Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Strange Case of the Wife of El Chapo

In the middle of last week, more than 200 federal agents, including police, marine and army conducted a well planned operation in Culiacan where they captured Griselda Lopez, who is the former wife of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

She was wanted for money laundering. The operation was carried out step by step, without surprises or incidents, and the woman was handed over to the PGR in Mexico City. However, a day after, she was set free.

What Happened?

The work had been declared a success, clean and smooth. In less than five hours they reached their objective: the arrest of Griselda Lopez Perez in a residential area of Culiacan and her transfer to the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) in Mexico City on charges of money laundering for the cartel that is co-directed by her ex-husband, El Chapo Guzman.

In the operation leading to the arrest it involved 200 troops from special units of the Federal Police, the Army and Navy, coordinated and brought in from Mexico City.

All a tactical and logistical apparatus, a spectacular display of force that ultimately proved to be a waste of time and resources: the PGR backpedaled and released the former wife of Joaquin "El Chapo Guzman, one that on a Wednesday morning, May 12 had been arrested in the capital of the state of Sinaloa.

Last week already in the Federal District, scores of troops with long rifles burst into the offices of the Deputy Attorney of "Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime" (SIEDO) of the PGR and surrendered Griselda Lopez to the federal prosecutors. The woman was handcuffed, her head covered, said first-hand witnesses who requested anonymity.

At that time the Secretary of the Interior, Fernando Gómez Mont, was in Culiacán to "assess security strategies" of the federal government in the state.

The arrest of Griselda Lopez was not leaked until May 13 on Thursday, when news reports reported the incident as a rumor. But by that time, the former wife of El Chapo was a free woman, and back to her home town of Jesus Maria, only half an hour from Culiacan.

It was not until the evening of that day that the PGR confirmed her arrest and subsequent release on "reservations of law," although she was the main target of the operation in which authorities secured six houses, seven luxury cars, five heavy boxes full of jewels and other goods related to El Chapo. It was the first action against property linked to the drug cartels in Culiacán.

The operation had been planned especifically to arrest and hold the capo's former wife under detention for the alleged financial transactions, which amounts would have exceeded the revenues she reported to the Ministry of Finance.

The objective was never El Chapo, but her. Her arrest was successfully achieved, without a single shot fired and in a smooth operation. At the ofset were the military and naval forces who participated in the operation: Operación Conjunta Culiacán-Navolato-Guamúchil-Mazatlán, that included Brigadier General Alcazar Noah Sandoval, commander of the Ninth Military Zone headquarted in the capital of Sinaloa.

On Tuesday night May 11, 2010 elements of the Army, Navy and Federal Police were mobilized from Mexico City to serve warrants for the federal prosecutors assigned to the unit of "money laundering."

They went to Culiacan with an order of the Fourth Specialized Federal Criminal Court to conduct search warrants, detentions and interceptions of communications, contained in the federal file 232/2010. The objective was seven houses in four communities in Culiacan belonging to El Chapo.

The raids began at 6:30 pm on Wednesday May 12. They lasted just over three hours. What happened after the operation and subsequent arrest and release of the wife of the powerful capo remain a mystery that leaves speculations to the imagination.


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