El Chapo’s Escape Puts Latin America on Alert

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Multiple governments across Latin America have announced security measures in response to the escape of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, indicative of the Sinaloa Cartel’s broad reach in the region.

El Chapo escaped from a federal prison for the second time in his criminal career on July 11. His recapture in 2014 was a milestone for Mexican authorities, making his recent getaway all the more embarrassing

The Mexican government has since doubled the bounty on Chapo’s head, fired the head of police intelligence, and promised to identify the prison officials involved in the scheme. Meanwhile, international law enforcement organization Interpol issued a red notice for the Sinaloa Cartel leader. 

Given the extent to which the Sinaloa Cartel runs drug trafficking operations abroad — which includes a reported presence in Australia and Asia — other Latin American nations have reacted strongly to Chapo’s escape. Guatemalan authorities announced they were reinforcing security along their borders to ensure that Chapo does not take refuge in the country. Honduras committed to a more intense monitoring of private flights crossing their airspace, while El Salvador’s police also asserted they had increased vigilance over their frontiers and points of entry.   

SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo

South American nations have issued similar responses. Colombia’s anti-narcotics head Ricardo Restrepo Londoño told local media that authorities are looking out for increased activity between Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office confirmed that they have opened an investigation into three companies linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and blacklisted by the US Treasury Department. 

InSight Crime Analysis

El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel have extensive contacts and resources outside of Mexico, meaning there is a distinct possibility the drug lord may flee abroad. Notably, prior to his first imprisonment, El Chapo fled to Guatemala, where he was captured and extradited to Mexico in 1993.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

Nevertheless, staying in Mexico may give El Chapo a greater advantage, as he may have better luck corrupting local authorities in what has long been his principle homebase. 

Latin American nations are doubtlessly hyper-aware of the embarrassment that El Chapo’s escape has inflicted on Mexico, and will not want to risk being made to look like fools themselves. But while hunting for a top drug lord makes for good headlines, there are other ways that security agencies across the region can more effectively take action against El Chapo: dismantling the local criminal networks that aid the Sinaloa Cartel. 

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