Photo: Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the world’s most notorious and powerful drug lord, faces dozens of charges in the United States, where officials in Chicago labeled him “Public Enemy No. 1,” putting the Sinaloa cartel boss on a par with the infamous gangster Al Capone.
Guzman was captured by the security forces during a joint U.S.-Mexican operation in the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan on Saturday.
The 56-year-old Guzman faces charges in at least three U.S. federal courts for criminal conspiracy, money laundering and conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States.
U.S. authorities had been offering a reward of $5 million for information leading to Guzman’s capture, while the Mexican government had offered about half that amount.
U.S. officials have not filed a formal extradition request for Guzman and are aware that the Mexican Attorney General’s Office may decide to prosecute the drug lord before letting him face trial in the United States, The Washington Post reported, citing U.S. officials.
A coordinated operation staged by the 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, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Saturday.
Guzman was arrested “without a single shot fired,” Attorney General Jesus Murillo said.
The Sinaloa cartel boss has been wanted since 1993 by a federal court in Arizona and is also wanted by federal courts in San Diego, California, and the Northern District of Illinois.
Guzman is accused of turning Chicago into a major drug distribution center, allegedly moving between 1,500 and 2,000 kilos a month through the Midwestern city, officials said.
The Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman the city’s “Public Enemy No. 1” last year, bestowing the same dubious honor on him that Al Capone received in 1930 and no other criminal had been given since the Prohibition-era gangster.
“El Chapo has easily surpassed the carnage and social destruction that was caused by Capone,” the Chicago Crime Commission said on its Web site.
Guzman got his start in the drug business as a lieutenant of Miguel Angel Felix-Gallardo, the 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 to the Guadalajara cartel being divided up and Guzman relocating to Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, and founding the Sinaloa cartel.
Guzman was eventually captured in 1993 in Guatemala and sent back to Mexico, where he was convicted of bribery.
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 criminal justice system.
Guzman’s cartel rose to become one of the main sources of illicit drugs coming into the United States.
The Mexican kingpin’s drug wealth also has led to his name regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires.