COVER: Joaquin Guzman Loera in January 2001 during his incarceration at the La Palma jail in the Mexican state of Puebla. PHOTO by PEDRO VALTIERRA
by ELAHE IZADI and JOSHUA PARTLOW
The Washington Post
Drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico nearly six months ago, has been recaptured, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Friday.
Guzmán, the world’s most famous drug boss and head of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from his cell in July through a specially dug tunnel, a staggering blow for Peña Nieto, who had been building a strong reputation for arresting top drug bosses from all the major cartels.
“Mission accomplished: we have him,” Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter.
Misión cumplida: lo tenemos. Quiero informar a los mexicanos que Joaquín Guzmán Loera ha sido detenido.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) January 8, 2016
Little information was immediately available regarding the circumstances surrounding the 58-year-old kingpin’s recapture.
An official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by name said Guzman was apprehended after a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Los Mochis, in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa.
Shortly before Peña Nieto’s announcement, Mexico’s Navy released details about an early-morning raid in Los Mochis that left five suspects dead and one marine wounded. Six people were arrested following the clash, but the navy didn’t say whether Guzmán was among them.
The military raided the home after receiving a tip and encountered gunfire from those inside, according to the navy. The military seized two armored vehicles, eight long guns and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with two charges.
A suspected Sinaloa regional commander is thought to have escaped the compound during the clash, according to the navy.
Before his escape, Guzmán had been incarcerated in the Altiplano, a federal facility set amid farmland west of the capital that holds the top captured drug bosses and has been described as the country’s most impenetrable prison.
His July escape — the second time he’d slipped out of prison in his drug-running career — was a spectacular and embarrassing breach of security that set off a massive manhunt.
Guzmán slipped out of the prison through a rectangular opening in the shower area of his cell that led to a nearly mile-long tunnel running out of the prison, underneath rolling corn fields and cow pastures and ending at a small cinder-block house decorated with Christmas lights that residents say was built after Guzmán’s imprisonment.
Before his escape, American officials had pressed for Guzmán’s extradition so that he could be prosecuted for drug crimes and held in a more secure facility.
But the Peña Nieto administration refused to grant his extradition to the United States, insisting that it would prosecute Guzmán at home, as a showcase of Mexican judicial independence.
“This represents, without a doubt, an affront to the Mexican state,” Peña Nieto said in July, after Guzmán’s escape.
On Friday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration congratulated Mexican officials for recapturing Guzmán.
DEA is extremely pleased at the capture of Chapo Guzman. We congratulate the MX Government and salute the bravery involved in his capture
— DEA News (@DEANEWS) January 8, 2016
Though many of Mexico’s most notorious and dangerous drug bosses have been held at Altiplano, none escaped until July.
The manner of Guzmán’s prison break — through a tunnel nearly a mile long, on a motorcycle mounted on rails — suggested that his rescue operation was well planned and well financed.
In February 2014, Guzmán was captured by a team of Mexican commandos while he was sleeping in the Miramar condominium in the beach town of Mazatlan. The arrest came after a series of military operations that relied heavily on intelligence gathered by U.S. law enforcement officials and that led to houses with their own elaborate tunnel network in the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, used by Guzmán for years to evade capture.
While he was in prison, reports emerged that Guzmán had helped organize a hunger strike to protest living conditions. Those with access inside noticed some small perks; for example, while others were forced to shave, he could keep his mustache. Several days before the prison escape, Guzmán’s son, Ivan, tweeted: “Everything comes to those who know how to wait.”
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