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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mexico Turns Up the Heat on Drug Lord Guzman

By Dave Graham
Joaquin Guzman, the leader of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

Mexico's ruling conservative party had been in power just 50 days when drug lord Joaquin Guzman slipped out of a dark prison and into Mexican folklore.

Eleven years later, President Felipe Calderon's government is furiously trying to flush out the man nicknamed El Chapo - "Shorty" - to rescue its bloody war on drug cartels.

Guzman's flight from a maximum security prison in a laundry cart on January 19, 2001, was a major embarrassment to Calderon's predecessor Vicente Fox, who had just begun a new era as the first National Action Party (PAN) official to lead Mexico.

Now, Guzman is the greatest symbol of the cartels' defiance of Calderon, whose war unleashed a wave of gang violence that is eroding support for the PAN ahead of presidential elections on July 1. Calderon is barred by law from seeking a second term.

In the last few months, authorities have arrested dozens of Guzman's henchmen, seized tons of his contraband and razed the biggest single marijuana plantation ever found in Mexico, subsequently chalked up as another setback for El Chapo.

Over Christmas, three senior Guzman associates fell into Mexico's hands, including one named as his chief of operations in Durango, a state where he has been rumored to hide out.

"He's certainly aware people very close to him have been captured over the past two weeks, so he must be seriously concerned," said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings Institution expert on the drug trade. "The noose seems to be tightening."

Since his nighttime escape, Guzman's legend has grown daily, as the wily capo evaded capture, eliminated rivals and sold billions of dollars worth of drugs across the border.

Meanwhile, the PAN, who won office under Fox pledging to restore law and order in a country tired of the corruption that marred the 71-year reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has become more and more bogged down in the drug war.

Calderon staked his reputation on rooting out the cartels, but the army-led struggle has cost over 46,000 lives in five years, spooking tourists and investors alike.

As Calderon fought to contain the violence, he had to watch Guzman feted for success when the kingpin placed 41st in a Forbes list of the world's most powerful people in 2009.

Immortalized in song both in Spanish and English, Guzman seemed so untouchable that rumors began spreading the Mexican government had made a deal with him to keep the peace.

That talk has now faded, and Attorney General Marisela Morales said in October Guzman would be captured "very soon."

North of the border, things have also turned sour for the fugitive trafficker, who made headlines as the world's most wanted man after the death of Osama bin Laden.

In last few weeks, U.S. authorities in Arizona announced details of raids in which they arrested over 200 people linked to the Sinaloa cartel, named for the northwestern Pacific state where Guzman was born, probably in 1957.

Surveys show the public backs the crackdown on the cartels. But it also believes Calderon is losing the drug war.

Alberto Vera, director of research at pollster Parametria, said only something of the magnitude of Guzman's capture would persuade voters Calderon was winning. That could boost support for his party by two or three points if it happened not long before the election, he added.

"Catching him would do Calderon credit," said Luis Pavan, 40, a Mexico City insurance agent. "Fighting the gangs is one of the few good things the government has done."

Weakened by the mounting death toll, Calderon's PAN lags the opposition PRI by about 20 points, recent polls show.

Capturing Guzman could also benefit U.S. President Barack Obama, who faces a tough re-election battle against Republicans that accuse him of being weak on border security.

Arturo R. Garino, mayor of Nogales - an Arizona border city lying right on Guzman's main smuggling routes - said the kingpin's arrest would be a boost to both governments. "Cutting the head off the snake would help our economy too," he said.

Intelligence officials declined to say if efforts to catch Guzman had increased, but his biographer Malcolm Beith said there was little doubt they had, as recent operations on El Chapo's turf were being conducted by crack military units.

"It's been special forces and marines to the best of my knowledge. These guys are called in for special raids because they're less likely to have been infiltrated," he said.

Officials who have tracked Guzman say it is one thing to locate him and quite another to capture him.

Like late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, Guzman has a reputation as a protector of his heartland in Sinaloa, a rugged region that the state still struggles to penetrate, where news of approaching of strangers quickly reaches him and his followers.

"Chapo has allegedly paid for schools, hospitals, and other public projects," said Beith. "Second, he's just about the only source of employment in parts of Sinaloa. And he has provided security of a sort. He's been known to apprehend small-time crooks or thugs when they got out of hand. Lastly, the name Chapo pretty much puts the fear of God into people."

