02/22/14 – Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, one of the most wanted criminals in the world and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico, was arrested on Saturday, February 22. ‘El Chapo’ was taken into custody in the tourist city of Mazatlán, in the State of Sinaloa in the North Pacific coast of Mexico. The arrest was carried out by elements of the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) with the support of the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), in a coordinated operation by several Mexican law enforcement agencies in which U.S. authorities also participated. Not a single shot was fired during the operation.
In a public address at the Navy Hangar in Mexico City’s Airport, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam confirmed the detention and the identity of Guzmán Loera, and recognized the coordination amongst agencies from Mexico and the United States. After a short speech by Murillo Karam, reporters were able to briefly photograph and film the detained while he was escorted by members of the special forces of the Navy to a Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) helicopter. The helicopter then conducted ‘El Chapo’ to a high-security prison in Almoloya de Juárez, State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex), followed by two helicopters of the Mexican military.
Over the past several months, U.S. and Mexican authorities have dealt a series of blows to the Sinaloa Federation, headed by legendary figures ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada García, particularly targeting groups closer to the latter. As reported by Justice in Mexico, on November 20, 2013 U.S. authorities captured Serafín Zambada Ortíz, the son of ‘El Mayo.’ Zambada Ortíz (23), also known as ‘Sera,’ was captured at the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, while trying to enter the United States from Mexico through the pedestrian lane, accompanied by his wife. Zambada Ortíz is the second son of Zambada to face criminal charges in the United States. Sera’s brother, Vicente ‘El Vicentillo’ Zambada Niebla, was extradited from Mexico and is awaiting trial in Chicago.
Late last year on December 30, 2013, José Rodrigo Aréchiga Gamboa, also known as ‘El Chino Ántrax,’ a high-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel was arrested in the Netherlands by Dutch police at the airport after his flight landed in Amsterdam. Aréchiga was indicted on December 20 by a Southern California federal grand jury for conspiracy to import and distribute drugs, and launder money. On January 3, the U.S. government unsealed the indictment and formally requested that the Dutch extradite Aréchiga to California to face the charges. Aréchiga is considered one of the top enforcers in the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and head of the cartel’s enforcement cell known as Los Ántrax that works specifically for ‘El Mayo’ to provide protection for him and his family, and that offers top hit men for cartel operations.
Last week, prior to the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Mexico for the North American Summit, SEMAR conducted several operations in the State of Sinaloa where they detained about ten members of the Sinaloa Cartel and seized drugs, weapons, and properties. Among those detained is a man known as “El 19,” alleged chief of security for ‘El Mayo.’ Sources suggest that the Navy was close to capturing ‘El Mayo’ and possibly even ‘El Chapo’ during these operations, but they nevertheless managed to escape.
The series of arrests and operations that impacted the Sinaloa Cartel and the closest circle to ‘El Mayo’ Zambada raised suspicions of a break-up within the organization, particularly between Guzmán and Zambada. Whether or not this was the case, and if the arrest of ‘El Chapo’ was in connection to that “alleged” break-up, it is still unclear what the future of the organization will be with the capture of ‘El Chapo’ and the strikes to ‘El Mayo,’ particularly when the organization managed to consolidate its power in Mexico above all other criminal organizations, most notably the Zetas organization, which received the most significant blows from the Mexican government over the past few years and whose leadership was presumably dismantled. Many believe that the Mexican and U.S. governments have long favored the Sinaloa Cartel over its more volatile counterparts for being a more business-oriented organization.
Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán was named by Forbes magazine as one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. After escaping from prison in 2001, Guzmán committed to gaining territory from other criminal organizations by forming alliances and succeeded in creating the most solid and powerful of Mexico’s criminal organizations with connections worldwide. ‘El Chapo’ was the most wanted criminal in the United States after the death of Osama Bin Laden.