(CNN) The verdict in the trial of the once-powerful leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel will have little impact on the operations of the world’s largest drug trafficking organization or the tons of narcotics it smuggles into the United States, according to experts.
Cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, 61, was found guilty Tuesday of all 10 federal criminal accounts against him, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds, international distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs, and use of firearms.
But the high-profile federal prosecution in New York is a largely symbolic victory for authorities in Mexico and the United States, where the cartel — based mostly in the Mexican state of Sinaloa — continues to control most major narcotics markets.
In his absence, the cartel’s day-to-day operations have been largely handled by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a longtime associate of Guzmán’s.
At trial, defense lawyers argued that Zambada — who was also named in the superseding indictment against Guzmán — bribed the Mexican government to frame El Chapo and remain free to run the cartel.
“El Mayo Zambada and Sinaloa have continued and thrived and flourished,” said Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami expert on Mexico’s cartels who has followed the trial.
Ray Donovan, the DEA special agent who spearheaded the 22-agency effort that led to Guzmán’s capture, told CNN that the Sinaloa cartel still supplies the vast majority of US drug markets.
“He’s not in the best of health and if Mayo Zambada dies or if he’s captured, that will severely cripple the Sinaloa cartel because Chapo Guzmán’s sons have never gotten their hands dirty.
The Jalisco New Generation cartel has been one of the world’s fastest-growing drug organizations since its split from Guzmán’s group in 2010, according to a DEA assessment.
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