Federal law enforcement agencies are offering drone technology and U.S. agents to assist in the hunt for escaped drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but so far the Mexican government has rebuffed the offers and appears to be hoping it can capture the fugitive on its own, U.S. officials said Wednesday..
“Of course we’re helping. We do that every day in regard to our overall efforts,” said one American law enforcement official, speaking anonymously because of the ongoing investigation. “It would be hard for our guys to be working down there, doing what we normally do, collecting information and developing leads, and stuff that comes over wiretaps, and not be passing it along.”
But U.S. officials are perplexed and increasingly frustrated by what has happened in Mexico. On Saturday night, Guzman vanished down a tunnel through the shower floor in his prison cell, and authorities believe he most likely has returned to the rugged Sinaloa mountains, where for years he ruled a worldwide drug operation estimated to bring in $30 billion a year in the U.S. alone.
His escape marked the second time he has broken out of a Mexican prison. It is also the second time the U.S. has offered to help in his capture, providing assistance in 2014 when he was apprehended in Mexico.
One senior Drug Enforcement Administration official said Wednesday that officials from the two countries talked on Sunday, within 24 hours of the escape. “They pledged their continued well-established cooperation focusing on his capture,” the DEA official said.
On Monday, the source said, Mexican and U.S. officials met privately in Mexico City and agreed to coordinate efforts. That was followed by a high-level meeting on Tuesday between U.S. Ambassador to Mexico E. Anthony Wayne and Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, Mexico’s interior minister. The source said the meeting was “to review bilateral cooperation regarding committing all available resources to recapture him.”
The U.S. official added, “Everybody is united and on board on this moving forward.”
But after those private meetings, Osorio Chong announced publicly that no additional U.S. aid was needed at this time. “We are not going to do something new beyond what we have already been doing,” he said.