With locals watching his back, Guzman has always had just enough warning to get away at the last minute. The exception was when soldiers captured him in Guatemala in June 1993.

New surveillance technology has raised the stakes though.

Mexico has admitted allowing U.S. spy planes to track the cartels, reviving memories of the chase for Escobar, who was gunned down on a Medellin rooftop in December 1993.

The U.S. Army's spy unit Centra Spike played a crucial part in that takedown - using planes to triangulate Escobar's phone calls - and U.S. surveillance drones stationed just across the Arizona border are likely being used to help catch Guzman.

Adding to his problems are attacks from the rival Zetas gang, which has engaged in a spate of tit-for-tat killings with the Sinaloa cartel that have spread onto his territory.

If Guzman is caught, it could unleash a bloody scramble for power before the election, said Jose Luis Pineyro, a security expert at Mexico's Autonomous Metropolitan University.

"He is said to have influence in five continents," he said. "It would have repercussions outside Mexico and America."

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Eric Beech).


  1. They dont know what there doin. First get the zetas

  2. How is catching Shorty a good thing? Other than a feather in Calderon's hat all its gonna do is cause more chaos, spillover violence, a power vacuum that leads to more deaths of innocent folks and terror in areas Shorty controls. They should just leave him alone and exterminate the filthy z's who lower than dirt.

  3. If Mexico is more fuked up now than then. Why is Mexicos GDP at its highest and growing faster than even the United States. Mexicos economy continues to grow amist the cartel's crap. This also proves Mexico's economy does not solely depend on tourism like most other latin American nations in the area.

    I think you're doing a good job Mexico! Keep up the good work

    -un amigo de Irlanda

  4. People please stop sayin leave el chapo alone go after los zetas they r BOTH dog shit...... Get them all my all the dead be in gods hands

  5. Si lo atrapan voto por obama y apoyo el pan en mexico ,good luck MARINA AND GAFES............

  6. leave El Chapo alone,he aint greedy wit hes money...Destroy the greedy Zetas,ppl will have more money and b happy and you'll get votes this year PAN..That should b the plan for ur party,Calderon..Killing the Zetas will solve all of mexicos problems(economy,health,and crime rates)...yea ppl r mad bout the deaths of thousands but they more piss with the Extortion goin on..CAlderon u've been hes pet this whole time i kno another 12 months wont hurt u

  7. might be better to thin out the Zetas by half.

  8. Why is there so many tards swinging from sapos nuts if u tards remember he started a fight in jaurez and all over chih fuck all cartels drugs are poisoning kids all over mexico and the usa so I will pray hard every night and hope chapo I mean sapo gets caught as well as every other cartel member messing up my home town country mexico that I can't return to because of these people who would rob or extort me for my money or truck that I worked so hard to buy and to rape or take my innocent wife or daughters again fuck all cartels and calderon please give good honest people with clean backgrounds access to assault rifles so we can start taking our country back please don't be afraid of revolution trust me we like pan and we will only fight againts these cartel pigs

  9. Not sure why the Chapo love. Everywhere he goes, ultra violence follows. Look what he did in Juarez, made it into the worlds worst hell hole.

    Look what he did with El Teo. Teo went on a murderous rampage in east Tijuana with Chapo's backing. Chapo is NOT the good guy. He is a psychopathic, murderous, greedy asshole.

  10. For those of you who don't know: Chapo made the Forbes list of the worlds richest pieces of crap. He is also being nominated as "most likely to be succeeded" in this election year.

  11. @ January 5, 2012 10:27 PM

    Yeh Chapo is just that! him and his cartel is perhaps not as evil as Los Zeta's but still evil none the less.

  12. Unlike many who comment on this site I am not a 'cheerleader' for any cartel. That being said, it seems pretty clear that capturing Chapo would, in the short term, be terrible for Mexico. Think about it, if he were gone there would be NOTHING to stop the Zetas from making all of Mexico a true Narco state. If you cannot see this then you are an idiot.

