"Chapo" Guzman Captured in Mazatlan

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, has been captured in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Guzman, accompanied by a female, was captured in a joint operation with Mexican marines and Drug Enforcement Administration authorities overnight at a hotel in the beach resort of Mazatlán. The operation had been in the works for four or five weeks, the official said.

Will he stay in custody long enough to be extradited to the U.S.? He's facing multiple Indictments in the U.S. Which District will they take him to first? Perhaps San Diego?

This is a huge coup for law enforcement, but it won't make a bit of difference as to the availability of drugs in the U.S. Like any major corporation, the cartel will have plenty of people ready to take his place. No one is indispensable. [More...]

There was a short news conference and Chapo was not "presented" to the media for photos. He was whisked into a waiting helicopter.

Chapo was captured at the Miramar Hotel in Mazatlan.

The Washington Post has more. According to the press conference in Mexico, the operation was conducted by the Mexican Marines. Earlier this week, they raided the home of Chapo's ex-wife,Griselda Pérez López. That led to other homes, 7 in all, which were connected by tunnels. They could have arrested him a few days ago, but for safety reasons, they waited until this morning. The U.S. was not part of the raid, although it provided information to the Mexican agencies.

The press conference in Spanish is here. President Nieto's tweets are here.

Authorities have yet to capture Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the remaining leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Also still uncaptured: Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul."

The DEA in Chicago wants Chapo to be brought there. But he has several federal indictments pending, including Arizona, El Paso, San Diego, Chicago, and New York, so it isn't clear where he would go.

One of those believed to have provided information critical to the arrest is Jesús Peña aka "El 20″, security chief to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who was arrested Thursday.

Update: The transcript of the press conference of Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, is here. An English translation:

Karam: Hello. At 6:40 this morning Semar personnel arrested (Chapo Guzman) in Mazatlan, along with a collaborator. We made you wait this long for a press conference because we wanted to be completely sure of his identity, which has now been done by PGR investigators. We are 100% certain. He has been examined by doctors and shortly will be transferred to an appropriate prison.

This operation took several months of work and planning between all Federal agencies who have collaborated on this matter, and the arrest was performed impeccably by Semar personnel.

During this last month, this operation had several definitive moments leading to the capture. From February 13 to February 17, we located several homes where he was in the habit of staying. The 7 homes were connected by tunnels to other homes in the area and to the sewer drainage system. The doors to the homes were steel reinforced, and the few minutes it took to get through them were enough to allow them (suspects) to escape through the tunnels.

Be the investigation was so thorough and complete that we continued to follow up. (We kept up with Chapo) constantly and could have taken him on several occasions. But we used caution and common sense and chose to take him in a way tht did not endanger the public. We took him down without a shot being fired, with nobody hurt.

This coordination between all (Mexican) security agencies also had information from certain U.S. agencies. This arrest is the 75th arrest of the targets we said we were going to get. We will keep working to make Mexico safer.

I just want to say that in this simple operation, we seized the following:

  • 13 detainees
  • 97 rifles (armas largas)
  • 36 pistols (armas cortas)
  • 2 grenade launchers
  • 1 missile launcher
  • 43 vehicles, 19 of which were armored
  • 16 homes
  • 4 ranches,etc

This is a clear demonstration of the effort we are making in this country to disarm organized crime groups. Thank you.

The DEA was not part of the arrest operation. The U.S. (Homeland Security and ICE) merely provided intelligence information.

< Friday Morning Open Thread. | Mexico Charges Chapo Guzman >
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    Given the grief that Guzman has ... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 02:15:05 PM EST
    ... allegedly caused his own countrymen, Mexico will want its pound of flesh, too.

    But you're right. Guzman's capture creates a vacuum that will demand to be filled, and there will always be someone who'll answer the bell.


    How long he stays (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mikado Cat on Sat Feb 22, 2014 at 10:46:50 PM EST
    in custody could be the biggest issue, maybe tied to that how much control he retains over assets and his organization.

