Mexican authorities captured the world’s most powerful drug lord in a resort city on Saturday after a massive search through the home state of the legendary capo whose global organisation is the leading supplier of cocaine to the United States. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, 56, looked pudgy, bowed and much like his wanted photos when he arrived in Mexico City from Mazatlan in Sinaloa state. He was accompanied by masked marines across the airport tarmac to a helicopter waiting to whisk him to jail.
Mexican marines arrested Guzman at 6:40 a.m. in a high-rise condominium fronting the Pacific without firing a single shot. Mexican officials late on Saturday said he was apprehended with a man identified as Carlos Manuel Hoo Ramirez, contradicting earlier reports that he was arrested with a woman. An American official said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Marshals Service were “heavily involved” in the capture.
Another federal law enforcement official said intelligence from a Homeland Security Department investigation also helped lead U.S. and Mexican authorities to his whereabouts. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the capture a “victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States.”
Mexican authorities, based on a series of arrests in recent months, got wind that Guzman was moving around Culiacan, capital of his home state for which the cartel is named. Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam described an operation that took place between Feb. 13 and 17 focused on seven homes connected by tunnels and to the city’s sewer system. He said they had Guzman in their sights several times during that period, but were unable to mount an operation earlier because of possible risks to the general public. The house doors were reinforced with steel, which delayed entry by law enforcement, presumably allowing Guzman to flee several attempts at his capture before Saturday.
A U.S. law enforcement official said members of Guzman’s security team helped Mexican and U.S. authorities find him after they were arrested earlier this month. The official was not authorised to discuss details of the case by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the U.S. and is on the DEA’s most-wanted list. His drug empire stretches throughout North America and reaches as far away as Europe and Australia. His cartel has been heavily involved in the bloody drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last several years.
His arrest followed the takedown of several top Sinaloa operatives in the last few months and at least 10 mid-level cartel members in the last week. Michael S. Vigil, a former senior DEA official who was briefed on the continued…