After six months on the run, Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo, was captured on Friday by Mexican forces aided by their US counterparts.
The operation, of its code name “Operation Black Swan” had been monitoring the house in which the fugitive was hiding out in for a month. The assault on the hide-out started in the early hours of Friday morning and despite controlling the whole house in 15 minutes, El Chapo could not be found. That is until they discovered a secret tunnel in his bedroom and realised that the king of tunnels had struck again.
This is not the first time El Chapo has made his escape via a tunnel. He escaped thus from Altiplano in July. The prison had been reputed to be a maximum-security prison, but El Chapo was able to dig a tunnel to the shower in his cell and escape.
Tunnels hold no secret for El Chapo. In fact, they could be described as a bit of an obsession for him. Might it be because his memory is stamped with Pablo Escobar being gunned down as he scrambled over rooftops? What is certain is that El Chapo prefers the subterranean terrain. And that might have served him well.
The escape from Altiplano prison is not his first escape. He had previously escaped from another maximum-security prison, although in a laundry basket. Allegedly. And in the 13 years he spent on the run before being recaptured in February 2014, he equipped all his safe houses with tunnels. Not only that, but in the early days of his drug trafficking career, he hired an architect to design tunnels starting in Mexico to come out in the United States. The U.S. intelligence has indeed attributed some 90 border tunnels to the Sinaloa cartel, the cartel he headed.
El Chapo is now in custody, awaiting either a trial in Mexico or an extradition in the United States. There are of course the indictment charges against him by at least seven U.S. federal district courts, but the fear of another escape which is making the United States jittery.
“There is a history here – he escaped from a prison in 2001,” the chair of the House Homeland Security committee said a few hours after Guzman’s capture.
Mexico’s attorney general objects however, citing the fact that Joaquin Guzman needed to complete his original twenty-year sentence in Mexico. Others are speculating that the objections of the attorney general and that of other Mexican officials are because of the fear that Guzman might provide evidence against top Mexican officials.
Indeed, the United States is worried about the endemic corruption within Mexico’s criminal justice system. That, according to some, is the reason why the U.S. officials leaked the news of Chapo’s capture to the Associated Press to prevent against any dead-of-night release.
Today, while the drug kingpin’s sons foam at the mouth, promising retaliation against the Mexican government which shouldn’t have bitten the hand that fed it, residents in El Chapo’s city of Los Mochis (where he was captured on Friday) are congratulating the government on its action and are hopeful that the capture will calm the violence.