Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, a son of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was one of six people kidnapped from a restaurant early Monday
in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta.
The kidnapping could be a significant blow to the Sinaloa Federation's power structure, the law enforcement official said. With its leader and figurehead behind bars, Sinaloa has been fighting to maintain dominance in the region amid challenges from rival cartel, Jalisco New Generation.
Officials suspect that Jalisco New Generation may be responsible for the kidnappings.
Alfredo, 29, and his brother, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman, are thought to be involved with the Sinaloa cartel, along with Guzman's son by another woman, Ovidio Guzman Lopez.
"This is an important development because it affects the power structure of the Sinaloa cartel. His son was supposed to be part of the new leadership," a senior Mexican law enforcement official said, referring to Alfredo.
But, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation, intelligence suggests Alfredo was not taking his role with organization seriously and was "caught off guard," allowing the abduction to happen.
"[He's] been partying a lot," the source says of Alfredo.
A senior Mexican law enforcement said police are searching for the kidnapped men in Michoacán, Nayarit, Jalisco and a fourth state he did not name.
A war of cartels
Witness interviews, surveillance video and a search of five vehicles parked outside La Leche restaurant where the incident occurred led to the identification of Jesus Alfredo and three other men. They all have ties to organized crime, Jalisco Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer said at a news conference Tuesday.
The additional men were identified as Juan Daniel Calva Tapia, 53, Josias Nahujali Rabago Borbolla, 35, and Víctor Galvan Ureña, 46.
"At this moment, we have identified four of the kidnapped," Almaguer said, "one of them being Jesus Alfredo Guzman."
The Mexican army, marines, federal police, state police and the country's top prosecution office are searching for the missing men and their kidnappers, Almaguer said.
No one has contacted Mexican authorities to report the men missing, and authorities have not heard from the kidnappers either, Almaguer said.
Jesus Alfredo is the youngest of El Chapo's two children from his first marriage. His older brother, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman, was imprisoned in Mexico in 2005 but released three years later for lack of evidence.
Earlier Tuesday, Guzman family attorney Pablo Badillo said it was "very likely" that Ivan Archivaldo was abducted from the restaurant. Badillo told CNN the Guzman family contacted him Tuesday afternoon and told him that "the possibility of Ivan Archivaldo having been abducted is very high."
But a senior Mexican law enforcement official could not confirm that Archivaldo was among those missing.
Jalisco's Attorney General had also said Archivaldo was among those kidnapped, though he eventually backpedaled on the claim.
Archivaldo's name did not come up at Tuesday night's news conference, and it was not immediately clear whether he was among those kidnapped.
El Chapo is behind bars in a Juarez, Mexico, prison as his attorneys fight efforts to extradite him to the United States.