After more than 13 years on the run, the infamous leader of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico has finally been caught. Joaquin Guzmán, known as “El Chapo” for his short stature, was caught on February 22 after joint efforts between the Mexican Marines and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA.)
Before dawn that day, the team of Mexican marines raided Guzmán’s beachside condominium in the resort town of Mazatlán. The marines insured the occupants of the condominium were asleep using infrared and body heat scanners before entering the building.
When they entered, they found the drug king asleep shirtless next to his beauty queen wife along with an AK-47 within reach. Guzmán’s 2-year-old twin daughters and his bodyguard were also asleep in the next room.
The arrest was preceded by months of extensive findings by the DEA and Mexican authorities that led them closer to Guzmán. In recent months, authorities arrested several members of the Sinaloa cartel and discovered a system of tunnels underneath seven houses in Culiacan. Mexican marines almost captured Guzmán the previous week, but Guzmán narrowly escaped arrest by exiting one of the houses through a hatch beneath a bathtub.
Serafin Zambada-Ortiz, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, one of Guzmán’s lieutenants and heir-apparent of the Sinaloa Cartel, was arrested in November 2013. The arrests of cartel members, followed by an examination of their cell phone usage, led authorities ever closer to the quasi-mythical Guzmán.
Guzmán maintained a legendary status in Mexico as an impossible to capture figure. In 2001, he escaped Puente Grande prison in a laundry cart. He is known for bribing his way out of situations, and stories abound of his paying the tabs of entire restaurants in order to escape the law. Yet he is also known for his generous habit of giving out money freely to those in need.
While Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is claiming this to be a success in the war on drugs, many other still believe that this latest arrest could still spell trouble for the Mexican state. With this power vacuum, drug cartels could ramp up their violent activities in an effort to win more turf. Further, the drug business drove billions of dollars into the state of Sinaloa, which will now need to rely on another source of income.
– Jeff Meyer