    He bribed his way out of Mexican custody ... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:02:14 PM EST
    ... 13 years ago. Given the ensuing mayhem and subsequent carnage for which he may well be responsible, Mexico is hardly likely to allow any such re-occurrence.

    All of Mexico (none / 0) (#6)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:37:32 AM EST
    doesn't need to be bribed for him to escape. Somebody high up enough to transfer him to the "right" location, or at the right time, then maybe a few as a dozen lower level officials.

    Keep in mind none of these drug guys would be arrested without bribes from the US government, I mean technical support or whatever you want to call it putting money into the right pockets.

    OTOH he is caught because a good part of the top layer of his organization rolled on him, so he may be thrown under the bus by somebody taking over.


    What do you mean, "All of Mexico"? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 02:51:07 PM EST
    Joaquin Guzmán wasn't arrested by all of Mexico. From what I understand, he's being held in custody in a fortified compound under guard by the Mexican naval forces that captured him.

    Generally, a Latin American country's military is an entirely different animal from its civil authorities, and their elite units are generally much less subject to corruption by criminal elements than are the police. This is especially so with the Mexican Navy and Marines, who were responsible for Guzmán's recent capture.

    (As for the Mexican Army, well, according to a study conducted by U.S. Army intelligence, nearly 60% of its 250,000 members left over a six-year period to take on paramilitary roles and duties in the service of the drug cartels themselves.)  

    In many urban cities such as Juárez (which is the fourth largest city in Mexico), the military were brought in because of a corresponding breakdown in civilian capabilities to maintain law and order, and precisely because it is much less likely that their personnel can be bought off by the cartels. That's not to say that it hasn't happened occasionally, because it has, but the odds of probability are much less.

    Of course, the Mexican military has also paid a price for its assertive role in re-establishing order in places like Juárez, with Marines and naval personnel being targeted specifically by cartel gunmen. Over 1,000 military personnel thus far have lost their lives in either direct operations against the cartels, or in  retaliatory acts by cartel gunmen during the Mexican Drug War (2006-present).

    And before any of us get on our high horses and start clucking over what's happening south of the border, it should be noted that the cartels (on at least two occasions of which I'm aware) were able to successfully infiltrate and corrupt members of both the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization and the Texas National Guard. In the latter case, National Guard vehicles were actually used to transport cocaine from the border to Houston. And a pretty lively and lucrative underground gunrunning trade has long flourished along the U.S.-Mexican border for the better part of 150 years.

    (It was the purported activities of U.S. arms traffickers that in all likelihood prompted the Mexican warlord Gen. Francisco "Pancho" Villa's infamous armed raid on the American border town of Columbus, NM in March 1916. Having allegedly been cheated by gunrunners operating out of Columbus, Villa led 500 soldiers in a full-scale assault on the town, which was eventually repelled by elements of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment then stationed nearby -- but not before the vicious firefight took the lives of 73 Villistas, 8 American soldiers and 10 Columbus residents.)

    All in all, however, the U.S.-fueled "War on Drugs" has been a miserable failure which has caused no small amount of grief for our immediate neighbors south of the border. Over 106,000 Mexicans have either been killed or are currently missing since the Drug War began in 2006. You'd think that eight years would be enough to note the pattern here, whereas the more money and efforts we expend fighting the cartels down there, the more the violence escalates both down there and up here.



    I agree (none / 0) (#16)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:05:42 PM EST
    But money is like water, applied with pressure it finds any cracks or leaks in a system. What remains to be seen is how long the military retains control of him, and how much money and pressure he can muster.

    Questions about the amount of US cooperation (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:31:36 PM EST
    are being asked at Empty Wheel.

    Decriminalizing (none / 0) (#4)
    by MKS on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:17:55 PM EST
    or legalizing drugs here would do wonders for getting rid of corruption in Mexico.

    I hope (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:41:24 AM EST
    we see signs of it soon. Corrupt official won't just stop wanting money once drug money dries up, it could get worse before better as they attempt to collect in other ways.