  13. Mexicos economy is still strong, despite all the violence. Agriculture, energy, mining, communications, manufacturing and tourism have flourished. While it's ignorance to ignore that Mexico does have a problem. The richer have gotten wealthier and the poorer have just stayed poor. There are wealthier people than Chapo and Mayo in Mexico with interest in there business. In Mexico there is very little middle class. While the media plays heavily on the narco war. Everyone wants to blame Chapo for the wars he started, well they were wars already there. Someone else would have played those same cards. Pick your poison Mexicanos cause it's what you have let live for some time.

  14. @1/06 8:16AM,
    So, your logic is to allow "Chapo" to run free, so he can continue to fight the other DTO's (Zetas especially)! I guess you think it's "Chapo" who is keeping the Zetas in check (which clearly isn't the case). Your an "idiot" for making such a stupid comment! One is no better than the other...clearly your falling for all that BS DTO propaganda..I guess you think CT are really a religious group too! C'mon dude..there's no choosing sides here (between DTOs).

  15. You think they could use a more updated photo of the midget rather than the lame ass photo from over ten years ago. I guess it's wishful thinking...they keep using the same photo's, when he was in custody-once upon a

  16. @1/06 9:11AM,
    I never said Mexico should allow Chapo to run free (apparently your reading comprehension is somewhat lacking). I don't favor Chapo, I would like to see ALL DTO's eliminated but the reality is that it's not going to happen. Too much money and corruption for it all to go away.
    If I had to pick one over the other I would pick Sinaloa over Los Zetas because it appears that they are the lesser of two evils. I don't think Chapo's group are a bunch of saints by any means but those I have spoken with, who live in Mexico, have told me that the Zetas are behind a much higher level of extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.
    My thoughts are not based on propaganda, but rather friends and business associates who live in and have traveled to Reynosa, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen.
    Finally, It's funny that you mention the CT because I probably hate them most of all. They specialize in Meth production. In my opinion, the worst drug of all.

  17. That little silly lemon fuck midgets days are very numbered. Soon he will go home to his Poppy, Saten who will have his way with that liitle queer drawf forever.
    Chapo is a Dead Man Walking!. Soon his filthy corpse will pollute the ground where it will be shoved! LOL!!The fires of Hell are going to fry that little bitch forever!!!

  18. LONG LIVE EL CHAPO fuck his haters they all could go get a grenade kicked shoved up there ass DFL get that you punk ass prick

  19. This is jan 5 9:29 pm again I have a comment for sapos cheerleaders again I will repeat what I have witnessed the area sapo controls in my home state of chih is a kill zone and since I was a kid his people have always murdered back as long as i could remember the only difference between him and the other cartels is that sapo always kills behind closed doors and drops off bodies at night from what I know he does not like heat in his areas because he buys off police and does not like making it hard for his employees which are the police force and to the little fuck jan 3:19 pm I know ur a little fuckin midget wearing sandle sapo cock sucker I hope he turns on you soon and dumps you with your faced ripped off or turns you in to the military like he does to all his own people he has no use for or puts you in a camp to grow his weed then puts you on a bus and not pays you I swear you I own a company were I employ people from sinaloa they are good hard working people who when asked don't like talking about sapo it seems they are scared even here in arizona were all they say is they don't like talking about him cuz they all have had family not payed or killed by his people I will repeat this again fuck all cartels they are all hurting mexico and as far people thinking eliminating zetas first cuz sapo is the least of two evils I say go pick up a glock 45 then a glock 40 pick one point it to your head then ask your self fuck I wonder which one will be the least of two evils after you decide pull the trigger I'm sure you won't think the same after that

  20. this guy above me sounds pretty mad lol

  21. I have a dream..if Mexico should return back to its peaceful era. We NEED The Arellano-Felix Top Dawgs out of jail, and they will take care of that PIECE OF SHIT CHAPULIN MONTA-PERROS!!..

    Do you idiots remember when EL CAF was POWERFUL back in the 80's??....They were stronger then this piece of shit Chapulin..They weren't bragging about there power, and everything was running smooth.

    That fool Chapulin feared them!..mostly al COLORES!

    Vote ELCAFMX for a peaceful Mexico putos!...

    Happy trails!...


