Drug cartel leader El Chapo arrested in Mazatlan

el-chapo-arrest.jpgJoaquín Guzmán Loera, the kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel who escaped from prison in a laundry cart 13 years ago, was taken into custody Saturday morning in a raid on a condominium tower in coastal Mazatlán. The New York Times story calls it the biggest arrest in Mexico in a generation. Guzmán was walked before news media cameras at the airport before being loaded onto a helicopter. From the NYT:

Mexican marines and the police, aided by information from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, immigration and customs officials and the United States Marshals Service, took him into custody without firing a shot, according to American and Mexican officials.


Mexico’s attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, said a later forensic exam made it “100 percent” certain the man was Mr. Guzmán; the tests were done to avoid the kind of embarrassment Mexican officials faced in June 2012 when they announced the arrest of Mr. Guzmán’s son, only to later discover it was not him.

He faces a slew of drug trafficking and organized crime charges in the United States, which had offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is considered the largest and most powerful trafficking organization in the world, with a reach as far as Europe and Asia, and has been a main combatant in a spasm of violence that has left tens of thousands dead in Mexico.

“Big strike,” said a Twitter posting by former President Felipe Calderón, who had made cracking down on drug gangs a hallmark of his tenure.

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In the years since he escaped arrest, Mr. Guzmán took on near-mythic status. He landed on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. He picked up the tab for entire restaurants, or so the stories go, to ensure diners would remain silent about his outings. According to a leaked diplomatic cable, he surrounded himself with an entourage of 300 armed men for protection. And narcocorridos, folk ballads in tribute to drug lords, were sung in his honor.

The LA Times story agrees with the significance of the arrest. Say Richard Fausset and Tracy Wilkinson:

For Mexicans, the capture of Guzman, reported Saturday to have occurred in a joint operation by Mexican marines and U.S. federal agents in the Sinaloan coastal city of Mazatlan, is somewhat akin to Colombia’s killing of Pablo Escobar -- or even the U.S. elimination of Osama bin Laden.


His luxurious life on the run was the stuff of legend. More than once, he was reported to have entered a fancy restaurant, ordered cellphones confiscated, dined lavishly, then picked up everyone’s check.

So apparently untouchable was he, that his young beauty queen wife traveled uncontested by authorities to Los Angeles to give birth to twin girls in 2011.

In recent years, Guzman extended the operations of his Sinaloa cartel to an estimated 50 countries across Latin America, Africa and Europe, even hooking up with one of the most notorious Italian mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta.



More by Kevin Roderick:
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Drug cartel leader El Chapo arrested in Mazatlan
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