    Not as much as you think (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 07:31:58 AM EST

    Especially when non-drug business makes up anywhere from 15-55% of the cartels' business.  They would just turn their attention to those countries where drugs are still illegal and focus on the non-drug business here.


    In Other Words... (none / 0) (#9)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:46:08 AM EST
    ...they have absolutely no idea.  Imagine a business plan with a prediction from a sixth to a half, it would be pretty hard to make the case they know what you are talking about with that kind of variation.

    But let's say a sixth, if you were to scale that to the entire related criminal enterprise, that would mean a sixth of the crime/criminals, a sixth of the cash, a sixth of the people getting caught up in the business, willingly or not.  And on and on, that would be a glorious day in global criminal activity reduction.

    Even a half would surely be a good thing.  Half the Cartels or half the corruption, but I would imagine that drugs provide the cash and the infrastructure to engage a lot of other criminal activity, and if the drug dollars dried up, other crime would decrease exponentially.  But that is my opinion.

    The real question is would that decrease in global crime be worth the damage done by legalizing drugs.  For some like marijuana and MDMA, no doubt, but cocaine and heroin would be a lot harder sell.


    Except (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 10:51:20 AM EST
    The cartels are like water - they will find a way to make money even in drugs are legalized.

    That's why they are really into things like human trafficking now - which is much more profitable.


    That Is Not... (none / 0) (#11)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:26:35 PM EST
    ...the fact you make it out to be, no one knows exactly what would happen, but certainly Cartels aren't going to make money out of nothing.

    And if law enforcement wasn't spinning their wheels chasing drugs, they might actually be able to stop their other ventures like human trafficking.

    It's absurd to say that just because their number one money maker isn't available, they re going to somehow figure how to match that income from other sources.  That just doesn't make sense and if history is to be used, simply didn't happen after the 21st amendment.  The mafia is still around, but has never reached the levels they had in the 30's as far as dollars, corruption, and violence.  

    Their heyday was prohibition in the US.


    Right (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 01:17:29 PM EST
    Because the Mafia went out of business after Prohibition ended. It's still around, and while you claim they don't have the dollars and corruption, I'd like to see a link, please.  

    They are much more savvy then they were in the 20s, and let's not forget little facts (which aren't popular around here), that any declines in violence have a whole lot to do with better law enforcement, more money given to law enforcement, better technology, and the enactment of more laws and stricter penalties being imposed.

    If you think these cartels are just going to throw up their hands and say, "Oh, drugs are legal in the US, so we won't do business there, and we'll have to go get real jobs to make up the shortfall!" then I have some ocean-front property in Arizona to sell you. Drugs are only part of their business model (and that's assuming they don't get into the legal drug trade, but don't bet they will give up violence even if they do).

    Still, legalization would deliver a significant short-term hit to the cartels -- if drug trafficking were the only activity they were engaged in. But cartels derive a growing slice of their income from other illegal activities. Some experts on organized crime in Latin America, like Edgardo Buscaglia, say that cartels earn just half their income from drugs.

    Indeed, in recent years cartels have used an extensive portfolio of rackets and scams to diversify their income. For example, they used to kidnap rivals, informants and incompetent subordinates to punish, exact revenge or send a message. Now that they have seen that people are willing to pay heavy ransoms, kidnapping has become their second-most-lucrative venture, with the targets ranging from businessmen to migrants.

    Another new source of cartel revenue is oil theft, long a problem for the Mexican government. The national oil company, Pemex, loses hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of petroleum every year to bandits and criminal gangs who tap into pipelines and siphon it off. Now the cartels are getting involved in this business, working with associates north of the border to sell the oil to American companies at huge markups.


    Cartels are also moving into the market in pirated goods in Latin America. The market used to be dominated by terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, who operated in the triborder area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Now the field is being overtaken by Mexican cartels, which already have so much control over the sale of pirated CDs, DVDs and software that many legitimate companies no longer even bother to distribute their full-price products in parts of Mexico.

