Though he had managed to avoid the Mexican government’s nationwide manhunt for more than seven months, fugitive Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been captured, announced Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“Mission accomplished. We have him. I want to let the Mexican people know that Joaquin Guzman Loera has been detained,” Peña Nieto tweeted.
The operation to recapture the world’s most-infamous drug lord involved Mexican marines, US DEA agents, and US Marshals, Reuters reports citing a senior Mexican official.
Guzmán was detained after an early morning raid in the drug baron’s native state of Sinaloa, according to a press release from Mexico’s Navy.
After a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Los Mochis, Guzmán was arrested along with six others, The Associated Press reports.
Marines found two armoured vehicles, eight military rifles, one hand gun, a rocket launcher and two rockets.
Considered one of the world’s most richest and powerful drug traffickers, Guzmán faces multiple federal drug trafficking charges in both the US and Mexico.
‘El Chapo’s escape’
Prison guards at Altiplano prison found a hole in the shower of Guzmán’s ground floor prison cell which was perfectly placed in the blind spot of a lone security camera.
After the highly sophisticated jailbreak, Guzmán reportedly boarded a van in Almoloya de Juárez, a town in Mexico state, travelled roughly 100 miles by van to an airport north of Mexico City, and was then flown to rejoin his wife and family in Bastantitas de Abajo, a community in the Tamazula municipality of Durango state in northwest Mexico.
In October, Attorney General Arely Gómez revealed that of the numerous officials and persons arrested in relation to the escape, one “is a pilot who transported” the Sinaloa cartel boss after he broke out of prison. Later reports indicated that two pilots were involved in the escape, with one of them believed to have flown a decoy plane.
Gómez’s admission was reportedly the first time authorities had indicated that Guzmán’s escape could have involved air travel. Authorities uncovered the role of the air transport though intercepts of calls made on public phones.
The extraordinary escape could have cost Guzmán $50 million in construction and bribes to prison officials, Jhon “Popeye” Vasquez, who was Pablo Escobar’s top assassin in the 1990s and 1990s, told The Telegraph.
Reports based on details from the Mexican government’s investigation indicate a much more reasonable price, likely about $130,000, though the Sinaloa cartel chief reportedly paid $3 million for his 2001 jailbreak.
Sinaloa’s tunnelling prowess
In 1989, the Sinaloa cartel utilised its first cross-border “narcotúnel” to smuggle illicit materials.
“Since then, Sinaloa has refined the art of underground construction and has used tunnels more effectively than any criminal group in history,” The New Yorker reports.
According to The New Yorker, investigators estimate that a single Sinaloa “narcotúnel” requires more than a million dollars and several months to construct.
“I think it’s a very small group of elite members of the cartel that are doing this. This is highly sophisticated work,” Sherri Hobson, a federal prosecutor in California, told The New Yorker.
“A lot of people think that you have a shovel and you dig. That’s not the way it works,” Hobson added.
Arched ceilings, makeshift ventilation ducts, electric lights, and even railways are some hallmarks of the Sinaloa cartel’s extraordinary tunnels, The New Yorker reports.
Natasha Bertrand and Christopher Woody contributed to this report.
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