Unless you’ve been living under a surprisingly well-excavated tunnel, you’ve probably heard by now kingpin Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo, has been captured. Again. This time, it happened after a nearly six-month manhunt that led authorities to Guzmán at the end of a sewage pipe in Los Mochis, Sinaloa.
For an overview, CNN tells the tale of the capture of “the most wanted, the most dangerous drug lord.”
Before tribute piñatas and interest in his fashion choices hit the mainstream, a perfect storm — tinged by correspondence with actor Sean Penn and a suspicious taco order— led authorities to Guzmán. The New York Times breaks it down:
Authorities had swept through 18 of his homes and properties in his native lands. Days on end in the inhospitable mountains, where even a billionaire like Mr. Guzmán was forced to rough it, left him yearning for a bit of comfort.
In early January, he arrived in the coastal city of Los Mochis, in Sinaloa, at a home where the authorities had trailed one of the chief tunnel diggers from his escape. Construction crews had been hard at work on the house for weeks. Telephone intercepts indicated that someone big was about to arrive.
The final bit of evidence was a food order, Mexican officials said.
Just two blocks away, a big order of tacos was picked up after midnight on Jan. 8 by a man driving a white van, like the one believed to be driven by Mr. Guzmán’s associates, witnesses said.
Hours later, at 4:30 a.m., the marines stormed the compound, meeting a knot of doors and fierce resistance from gunmen. Like many of Mr. Guzmán’s homes, this one was equipped with elaborate escape hatches: a decoy beneath the refrigerator, and another behind a closet mirror, which he used to flee as the battle raged.
Hours later, on a highway heading out of town, the authorities finally got Mr. Guzmán, arguably the most powerful drug dealer in the history of the trade, for the third time since 1993.
Penn spoke about his meeting with El Chapo and his widely criticized article about the drug lord with “60 Minutes” on Sunday. Penn says the get-together happened in early October, before the capture was set in motion:
“I think the policy of the war on drugs, which so deeply affects all of our lives, seems not to change. It seems to be so unmovable. And it occurs to me that often, because we want to simplify the problem, and we want to look at a black hat and put our resources into focusing on the bad guy and … and I understand that. I absolutely understand justice and the rule of law. And so I do what I call experiential journalism. I don’t have to be the one that reports on the alleged murders or the amount of narcotics that are brought in. I go and I spend time in the company of another human being, which everyone is. And I make an observation and try to parallel that, try to balance that with the focus that we– that I believe we– we tend to put too much emphasis on.”
You can find the “60 Minutes” interview transcript with the actor here.
El Chapo’s potential extradition to the U.S. will be a months-long process, but debate is already brewing on which jurisdiction he might land in. San Diego is a possibility.
“U.S. attorneys in seven jurisdictions have charged Guzmán, who was recaptured Friday in Mexico, with organized crime, murder and drug trafficking in his role as head of the Sinaloa cartel,” The LA Times reports, adding that San Diego prosecutors brought the first federal charges against Guzmán in the mid-’90s.
Not so fast, says the Union-Tribune’s Greg Moran. The reporter interviewed San Diego defense attorney Jan Ronis, who represented another drug kingpin, Benjamin Arellano Felix.
“I doubt he would come here, because the San Diego case is so old,” Ronis said. “Other cases are fresher, and they probably have more current witnesses and active cooperators on those.”
The U-T also had a great story detailing how El Chapo’s low-level foot soldiers do their jobs based on federal charges filed in San Diego three years ago: “The case illustrates the cycle of the drug business, from obtaining precursor chemicals in China to manufacturing the drugs in Mexico to smuggling them into the U.S. to laundering millions of dollars in illicit profits.”