The recapturing of El Chapo Guzman

  • By Stefano Guttusu

His vanity ultimately lead to his downfall

El Chapo’s escape from a maximum security prison and his subsequent evasion of a joint international military effort to recapture his may have been the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, yet it was precisely his efforts to to contact producers, directors and actors in an attempt to create a Hollywood movie about his life that ultimately lead to his capture following a  gun battle which left 6 dead including one fully armored special ops soldier.

Billionaire Guzman was arrested on Friday 8th January 2015 in the city of Los Mochis in his home state of Sinaloa, which he had come to dominate through the drugs cartel he led. During the deadly shoot out the illusive character yet again managed to escape from the building through a drain, it took a concerted effort from special ops military task forces to bring him in.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto described Guzman’s arrest as a “victory for the rule of law”. It is expected that the capture of El Champo Guzman will bring a significant boost in approval ratings for the Nieto administration.

The escape in July 2015 of Mexico’s most-wanted criminal master mind was politically embarrassing. It made the government look incompetent at best and institutionally corrupt at worst, many people doubted El Chapo’s escape could have happened without inside help. An embarrassment that was only made worse by the president previously saying that if he escaped again it would be unforgivable.

President Nieto has called the arrest “mission accomplished”

Special measures have been put in place to make the maximum security prison even more secure specifically for El Chapo. The floors of the high-security cell in Altiplano, Mexico, where Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán is currently being held have been reinforced with a tight web of steel rods coated with cement.

The lock on the 58-year-old’s door has been changed to an electronic locking system and more security cameras have been installed to monitor all movements in and out of his specially reinforced cell.

There will also be direct audio and visual contact by Federal police and agents of the National Security Intelligence Centre 24 hours a day and prison officers have been told to keep direct watch on El Chapo around the clock.

The head of the National Safety Commission, Renato Sales, has personally visited the prison and says he is satisfied with the conditions and the monitoring arrangements.

During a four hour inspection with police chief, Enrique Galindo, they looked at the perimeter fencing, air conditioning, locks, cameras and monitoring conditions.

In a statement Galindo said the prison conditions “fully comply with international protocols on the matter.”

El Chapo’s men dug a tunnel over one mile long fitted with a motorbike on rails under the prison walls and into El Chapo’s cell to break him out in July 2015.

The major flaw in the specially designed new safety measures is quite simply, what if El Chapo manages to somehow force the prison to relocate him to a different cell, one that isn’t so fortified? Mexico’s fool proof plan does not seem totally water tight at all. 

Mean while it is believed that Hollywood Actor Sean Penn (photographed in the main image) not only interviews El Chapo after his most recent escape but according to Sky News, actually submitted the story to the Mafioso from approval. Federal agents in the USA whom are seeking extradition of El Chapo to the Sates where is would be possible for him to face the death penalty were reported by several sources over recent days as “looking to question Sean Penn over the interview and his actions”.

It is believed that El Chapo’s contact with actors is what gave his location up to the military and enabled his capture, it is not yet clear if any of the actors directly offered this information to the authorities or not. As it would jeopardise the safety of anyone, if anyone, did offer information in exchange for the multi million US Dollar reward leading to El Chapo’s capture. The USA, Mexican and Guatemalan authorities remain silent in response to questions relating to this.

In a brief email exchange with the Associated Press on Monday, the actor did not directly respond to questions about whether it had been appropriate for him to submit his story to Guzman for approval before publication.

Nor did he answer when asked whether he had taken adequate operational security measures to protect his source, reports the news agency.

When the AP reporter who contacted Penn wrote that his exclusive had made many journalists envious, Penn replied: “True dat.”

The Mexican newspaper El Universal published photos on Monday that indicate how closely the actor was watched as he arrived in Mexico for the exclusive.

The pictures appear to show Penn and actress Kate Del Castillo at an airport and a hotel and meeting Guzman’s henchmen.

The newspaper said the photos were part of a Mexican government intelligence file.

Literary critics have lined up and ridiculed Penn’s foray into gonzo journalism as rambling, naive, badly written and navel-gazing.

Mexico has begun the process of extraditing Guzman to US, but says the process could take years.

On Sunday, agents formally notified Guzman he was wanted in the US, as Interpol served two extradition warrants.

Mexico refused to extradite Guzman to the US or any other nation last time he was captured, in February 2014, but his escape after 17 months behind bars seems to have embarrassed the government into rethinking it’s position on this matter.


 

S.Guttusu@theinternational.org.uk