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.”
Misión cumplida: lo tenemos. Quiero informar a los mexicanos que Joaquín Guzmán Loera ha sido detenido.
? Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) January 8, 2016
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.
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.