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Did Mexican Authorities Fake El Chapo Capture Attempt?

A 2012 operation to catch "El Chapo" is missing from police records A 2012 operation to catch "El Chapo" is missing from police records

In February 2012, Mexican police announced they had come close to capturing the world's most elusive kingpin, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. However, a newspaper investigation found that there is no record that the supposed operation to snag the Sinaloa Cartel boss ever took place.

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El Chapo's apparent close call made headlines around the world, especially after the Mexican authorities released lurid details of how the capo only escaped thanks to canceling a planned tryst with a prostitute because she was menstruating.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas Martinez revealed details of the operation, telling the media how police had raided a mansion in Punta Ballena at the beach resort of Los Cabos in Baja California. According to Salinas, they discovered firearms on the premises and arrested a gardener, cook, pilot and the sex worker, whose names were never released.

The operation supposedly took place on 21 February, the day after then-US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had met business leaders in the town.

However, when Mexican newspaper El Universal submitted a Freedom of Information request about the operation, the Federal Police, who supposedly participated in the raid, replied they had no record of any operation in the region on that day. The only record the police had of operations in the region around that time was the opening of an investigation in Punta Bellena two days after the supposed raid.

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The supposed raid on El Chapo's Los Cabos mansion was lauded at the time as the closest the Mexican authorities had come to nabbing the world's most famous active narco-trafficker since his 2007 wedding festivities.

As InSight Crime noted at the time, efforts to capture El Chapo were especially prominent in the run-up to the 2012 elections. This led to speculation that then-President Felipe Calderon and his National Action Party (PAN) were hoping to claw their way back into the race through the arrest of El Chapo, which they hoped would vindicate Calderon's controversial security policies to a skeptical electorate.

The Mexican authorities have yet to respond to El Universal's accusations. Unless they produce an explanation involving a massive administrative oversight, then they will have serious questions to answer, either over how operations were carried out unofficially, or who would create a fictitious police operation, and why.

One possibility is that the Federal Police leadership made up the details of the operation to distract attention from their bungling of the hunt for El Chapo. Writing in blog Borderland Beat in March last year, journalist Jaime Dettmer said unnamed insider sources told him that the Federal Police accidentally alerted El Chapo to the fact they were on his trail just hours before the raid was scheduled to take place, then leaked the story in order to cover the blunder.

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