Though he has managed to avoid the Mexican government’s nationwide manhunt for more than four months, Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his men still applied for a permit needed to transport his daughters’ monkey to his hideout in northwest Mexico — an act that almost got the fugitive drug lord captured.
Guzmán’s efforts to retrieve Boots, his twin 4-year-old daughters’ pet monkey, tipped the government off to his whereabouts, according to information about the investigation shared with Carlos Loret de Mola, a columnist for Mexican newspaper El Universal.
Boots, the monkey
In order to visit Guzmán more frequently, his daughters and their mother, Guzmán’s current wife and former beauty queen Emma Coronel, relocated to a home near Altiplano prison, where the Sinaloa cartel boss was jailed after his February 2014 arrest.
It was after their reunion that the girls asked their father to get Boots, named after the monkey character on the children’s show “Dora the Explorer,” which had been left behind when the family moved, Loret reported.
And so, the world’s most notorious drug lord, tasked his closest associates with bringing the animal back by plane. In order to get the monkey on an aircraft, Guzmán’s men were required to apply for a permit, a bureaucratic hurdle with which, for some reason, they complied.
But, according to reports seen by Loret, the henchmen were unable to get the proper permits, “so they had no choice but to transport it by highway,” Loret wrote.
Mexican investigators, alerted by the permit application and on the lookout for the monkey, soon caught up with Guzmán’s men and their cargo.
According to sources Loret spoke with, “investigators discovered Boots in Sinaloa, on board a red luxury Mustang. They knew that the pet would be able to take them to their objective.”
The Mustang in question belonged to Guzmán’s brother-in-law, Edgar Coronel Aispuro, who is believed to have helped Guzmán escape from Altiplano prison.
Zeroing in on El Chapo
Intercepted mobile phone signals, analysis of the pilot’s flights, and the information about Boots led investigators to Mexico’s Golden Triangle, a mountainous region where Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa states converge, a high-drug-production area, and the Sinaloa cartel’s home base.
For Guzmán, regarded as the world’s most wanted drug lord, the manhunt appears to have gotten uncomfortably close.
In recent days, Mexican marines have conducted raids and searched homes in the western portion of the Golden Triangle.
However, authorities denied accusations by locals that the marines shot at the civilian population, with the navy saying Sunday that it has “strictly” respected human rights.
Guzmán was reportedly seen several times.
They were hesitant to act due to the girl’s presence, but they later spotted him without her and gave chase. Some accounts report that Guzmán’s men fired on Mexican marines, temporarily halting their operation.
According to Mexican officials, during his escape, Guzmán, who is believed to be about 60 years old, fell down a small cliff, injuring his face and breaking his leg.
Guzmán’s bodyguards came to his aid, helping him slip away into the heavy forest region. Despite cordoning off the area, Mexican security forces were unable to apprehend the Sinaloa chief, and he remains at large.
According to TeleSur, authorities have searched several homes in recent days, including four homes some distance away in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan, which may indicate that the Mexican government has lost the trail of the fugitive drug lord.
An uncertain fate
While Guzmán remains free, recent breakthroughs in the search for him, as well as his alleged injuries, may signal a turning point in the hunt for the leader of what is arguably the most powerful criminal organisation on the planet.
With a broken leg, the chances Mexican authorities will track him down “have boosted tremendously,” a Mexican official told CNN.
“The fact that he’s injured is one factor he didn’t count on,” Carl Pike, a former DEA special agent, said to CNN. “Now he needs help,” Pike added.
Guzmán still has the extensive resources of the Sinaloa organisation to aid him, and many of the people of Sinaloa are cheering his escape (a sentiment that may spread if Mexican security forces continue their heavy-handed approach.)
Whatever assets he may have on his side, Guzmán’s new vulnerability has no doubt forced him to contemplate the fate that some think awaits him.
The Sinaloa boss knows that “if they get him, he will either die in the operation or be immediately extradited to the US,” Guillermo Valdés, a former Mexican intelligence official, told the Financial Times.
That assessment has been echoed by a former high-profile figure in the drug underworld.
Guzmán “knows he has to be killed, because if they capture him alive, they will extradite him to the US,” said “Popeye” Vasquez, who was Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar’s top assassin in the 1990s.
“And for a recalcitrant Mexican like El Chapo, as it was for Pablo Escobar … to be in a US jail is a very hard thing, ” Vasquez added. “That’s why El Chapo will get himself killed.”
Amanda Macias contributed to this report.
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