.

He said to respected Mexican journalist Julio Scherer after summoning him to a remote country house and asking his bodyguard to take a picture of the two for posterity: "I panic about the idea of being locked up.

"I don't know if I would have the courage to kill myself but I would like to think I would."

Painting a terrifying future in which drug cartels will never die despite high-profile captures of their leaders, he added: "Imagine one day I decide to hand myself into the government so they can shoot me.

"My case should be exemplary, a warning to others. They shoot me dead and euphoria breaks out.

"But a few days later we realise nothing has changed. 

"That's because the problem of drugs trafficking involves millions. Whether the bosses are jailed, killed or extradited, their substitutes are already out there."

Zambada, Guzman's number two in the feared Cartel de Sinoloa, has always opted for a lower profile than his friend, seized in the Pacific beach resort of Mazatlan on Saturday morning.

He told Scherer during their interview in April 2010 over a breakfast of orange juice, milk, refried beans and meat: "The hills are my home, my family, my protection, my land, the water I drink."

Years ago when drugs traffickers like Zambada could move around more freely, waiters at his favourite hotel in Mazatlan are said to have fought over who served him because of the $100 tips he used to leave. 

He also used to play Father Christmas by visiting his birthplace of El Alamo, a small village near Mazatlan, every Christmas with lorries laden with beer and cash for locals.

He and his wife Rosario Niebla used some of the millions they made from drugs trafficking to open a shelter for working-class and single mums called 'Nino Feliz' - 'Happy Child' in English.

Mexican government officials have accused the home, which offers users babysitting services and free meals, of being a money-laundering scam.

Zambada has been wanted by Mexican law enforcers since 1998.

Vicente Zambada, one of his three sons, was arrested by the Mexican Army in March 2009 and was extradited to the States.