“El Chapo” Guzmán Captured: U.S. Seeks Extradition

by Mark Cebert

The Mexican Navy has captured Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, after an extended skirmish in the early hours of January 8, 2016. Seventeen members of the Mexican Navy Special Forces stormed Guzmán’s safe house in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. During a gunfight with the drug lord’s bodyguards that left five suspects dead, El Chapo and his lieutenant momentarily escaped through the city’s drainage system. Mexican officials apprehended Guzmán attempting to flee in a stolen vehicle shortly afterward. Mexican police flew Guzmán to Altiplano, the maximum security prison from which he escaped months earlier[1].

Groups like the Sinaloa Cartel have taken advantage of the United States’ status as the world’s biggest drug market. They control sectors of the country, operating as paramilitary forces in the fight for control of the trafficking of narcotics to North and Central America, along with other criminal enterprises. Drug cartels often use brutal methods in their battles with rival cartels, leaving a wake of destruction often including civilian casualties. Many believe that the cartels hold significant power in the Mexican government, and have at least partially contributed to the corrupt nature of Mexican politics.

El Chapo Guzmán is no stranger to the Mexican prison system. Officials have captured and imprisoned Guzmán three times now, with the drug lord managing to escape twice, in 2001 and 2015. El Chapo holds a reputation as the world’s most infamous crime boss, leading the Sinaloa Cartel to prominent control of the trafficking of heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine through Mexico to the United States.

Mexican officials claim that Guzmán’s contact with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo was instrumental to his eventual capture. Officials believe that Guzmán hoped to work with del Castillo to produce a biopic. Del Castillo also arranged a meeting with American actor Sean Penn, who interviewed the kingpin for Rolling Stone Magazine. Mexican officials were able to trace del Castillo’s communications with Guzmán, leading them to his Sinaloa hideout.

Since his capture, the United States has requested that El Chapo be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. Although the Mexican Attorney General’s office has indicated that they will comply with this extradition request, the process could prove to be a lengthy one, possibly taking longer than a year. Guzmán faces charges in Chicago, Miami, New Hampshire, El Paso, San Diego, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, on charges ranging from drug trafficking to murder. Reuters reports that Chicago and Brooklyn seem to be early favorites for hosting Guzmán’s prospective trial[2]. The jurisdiction that can compile the strongest case against Guzmán will host the trial, which promises to be the most high-profile case in years. American Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a former Brooklyn attorney general, will decide the ultimate location of the trial.

Many have celebrated the notorious crime boss’ capture, with American politicians sounding their approval of El Chapo’s demise as a major victory in the war on drugs. In Mexico, Guzmán’s arrest has helped President Enrique Peña Nieto save face, after suffering the embarrassment of the kingpin’s escape from Mexico’s most secure prison.

In the wake of El Chapo’s takedown, many have raised questions about Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo and their contact with Guzmán. BBC reports that Penn’s interview was called “maddening” by the White House, and “grotesque” by presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.[3] Officials report that phone communications between Guzmán and del Castillo tipped the Mexican authorities to his whereabouts. Details of these messages seem to show an apparent infatuation with del Castillo, an infatuation that officials believe led Guzmán to let his guard down. Mexican and American officials confirmed that Penn and del Castillo were not sanctioned in their contact with El Chapo, and Mexican authorities are investigating both individuals.

 

[1] Dave Graham, “Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ captured, sent back to prison he escaped from,” Reuters (January 9, 2016): Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-guzman-idUSKBN0UM25O20160109.

[2] Tracy Rucinski, “Chicago, Brooklyn seen leading race for possible El Chapo trial,” Reuters (January 11, 2016): Accessed Jan 15, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/mexico-guzman-usa-idUSKCN0UP06V20160111.

[3] ‘El Chapo’ Guzman: Sean Penn interview provokes US scorn,” BBC News (January 10, 2016): Accessed January 15, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35276894.

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