Ismael Zambada García (born 1 January 1948[1]), also known as El Mayo Zambada, is a Mexican drug lord who serves as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. Before assuming leadership of the entire cartel, he served as the logistical coordinator for the Zambada-García faction of the Sinaloa Cartel which has assisted in the exporting of cocaine and heroin into Chicago and other U.S. cities by train, ship, jet and submarine.[6]


A former farmer with extensive agricultural and botanical knowledge, Zambada began his criminal career by smuggling a few kilograms of drugs at the time, then increased his gang's production of heroin and marijuana while consolidating his position as a trafficker of Colombian cocaine. When drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, his old organization broke up into two factions: the Tijuana Cartel led by his nephews, the Arellano Félix brothers, and the Sinaloa Cartel, run by former lieutenants Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, Adrián Gómez González, Ismael Zambada García, Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, and Joaquín Guzmán Loera (El Chapo).[7] The Sinaloa Cartel drug lords were active in the states of Sinaloa, Durango, Chihuahua, Sonora, Nuevo León, and Michoacán.[8]

In 2006 the administration of President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against Mexico’s drug trafficking networks.[9][10] The Arellano Felix Organization (Tijuana Cartel), the largest and most sophisticated of the Mexican cartels at the time, received the brunt of the blows. Taking advantage of the pressure being placed on the Tijuana Cartel, other drug bosses, most notably Ismael Zambada and Joaquín Guzmán, began to encroach on strongholds in northwestern Mexico, leading to full-scale war.

Zambada has historically worked closely with the Juárez Cartel and the Carrillo Fuentes family, while maintaining independent ties to Colombian cocaine suppliers.[11] Zambada has been wanted by Mexico’s attorney general’s office since 1998, when it issued bounties totaling $2.8 million USD on him and five other leaders of the Juárez Cartel.

Zambada headed the Sinaloa Cartel in partnership with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, until 2016 when El Chapo was captured. Zambada has now assumed full command of the Sinaloa Cartel.[12]

Zambada is Mexico's most enduring and powerful drug lord. He has had plastic surgery and disguises himself to move throughout Mexico.[13]

Drug trafficking

Zambada García's organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, receives multi-ton quantities of cocaine, mostly by sea from Colombian sources. After receipt of the cocaine, the Sinaloa cartel uses a variety of methods, including airplanes, trucks, cars, boats, and tunnels to transport the cocaine to the United States. Members of the cartel smuggle the cocaine to distribution cells in Arizona, California, Chicago, and New York City.[14]

Zambada operates primarily in the States of Sinaloa and Durango, but exerts influence along a large portion of Mexico’s Pacific coast, as well as in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Sonora, Monterrey and Nuevo Leon.

Ismael Zambada has been featured on America's Most Wanted,[15][16] and the FBI is offering up to US$5 million for information leading to his capture.[14]

On 20 October 2008, some of his relatives were arrested in Mexico City on drug trafficking charges: Ismael's brother, Jesus "The King" Zambada, along with Ismael's son and nephew.[17] His son, Ismael "El Mayito" Zambada Jr. is currently being sought for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in the United States. His other son, Vicente Zambada Niebla, was arrested by the Mexican Army on 18 March 2009.[18]


His wife Rosario Niebla Cardoza, brother Jesús, sons Vicente Zambada-Niebla (alias "el Vicentillo", arrested),[19] Serafín Zambada-Ortiz (alias "el Sera", arrested),[20] and Ismael Zambada-Imperial (alias "el Mayito gordo", arrested[21]),[22] as well as his four daughters, María Teresa, Midiam Patricia, Mónica del Rosario, and Modesta played an active role in narcotics' distribution and money laundering.[23] His son-in-law, Juan Gabriel González Ibarra, husband of Midiam Patricia, died after suffering an electric shock at his home in Culiacán on 18 June 2014.[24]

Ismael Zambada relies on currency shipments to move drug proceeds across the United States–Mexico border.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Narcotics Rewards Program: Ismael Zambada-Garcia". U.S. Department of State. 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2009. 
  2. ^ Flores, Linaloe R. (20 February 2011). "Cuna de narcos se hunde en la miseria". El Universal (Mexico City) (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  3. ^ De la Luz González, María (19 March 2009). "Detienen al hijo de El Mayo Zambada". El Universal (in Spanish). Mexico City. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Scherer, Julio (4 April 2010). "El Mayo dice que Calderón perderá la guerra antinarco". El Informador (Mexico) (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mexico's most wanted traffickers, at $2 million". Associated Press. 27 March 2009. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JESUS VICENTE ZAMBADA-NIEBLA" (PDF). United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 11 October 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Lyman 2010, p. 292.
  8. ^ Aguilar Valenzuela, Rubén (24 August 2011). "El Cártel del Pacífico". El Economista (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  9. ^ President to send more troops to northeastern Mexico. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  10. ^ "México ofrece millonarias recompensas por 37 líderes del narco". Univision. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  11. ^ Miró, Ramón J. (February 2003). "ORGANIZED CRIME AND TERRORIST ACTIVITY IN MEXICO, 1999-2002" (Portable Document Format). Washington D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 49. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Winslow, Don (8 January 2016). "'El Chapo's' capture: Is the mission really accomplished?". CNN News. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  13. ^ "Did feds cut deal with Mexican kingpin's son?". Michael Tarm. NBC News. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  14. ^ a b "Ismael Zambada-Garcia". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  15. ^ America's Most Wanted Archived 8 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Weissert, Will (11 February 2009). "Portrait Of A Mexican Drug Lord". CBS News. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "Top drug cartel suspect arrested in Mexico". CNN. Mexico City. 22 October 2008. Archived from the original on 25 October 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "Mexico captures high-level cartel member". MSNBC. 19 March 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Vicente Zambada Niebla se declara culpable por narcotráfico en EU". cnn.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  20. ^ "RIODOCE". RioDoce. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  21. ^ "Cinco décadas sin ser atrapado: así es 'el Mayo' Zambada, líder del Cártel de Sinaloa". Animal Político. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  22. ^ "Los lujos que exhibía el hijo de El Mayo - Univision". univision.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016. 
  23. ^ "Zambada Garcia Financial Network" (Portable Document Format). United States Department of the Treasury. May 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  24. ^ Valdez, Cynthia (19 June 2014). "Muere electrocutado yerno de 'El Mayo' Zambada" (in Spanish). Milenio. Archived from the original on 19 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 


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