U.S. lifts sanctions on senior figure in Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel

MEXICO CITY — The United States lifted financial sanctions on a top lieutenant of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel on Wednesday, saying Jesus “El Rey” Zambada, who gave testimony against kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, had shown behavioral change.

Information published by the U.S. Treasury Department said that Zambada was removed from the sanctions list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

A department spokesman said Zambada was no longer engaged in sanctionable activities.

El Rey, or The King, was arrested in 2008 after a gunbattle in Mexico City, where he was suspected of controlling smuggling through the capital’s international airport. He was extradited to the United States four years later.

The goal of sanctions is behavioral change, the spokesman said, adding that El Rey demonstrated a change in “behavior and circumstances.” A person could be re-designated to the sanctions list should new evidence or circumstances merit, he said.

Brother to the head of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, El Rey was a witness at the trial in the United States of former cartel boss Guzman in 2019.

El Mayo’s son, Vicente Zambada, also testified.

The two witnesses had pleaded guilty to U.S. charges and agreed to testify against Guzman, accused of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States.

Guzman was convicted by a jury and is imprisoned in the United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has previously said El Rey is not in its custody, leading to speculation he may be in a witness protection program. (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; writing by Cassandra Garrison; editing by Grant McCool)

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