Photo: El Chapo capture
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Saturday confirmed the arrest of the world’s most notorious and powerful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, saying he was captured by marines during a joint security-force operation in the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan.
“I want to recognize the work of the Mexican government’s security institutions in apprehending Joaquin Guzman Loera in Mazatlan,” Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter.
He said coordinated work involving the country’s Government Secretariat, the Navy Secretariat, the federal Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Police and the intelligence service was “decisive” in tracking down the elusive kingpin.
The government “works to guarantee safety and the rule of law on Mexican soil,” the president, who took office in late 2012, said of his administration’s biggest victory on the drug-war front.
A few hours later, Attorney General Jesus Murillo said in a message to the media that Guzman was arrested at 6:40 a.m. Saturday “without a single shot fired,” that he had been “100 percent” identified and would be transferred briefly to an unspecified prison.
Murillo said an associate of Guzman’s was arrested in the same operation, which was months in the making and “impeccably executed.”
Mexican authorities had the “full collaboration of U.S. agencies,” the attorney general said.
U.S. authorities had been offering $5 million for information leading to Guzman’s capture, while the Mexican government had offered to pay about half that amount.
The 56-year-old Guzman got his start in the drug business as a lieutenant of Miguel Angel Felix-Gallardo, top leader of the Guadalajara cartel, in the 1980s.
He was a pioneer in transporting cocaine and marijuana from Colombia to the United States in large Boeing aircraft, which later returned loaded with millions of dollars in small bills.
Felix-Gallardo’s arrest and prosecution in 1989 led the Guadalajara cartel being divided up and Guzman relocating to Culiacan and founding the Sinaloa cartel (after the like-named northwestern Mexican state) and consolidating himself as Mexico’s leading drug-trafficking figure.
Guzman was eventually captured in 1993 in Guatemala and sent back to Mexico, where he was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
On Jan. 19, 2001, with just seven months remaining on his sentence, Guzman escaped from the Puente Grande penitentiary in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, pulling off the Hollywood-style jailbreak by hiding in a cart full of dirty laundry in front of guards.
It marked the first time in Mexico that an inmate had escaped from a maximum-security facility and the incident shed light on how thoroughly the drug mobs’ tentacles extended to all corners of Mexico’s penal system.
Guzman’s cartel rose to become one of the main sources of illicit drugs coming into the United States, and he became so notorious that the Chicago Crime Commission has labeled him “Public Enemy No. 1,” an epithet first bestowed on Al Capone.
Indeed, federal authorities in the Windy City said Saturday after Guzman’s arrest was announced that they want to have him extradited to the United States and tried there.
The Mexican kingpin’s drug wealth also has led to his name regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires.