CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — After a two-year battle that has killed more than 5,000 people, Mexico's most powerful drug kingpin now controls the coveted trafficking routes through Ciudad Juarez, the Associated Press reported Friday.
That conclusion by U.S. intelligence adds to evidence that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa cartel is winning Mexico's drug war.
The assessment was made based on information from confidential informants with direct ties to Mexican drug gangs and other intelligence, said a U.S. federal agent who sometimes works undercover. He spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of his role in ongoing drug investigations.
The agent said those sources have led U.S. authorities to believe that the Sinaloa cartel has edged out the rival Juarez gang for control over trafficking routes through Ciudad Juarez, ground zero in the drug war.
Other officials corroborated pieces of the assessment. Andrea Simmons, an FBI spokeswoman in El Paso, confirmed that the majority of drug loads arriving from Juarez now belong to Guzman. And Mexican Federal Police Chief Facundo Rosas said that while authorities are still working to confirm the U.S. assessment, "These are valid theories."
The twin border cities of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas, are a primary crossing point for drugs smuggled into the United States. Control of drug routes in Chihuahua, the state along New Mexico and West Texas where Juarez is located, is vital to Guzman's efforts to enlarge his cartel's operations.
Already, the Sinaloa cartel is the world's largest, and Guzman last year made Forbes magazine's list of the world's top billionaires.
His cartel moved in on the city in 2008 in an attempt to wrest it from the Juarez cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. The fighting prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon to send thousands of army troops to the city, but the fighting has killed more than 5,000 people, making Juarez one of the world's deadliest cities.
The Sinaloa cartel has grown steadily more powerful since Guzman escaped from a Mexican federal prison a decade ago.