In a fitting end to a prison escape that began with a plane flight to a mountainous hideout, fugitive Mexico drug lord and Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was ushered onto a flight from Los Mochis in Sinaloa state to Mexico City with a towel draped over his head, as members of Mexico’s military and security forces looked on.
Guzmán broke out of prison in central Mexico on July 11, quickly slipping back into his cartel’s traditional stronghold in northwest Mexico, an area known as the Golden Triangle for its extensive drug cultivation.
Once there, he and his henchmen eluded an intense manhunt for weeks before he was apprehended in a Friday-morning operation by Mexican marines.
The operation that finally caught Guzmán was undertaken with the assistance of US DEA agents and US Marshals, Reuters reported, citing a senior Mexican official.
The video, posted by a Mexican journalist, can be seen below.
— Luis Alberto Fuentes (@jaliscoesuno) January 8, 2016
The Sinaloa cartel boss was reportedly caught after a shootout between his men and Mexican marines in Los Mochis, in the northwest corner of Sinaloa state.
Mexican security forces had been scouring parts of Sinaloa and Durango states for weeks, reportedly spotting Guzmán several times and even forcing him into a chase that purportedly left him with a facial injury and a broken leg.
Guzmán’s recapture would seem to put an end to six-months of torment for the Mexican government, which was embarrassed on an international scale when the cartel boss walked out of his cell, travelling through a mile-long, air-conditioned tunnel and emerging in a partially built house adjacent to the high-security prison where he was held.
The humiliation was double for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who not only hailed Guzmán’s capture in 2014 as a victory for a security strategy focused on intelligence, but was revealed to have continued playing a game of dominoes aboard his presidential jet after learning that Guzmán had again escaped custody.
Guzmán’s escort onto a plane mirrors his 2014 apprehension, when he was placed under heavy guard on a military helicopter, and soon thereafter jailed on a bevy of charges related to his organisation’s extensive drug-trafficking activities.
What comes next for Guzmán remains uncertain. While a court order issued in August cleared the way for Guzmán’s extradition to the US, that order was overridden in October, when a Mexican judge extended the Sinaloa leader’s exemption from being extradited.
Extradition is a thorny issue in Mexico. While many high-profile drug traffickers have been sent to the US for trial and imprisonment, some in Mexico regard the process as interference in domestic affairs.
In January 2015, then-Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam discounted the possibility that Guzmán would be shipped to the US anytime soon, saying the drug lord could be transferred after he served his time in Mexico — in “300-400 years” said Karam.
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