A new series was added to Netflix on August 5, World’s Most Wanted, a true crime look at the world’s most notorious criminal fugitives. Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia is one of the five people featured on the docu-series. Zambada is a 72-year-old Mexican drug lord believed to be the leader of the Sinaloa cartel based in Sinaloa state, Mexico.
In 2003, Zambada was charged by the FBI along with many other high-ranking members of the Sinaloa cartel following a lengthy investigation into their activities. The main indictment focuses on Zambada and two of his sons and accuses them of importing large amounts of drugs including cocaine and methamphetamine into Mexico. The defendants are accused of smuggling these drugs from Mexico into San Diego “via automobiles, tractor trailers, trucks, fishing vessels and tunnels and stored at various stash houses, safe houses and warehouses” before they are distributed throughout the U.S.
Although he has been charged, Zambada has not been captured to date and is considered a wanted fugitive. Here’s what you need to know:
He Has Been Wanted in Mexico Since 1998 & the U.S. Government Issued a $5 Million Reward for Information Leading to His Arrest
Zambada was born on January 1, 1948, in Mexico and is described as being 5’9″ and weighing 160 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. A research paper into Mexican criminal and terrorist activity by the Library of Congress’s Federal Research Division described Zambada as a former farmer with “extensive agricultural and botanical knowledge.” The drug lord is said to be great at building alliances with other cartels as well as Colombian suppliers.
The Mexican government issued a wanted notice for Zambada in 1998 with a $2.8 million bounty. In 2002, the Bush administration described Zambada as a “drug kingpin.” The American government wrote in a wanted poster that Zambada rose to prominence in the 1990s as a key member of drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and one of the main figures in the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes Organization.
Zambada’s area of operations is believed to be in the Sinaloa and Nayarit states with influence along the country’s Pacific coast and in Cancun, Quintana Roo, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. He was indicted by the U.S. government in 2003 and an arrest warrant was issued. The U.S. government’s bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs issued a wanted notice for Zambada and wrote that it was offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that would lead to an arrest or conviction.
It Is Unclear If He Is Still in Full Control of the Sinaloa Cartel & Is Believed to Be Suffering From Health Issues
Zambada previously shared control of the Sinaloa cartel with infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman until the latter was arrested in 2016. Since then, Zambada has been the sole leader of the cartel, although there have been reports lately that El Chapo’s sons could be challenging him for control of the cartel.
An article in the Mazatlan Post in March 2020 said that Zambada may have lost control of the Sinaloa cartel to the sons of El Chapo after months of internal struggle. On one side, El Chapo’s sons known as “Los Chapitos” engaged hitmen reporting to Néstor Ernesto Pérez Salas, “El Nini.” On the other side, Zambada’s primary enforcer is “El Ruso,” the Russian. Cartel expert and former U.S. official Robert Almonte said, “I would say that [Zambada’s] faction is most vulnerable. I believe that the Chapitos have the advantage because they are much younger than [Zambada], who is 72 years old. My guess if that is that more Sinaloa Cartel members would side with the Chapitos… out of loyalty to [El Chapo].”
Zambada hasn’t been seen in years and it’s unclear where he is, although The Sun reported that he may be in hiding in the mountains in Sinaloa. The outlet wrote that in an interview with Proceso, he said, “I don’t know if I’d have the courage to kill myself. I’d like to think so, that I’d kill myself,” instead of facing jail time. In an interview with Infobae, former DEA director Mike Vigil mentioned that Zambada is “old and sick with diabetes.”