    Taking another page from traditional organized crime, cartels are also moving into extortion. A cartel representative will approach the owner of a business -- whether a pharmacy or a taco stand -- demanding a monthly stipend for "protection." If those payments aren't made on time, the business is often burned to the ground, or the owner is threatened, kidnapped or killed.

    A popular cartel racket involves branded products. For example, a cartel member -- most often from Los Zetas and La Familia Michoacana, two of the largest and most diversified cartels -- will tell a music-store owner that he has to sell CDs with the Zetas logo stamped on them, with the cartel taking a 25 percent cut of the profits. Noncompliance isn't an option.

    With so many lines of business, it's unlikely that Mexican cartels would close up shop in the event of legalization, even if it meant a serious drop in profits from their most successful product. Cartels are economic entities, and like any legitimate company the best are able to adapt in the face of a changing market.

    Alright.... (none / 0) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 04:33:17 PM EST
    ...you are right JB, the Cartells will sustain their stronghold on communities if drugs are legalized through pirated music and knockoffs.  Those Kazaa Kids better watch out or they will get rubbed out by the new piracy cartels in our neighborhoods...

    Like saying De Beers wouldn't be seriously hampered if the diamond market was saturated.  They might spin off an use their resources on other rocks, but diamonds are their bread and butter, much like drugs are the Cartels.

    Never mind that drugs are probably the one key element in the ruthless behavior to begin with...

    You got me.

    From Wiki:

    Another factor contributing to the Mafia's downfall is the assimilation of Italian Americans, which left a shallower recruitment pool of new mobsters. Although the Mafia used to be nationwide, today most of its activities are confined to the Northeast and Chicago. While other criminal organizations such as Russian Mafia, Chinese Triad, Mexican drug cartels and others have all grabbed a share of criminal activities, the Mafia continues to be the dominant criminal organization in these regions, partly due to its strict hierarchical structure. Law enforcement is concerned with the possible resurgence of the Mafia as it regroups from the turmoil of the 1990s and the FBI and local law enforcement agencies focus more on homeland security and away from organized crime since the September 11 attacks. In 2002 the FBI estimated that the Mafia earns $50-$90 billion a year. To avoid FBI attention and prosecution, the modern Mafia also outsources a lot of its work to other criminal groups, such as motorcycle gangs.

    The American Mafia has been in decline since prohibition.


    I know that you dislike being (none / 0) (#15)
    by sj on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 05:14:32 PM EST
    misquoted and misrepresented. But you are doing exactly that to Scott who said this:
    It's absurd to say that just because their number one money maker isn't available, they re going to somehow figure how to match that income from other sources.  That just doesn't make sense and if history is to be used, simply didn't happen after the 21st amendment.  The mafia is still around, but has never reached the levels they had in the 30's as far as dollars, corruption, and violence.  

    Their heyday was prohibition in the US.

    Your misreprentation of ...
    Right (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 12:17:29 PM MDT

    Because the Mafia went out of business after Prohibition ended. It's still around, and while you claim they don't have the dollars and corruption, I'd like to see a link, please.

    ... is very dishonest. The rest of your commentary just goes sideways from there.

    Prohibition ended (none / 0) (#18)
    by Mikado Cat on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 09:49:16 PM EST
    and within years drugs were made illegal, so could have been a smooth transition for the mafia. Impression I get is that many in the illegal alcohol trade had no interest in drugs or other rackets they saw as dirty business.

    Serious money has always been at the government trough, so starting with money and control of a few politicians that is the safe direction for them to go in.


    The history of Mexico (none / 0) (#21)
    by MKS on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 02:30:09 PM EST
    provides context.  

    Getting rid of the profits from illegal drugs would be a huge change.

    Mexico had recently become very corrupt-free in its elections.   The PRI had made Mexico a one party state for decades.  When the PAN won the Presidency, it was a new day.

    Mexico knows how to clean up its government.  Getting rid of the show arrests and other drug related theater and all the profit incentive will help.