  23. Fuck el caf they some little bitches they always been spoiled brats since they were young el chapo is way more powerful then they ever were before you talk shit about el chapo look him up you will see his the biggest drug trafficker of all time respect that status that is if your on the scarface theme side if your against the drug world and people in the business that they put Al Pacino doing in scarface if your not into that then you will always be a hater against people like el chapo but they would cut your head if you talked shit in person around his people.

  24. That guy is definately the human equivalent of the legend of big foot. People claim to have see him but no one has actually ever gotten his hands on him. If i was running the movement of trying to capture him i would start with hookers and working girls because judging by his looks he must pay for the warmth of a woman.

  25. @The Chapulin groupies...

    Your half-pint midget hero ain't about helping anybody!..That fool just worries about himself and his bitch Miado!....

    Them greedy muthafucka's ain't nothing but punk ass snitches and bitches!...yeah fuck The CDS!..(Cartel De Snitches!) Where is that other putin M-1 o EL Undido???..Is that fool too busy putting on make-up for his next Internet photo shoot?!...LOL!..

    You Chapulin groupies claim that he builds schools?..But you putos are still having problems trying to write a simple sentence that makes sense!..LOL

    What's with up Vicente "RATA" Zambada?..why is he snitching out his own?????...That's probably the reason why EL CULO PRIETO turned against his daddy, and joined The Arellano-Felix, Beltran-Leyva, Carrillo-Fuentes, and Zetas against el cartel mas culo CDS and their buttcheeks CDG!...LOL

  26. To jan 7 5:04 pm you sound like a little wigger kid who has been smoking to many of sapos blunts as far as being in front of his people and them cutting my head off yeah right me and my friends work for law enforcment we actually do know how to use assualt rifles and here in az of usa we can defend our selves with mean weapons unlike the people who sapo tortures you are just a kid born in sinaloa don't act tuff kid men like me are seasoned veterans who will tear up the best of sapos body gaurds and yes I am from mexico I grew up here in us and have citizenship in both countries I will repeat cartels are tuff only amoung people who don't have access to weapons to defend themselves.

  27. And to people saying chapo helps his own people then why are they so poor I've visited sinaloa and they live way poorer than the rest of mexico were is your so called help to me from what I see sinaloans are all in the usa selling or installing auto glass for 80.00 a pop and when not doing that selling coke and crack to their installers instead of paying them cash and yes I do know

  28. For the peeps treating el chapo like some god on earth, he is only that positiom becausee of his connections that were handed down to him by el padrino and other people that really did the work . Yes he may have started new ways and techniques of smuggling coke but if we went back in time and put him infront of a taco stand he definately wouldnt be were he is today. and before u start screaming racist remarkes i am from mexico living in the u.s. And hate how he has taking advantage of a third world countries population by waiving money in peoples faces and made them his mules.

  29. January 8, 2012 5:19 AM . Fuckin funny,them comments.I,m still trying to work out if that dude at January 7, 2012 5:04 PM is serious?Fuck is he talkin about?Scarface,AlPacino?Newsflash ball-bag,its called acting a part.It,s not real.
    "EL CULO PRIETO"funny that shit.

  30. $$$CHAPO$$$ V.S zzzLAZCAzzz

  31. @ January 7, 2012 6:41 AM,you obviously know nothing about the CAF,for starters,they werent POWERFUL in the 80s,theyre days of glory were the beggining of the 90s,and then they caught the publics attention when the cardinal got killed in the crossfire in an attempt to kill Guzman Loera, May 24 of 1993.I hate to burst your bubble,but the CAF members turned each-other in.El Kitty Paez,Mayel Higuera his brother Giliyo & so many others turned informants,even the Top Dawg,Benjamin is sitting in M.C.C San Diego exchanging info about his people so he can get a lighter sentence.So no,your idols cant come to your rescue right now,the Witness Protection Program wont allow them furloughs!!As for peaceful,you must not be aware of the family your heros killed in El Sauzal,including innocent women & children!Sorry to rudely awake you from your dream! the way,I live in the San Diego/Tijuana border,so I know about the CAF!

  32. i think they want el chapo as he would, like its stated in this article, be a symbolic victory. its politically motivated to be sure. they should go after the zetas though. mexico could only be worse off with el chapo gone


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