Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, fugitive drug lord, captured in Mexico
he world’s most-wanted drug lord was captured for a third time in a daring raid on Friday by Mexican marines, six months after he tunneled out of a maximum security prison in a made-for-Hollywood escape that deeply embarrassed the government and strained ties with the United States.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced the capture Friday, writing in his Twitter account: “Mission accomplished: we have him.”
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Few had thought Guzman would be taken alive, and few now believe Mexico will want to try to hold him a third time in Mexican prisons. He escaped from two maximum-security facilities in 2001 and on July 11, 2015, the second on July 11 especially humiliating for the Pena Nieto administration, which only held him for less than 18 months.
Calls for extradition
No sooner than Guzman was apprehended, calls started for his immediate extradition to the U.S., including from a Republican presidential candidate, Florida Senator Mark Rubio.
“Given that ‘El Chapo’ has already escaped from Mexican prison twice, this third opportunity to bring him to justice cannot be squandered,” Rubio said.
Mexico said after the first capture of the cartel boss that he would be tried in his home country first, with officials promising they would hang on to him. After his escape in July, the talk on Friday about keeping and trying Guzman almost as a matter of national pride wasn’t so overt.
Pena Nieto gave a brief live message Friday afternoon that focused heavily on touting the competency of his administration, which has suffered a series of embarrassments and scandals in the first half of his presidency.
Guzman was apprehended after a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Los Mochis, in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa, said a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name. He said Guzman was taken alive and was not wounded.
5 deaths reported in clash
Five people were killed and one Mexican marine wounded in the clash. It was unclear if Guzman was at the house or nearby when the raid was under way. Another law enforcement official confirmed that Guzman had been captured at a motel on the outskirts of Los Mochis.
That official said Friday’s raid on the house was related to the later capture of Guzman at the hotel. Guzman may have been at the house and fled while his gunmen and bodyguards provided covering fire from the house, the official said.
Marines checked the storm drain system, though it was unclear if Guzman had once again fled through the drains. In 2014, he escaped capture by fleeing through a network of interconnected tunnels in the drainage system under Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital.
After his first capture in Guatemala in June 1993, Guzman was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He reportedly made his 2001 escape from the maximum security prison in a laundry cart, though some have discounted that version.
His second escape last July was even more audacious. He slipped down a hole in his shower stall in plain view of guards into a more than 1.5-km long tunnel dug from a property outside the prison. The tunnel had ventilation, lights and a motorbike on rails, illustrating the extent to which corruption was involved in covering up the elaborate operation.
The Mexican law enforcement official said authorities located Guzman several days ago, based on reports he was in Los Mochis. Pena Nieto gave no details in his televised speech, saying only that “careful and intensive intelligence work was carried out for months” leading up to the arrest.
At the home, marines seized two armoured vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Photos of the arms seized in the raid suggested that Guzman and his associates had a fearsome arsenal at the non-descript white house.
Two of the rifles seized were.50-calibre sniper rifles, capable of penetrating bullet-proof vests and cars. The grenade launcher was found loaded, with an extra round nearby. And an assault rifle had a 40 mm grenade launcher, and at least one grenade.
Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam had bragged earlier that Mexico wouldn’t extradite Guzman until he had served his sentences in Mexico.
Mexican security analyst Raul Benitez said such bragging “makes me ashamed.”
“It would be better for the Americans to take him away,” he said.
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