Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was reportedly recaptured in Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on January 8 via Twitter.

After his initial tweet announcing Guzmán's arrest, Peña Nieto went on to thank Mexico's security cabinet for "this important accomplishment."  

Guzmán has been captured twice before: in 1993 and 2014. Both times he escaped from prison, the last time in July 2015, in dramatic fashion via a 1.6 km tunnel carved underneath a maximum security prison.

El Universal reported that the arrest was the result of an operation by Mexico's Navy, a force that is, by and large, perceived as the premier anti-drug unit. Earlier on January 8, the navy released a statement describing a shoot-out with criminal elements in Los Mochis, a small city in Sinaloa, resulting in five dead and six detained.

The manhunt also included what appeared to be a frantic search through the city's sewer system. On one prior attempt to capture him in early 2014, Guzmán had escaped via the sewer system in the city of Culiacan. In Los Mochis, several news outlets, such as the Los Angeles Times, reported that Guzmán and others with him had escaped via the sewers and stolen a car before authorities finally entrapped them. 

Notably, Los Mochis is an area that was traditionally controlled by a one-time faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), which has violently clashed with Guzmán since 2008, but has dwindled in power since. The house where Guzmán was allegedly living is near the house of the mother of the current Sinaloa governor, one witness to the operation told Univisión TV. 

The navy has a long history of collaboration with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and were behind the near recapture of Guzmán in October 2015. The navy is also responsible for arresting or killing many of Mexico's top drug traffickers, including another mythical figure in Mexico's underworld who went by the alias "The Craziest One," and El Chapo's ally-turned-rival, Arturo Beltrán Leyva.

16-01-08-chaporecapture

Images of Chapo's arrest, via Animal Politico 

InSight Crime Analysis

There are several questions following Guzmán's recapture. The first is whether Peña Nieto's government will swiftly initiate extradition proceedings against the Sinaloa Cartel leader and how long this will take. Previously, this was a sticking point between the two countries, with Mexico reluctant to send Guzmán to the US before he stood trial for his crimes in Mexico

However, following Guzmán's escape from a high-security prison in July 2015, Mexico proceeded to extradite over a dozen suspected drug traffickers to the US. In political and diplomatic terms, Mexican authorities would have a difficult time maintaining their previous position that Guzmán should first face justice in Mexico.

Still, some might see Chapo's extradition to the US as an embarrassing admission of the depth of incompetence in Mexico. What's more, Chapo may have some other tricks up his sleeve. His legal team will undoubtedly file an injunction, or what's called an "amparo" in Mexico, calling the extradition unconstitutional and delaying the extradition process. The amparo could slow the extradition process for months, if not years.

But as his rivals in the Beltrán Leyva Organization found, even the amparo has its limits. And Mexican analysts, such as Alejandro Hope at the El Daily Post, say that the extradition is inevitable. (See video below)

 

The recapture of El Chapo. Read Alejandro Hope's analysis here: http://bit.ly/1OVUhBs

Posted by El Daily Post on Friday, January 8, 2016

The second question concerns Peña Nieto's presidency. The administration will likely continue to tout Guzmán's arrest as an "important accomplishment," and it may boost his standing, at least in the short term.

The issue will be how Peña Nieto continues the momentum. Last year was a tough one for the president in terms of security issues: besides Guzmán's escape, the government was also found to have bungled the investigation into 43 missing students, who disappeared after police attacked a caravan of protestors. 

The third question concerns the Sinaloa Cartel. It remains one of the most powerful, monolithic drug trafficking empires in Mexico, and there is little to suggest that Chapo's jailing will severely hamper their worldwide drug distribution services. Still, if Chapo is extradited there will be a finality to his story that Mexico could not provide.   

*This story has been updated since it was first published by Steven Dudley. It will continue to be updated as more information on Guzmán's recapture emerges. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...