A reputed narcotrafficker suspected of controlling smuggling routes in the Valley of Juárez for Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel was killed in a shootout on Thursday, Chihuahua officials said Friday.
Gabino Salas Valenciano, known as “El Ingeniero” (the engineer), was reputedly a lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel and was suspected in a wave of terror in the valley as one of the principal players during the drug cartel war that engulfed the Juárez region.
Salas was reputedly a regional cartel boss who oversaw drug trafficking in the farms and small towns in the Valley of Juárez in a busy smuggling zone across the border from the Fabens and Fort Hancock area.
Authorities said Salas was killed after a chase and shootout with local, state and federal agents near the town of Praxedis G. Guerrero. Four men were arrested and taken to Mexico City.
Juárez police sources told the Norte newspaper that Salas was allegedly directly involved in the recent attacks on Juárez police, which were in retaliation for attempts to capture him.
The Sinaloa cartel led by reputed kingpin Guzman is believed to have seized control of the valley southeast of Juárez during the war with the Juárez drug cartel.
Salas was wanted in El Paso by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on multiple charges, including drug conspiracy, smuggling of cocaine and marijuana, kidnapping and murder.
U.S. federal criminal complaint documents stated that Salas inherited control of the valley drug trafficking organization following the death of his brother, Valente Salas, who was decapitated by rivals.
In vengeance for the deaths of his brother and a cousin, Gabino Salas allegedly ordered the burning of ranches, homes and vehicles in the Valley of Juárez in 2008.
In 2012, Gabino Salas was among two dozen accused members of the Sinaloa cartel indicted by the U.S. government in an indictment that named Guzman down to local bosses accused of running drug warehouses in Juárez.
The indictment stated that Gabino Salas had initially distributed drugs for both the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels. When the cartel war began, he aligned with Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel.
The indictment listed Gabino Salas as a member of the Gente Nueva (new people) group within the Sinaloa cartel and as the “plaza boss” over the Valley of Juárez, where he was responsible for managing drug distribution, drug proceeds, security, weapons procurement and several assassination squads.