Alternative Theories of Chapo Guzman's Arrest

There's an interesting article in the New York Review of Books on the arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. In one portion, it explores alternative theories of his arrest:

Many now believe that Chapo voluntarily turned himself in, that the commandos who went through the building at four in the morning, according to witnesses, were there simply to guarantee the operation’s safety while all the appropriate contracts and agreements were signed, that Emma Coronel was there to say good-bye.

This version does not attempt to explain why Guzmán would feel like ending his life at large, with the prospect of a lifetime of solitary confinement in a US prison before him, but there are many other views about how and why Guzmán was snared.


He was turned in by his closest business associate, the trafficker Ismael Zambada, some argue, because Zambada was suspicious that the arrest of his own top people earlier this month was due to a betrayal by Guzmán. Or, he was at the cheap beachfront apartment with its dinky furniture because he had become overconfident, and was looking forward to watching this coming weekend’s carnival parade with his wife and daughters from the Miramar’s balcony. Or, he was arrested because “something bad” happened between Guzmán, president Enrique Peña Nieto, and the ruling party of Mexico, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI.

I think the speculation that Zambada-Garcia turned on him is the least likely scenario -- as is the reverse speculation that Chapo was intentionally responsible for the recent arrests of Zambada-Garcia's security team members. If the first scenario is correct -- he turned himself in upon agreement with the Mexican Government -- I can't imagine he would do so without a provision that he would not be extradited. That would be a huge slap to the DEA and the U.S. Government.

If he agreed to turn himself in, why would Mexico have needed the DEA's technological assistance in pinpointing his location through his phone?

Chapo obviously knew they were on to him after his narrow escape from the under the bathtub tunnel in Culiacan-- and the arrests of Daniel Fernández Domínguez, aka "The Pelacas", on February 12, Jesus Enrique Sandoval Romero, alias "El 19", the security chief for Ismael Zambada-Garcia, on Feb. 13, and Jesús Peña, aka "El 20", on Feb. 20.

It is curious that knowing of these arrests in Culiacan, he only had one bodyguard with him in Mazatlan. But I doubt he would have exposed his wife and daughters to the imminent physical danger posed by a military squad operation even if the arrest was staged.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I'm not yet convinced by any of the alternative theories that Chapo engineered or was a willing participant in his own arrest, or that he turned on Zambada-Garcia or vice-versa.

It also seems to me the tension between the U.S. and Mexico over Chapo's extradition is real, and Mexico will not turn him over to the U.S. anytime soon. I don't think Mexican President Nieto wants to hold onto Chapo as a symbol of his government's willingness to go after drug traffickers. I think he wants to keep him to milk him for information about the corrupt officials who aided him over the past 13 years. If Nieto can prosecute and convict the public officials, he can claim to have successfully targeted corruption, which is a much bigger trophy than capturing a drug lord. If to do that, he has to make a deal with Chapo, I think there's little doubt he will do so.

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    I don't think he turned himself in, either. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri Feb 28, 2014 at 06:55:20 PM EST
    And I agree with you that the good folks at the U.S. Dept. of Justice shouldn't hold their collective breath awaiting El Chapo's extradition any time soon.

    Further, I don't think many people in this country fully realize the nightmarish extent of the grief that the Drug War has visited upon the people of Mexico, with an estimated 90,000 to 106,000 people dead and missing since internecine hostilities first escalated dramatically in 2006. A further 1.6 million residents have been displaced by the violence, as whole neighborhoods in Ciudad Juarez -- Mexico's 4th largest city -- have been abandoned. Municipal government has all but collapsed in the better part of at least five states.

    Many Mexicans consider the insatiable appetite in the United States for illegal drugs to be the primary cause of their own country's Drug War ills, and quite a few are also angered over the apparent failure of the U.S. federal government to curb the lucrative firearms trade with the cartels on our own side of the border. For those reasons, I believe that President Enrique Peña Nieto would have a full-scale, nationwide political revolt on his hands, were he to simply extradite Joaquin Guzman to the United States, rather than first try him for his alleged crimes in his own country.

    Because as sick as Mexican citizens are of the violence that's overtaken many parts of the country, they really don't like it when their presidents fail to stand up to U.S. government influence / pressure and place Mexico's interests before those of the gringos. Fairly or not, Presidents Fox and Calderon and their conservative PAN allies came to be perceived by the Mexican public as too close to Washington, and that's in large part why Nieto and the PRI were returned to power by voters in 2012 after an extended stay in the political wilderness.


    An opposing, local viewpoint: (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 04:35:48 PM EST
    You lost me. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 05:20:12 PM EST
    How is that an opposing viewpoint? If anything, the vigilantism described in the article underscores what I said, which is that civil authority has broken down in at least five states. One of them is Michoacan.

    The way I read your comment, Mexicans (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 05:27:05 PM EST
    Are are of the opinion if the the U.S. and Mexican governments would cease and desist re trying to shut down the cartels, the slaughter would cease.

    No, that's not what I said. (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 05:51:23 PM EST
    My point is that Mexicans are weary of the endless violence, and many hold the U.S. responsible for a good deal of their misery. The PRI was returned to power because rightly or wrongly, voters came to perceive PAN as doing Washington's bidding in the Drug War, and in the meantime things have gotten much, much worse.

    The Drug War escalated in 2006 because President Felipe Calderon, at the behest of the Bush administration, launched a concerted quasi-military campaign against the cartels, which rapidly exacerbated what was already a dicey situation. An estimated 86,000 people died or went missing during Calderon's six-year tenure, and the government actually lost ground to the cartels.

    Honestly, I don't know what the answer is here. But whatever it is that we're currently doing, it's obviously not been working, and I fear that we're running a very real risk of inadvertently empowering the creation of one or more autonomous, hyper-violent narcostates along our southern frontier, as the cartels move to co-opt, intimidate and even supplant the civil authorities in the region.



    Don't think it was about them wanting the US (none / 0) (#16)
    by gbrbsb on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 11:44:52 PM EST
    ... to cease and desist shutting down cartels, rather that the US and other high drug use countries, mine included, keep their war on drugs in their own countries and not visit all the pain, misery and violence that results on theirs, and when, apart from capos and those in upper echelons of the drugs industry, the majority, mere peones, barely manage to eek out a miserable existence from it.

    Similar is the war on poaching endangered species. Who to blame and persecute; the poacher risking getting shot by park wardens or gored by his prey for barely enough to feed his family, or the wealthy paying the huge bucks and the intermediaries receiving them as well as the enablers ?


    Maybe cynical (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mikado Cat on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 10:44:27 AM EST
    but what happened is likely whatever puts the most money into the pockets of the most powerful, directly or indirectly.

    All of the theories have some could be to them, maybe we will find out, maybe not, does it matter?

    Anybody know of this arrest had any impact on the street price of drugs anyplace?

    Why would it? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 05:30:11 PM EST
    Were you perhaps expecting a panic by investors and a run on the bank? Last I heard, Guzman and the cartels didn't have seats on the Chicago Commodity Exchange.

    If the street price of (none / 0) (#17)
    by Mikado Cat on Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 02:02:13 AM EST
    drugs didn't change, doesn't change, nothing important happened relative to the drug trade.

    They might not have seats, but they might own some of the people that do.