Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sunday Globe Special: They Got Guzman

Related: US assisting Sinaloa cartel

I guess they would know where to find him.

"Most-wanted drug lord caught in Mexico; Wealthy kingpin eluded capture for 13 years" by Randal C. Archibold and Ginger Thompson |  New York Times, February 23, 2014

MEXICO CITY — The world’s most-wanted drug kingpin, known as El Chapo, has been captured, a senior US law enforcement official said Saturday, ending a 13-year manhunt for the chief supplier of illegal drugs to the United States and much of the rest of the world.

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, whose nickname means Shorty, had eluded authorities time and again since he escaped from a prison in a laundry cart just before an extradition order to the United States. He faces a slew of drug trafficking and other charges stemming from a multibillion-dollar drug empire.

Mexican marines captured him in the Pacific beach resort area of Mazatlan. There were no reports of shots fired. In the past year, several of his top associates had been detained and crime analysts who follow the drug world had speculated his days were increasingly numbered.

Guzmán, 56, took on near-mythic status, landing on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. The magazine said his fortune had grown to more than $1 billion.

Guzmán would pick up the tab for entire restaurants, or so the stories go, so diners would remain silent about his outings. According to a leaked diplomatic cable, he surrounded himself with an entourage of 300 armed men for protection. Narcocorridos, folk ballads in tribute to drug lords, were sung in his honor.

It seemed as if he was always tipped off or managed to slip away just as Mexican forces, often relying on US intelligence, closed in several times in the past few years. 


In 2012, it appeared he was hiding in a mansion in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur around the time then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with foreign ministers in the same town. A raid the next day failed to capture him.

While Guzmán is the most prominent drug lord to fall, the practical effect of his end remained unclear. He was considered the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, the largest and most powerful cartel with tentacles on every continent.

Security analysts, however, have long suspected that, as Mexican and US authorities ratcheted up their pursuit, much of the day-to-day management fell to subordinates who remain at large.

Another powerful group, the Zetas, has emerged to battle Guzmán’s organization, raising questions about whether the focus on dismantling that group gave Guzmán something of a free pass.

That so stinks.

Still, Guzmán’s fall carried a potent symbolic boost for Mexican security forces, which have killed or captured 25 of the 37 most-wanted organized crime leaders announced in 2010.

Guzmán boasted a rags-to-riches story that only fed the legend. He was born in poverty in the foothills of the Sierra Madre in northwestern Sinaloa state and dropped out of school by third grade. His first foray into drug smuggling came in the late 1980s, when, according to the US State Department, he began working for Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, once Mexico’s biggest cocaine dealer, as an air logistics expert.

Guzmán astutely exploited the cocaine boom in the United States at the time, making valuable contacts along the transport chain from Barranquilla, in Colombia, to Arizona.

By the time the Mexican authorities captured Felix Gallardo in 1989, Guzmán inherited one of his smuggling routes and began forming his own, mushrooming cartel.

He was charged in the United States with money laundering and racketeering in March 1993 and three months later he was arrested and convicted on drug and homicide charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison in Mexico.

He said he was a farmer and merchant earning approximately $6,000 monthly.

The drug and racketeering indictments piled up. One in 1994 said Guzmán continued operating his organization through his brother, Arturo Guzmán Loera, while in prison in Mexico, arranging cocaine shipments from South America to the United States.

In January 2001, Guzmán’s criminal career took a stunning turn. He escaped from the maximum-security prison in Guadalajara — the heart of Felix Gallardo’s cartel operations. According to popular folklore, he was wheeled out in a laundry cart, with assistance from the prison authorities.

His life on the run gave rise to all manner of rumors about his whereabouts. In a New York Times interview in fall 2011, Felipe Calderón, the president at the time, wondered aloud if Guzmán was actually in the United States when Guzmán’s latest bride traveled to Los Angeles to give birth to twins.

In the past year, US and Mexican authorities stepped up sanctions to pressure the Guzmán family. Yet, the Sinaloa Cartel has grown steadily since his escape, expanding into marijuana and heroin.

In the end, Guzmán’s fall may hardly mean the end of his empire. There simply may be “a redistribution of power,” said Malcolm Beith, a journalist who wrote “The Last Narco,” describing the hunt for Guzmán.

A US federal indictment unsealed in San Diego in 1995 charges Guzman and 22 members of his organization with money laundering and conspiracy to import eight tons of cocaine. A provisional arrest warrant was issued as a result of the indictment, according to the State Department.

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in drug violence since Calderón deployed thousands of soldiers to drug hotspots upon taking office on Dec. 1, 2006.

All the rest of it is blah-blah-blah shell game obfuscation.


"Cartel boss’s armor dissolved amid arrests; Mexican agents flip defendants into informants" by Katherine Corcoran |  Associated Press,  February 24, 2014

CULIACAN, Mexico — For 13 years Joaquin ‘‘El Chapo’’ Guzman watched from western Mexico’s rugged mountains as authorities captured or killed the leaders of every group challenging his Sinaloa cartel’s spot at the top of global drug trafficking.

Unscathed and his legend growing, the stocky son of a peasant farmer grabbed a slot on the Forbes billionaires’ list and a folkloric status as the capo who grew too powerful to catch. Then, late last year, authorities started closing on the inner circle of the world’s most-wanted drug lord.

The son of one of his two top henchmen, Ismael ‘‘Mayo’’ Zambada, was caught at a border crossing in Nogales, Ariz., in November as part of a sprawling, complex investigation with as many as 100 wiretaps, according to his lawyer.

A month later, one of the Sinaloa cartel’s main lieutenants was gunned down by Mexican helicopter gunships in a resort town a few hours’ drive to the east. Less than two weeks later, police at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam arrested one of the cartel’s top assassins, a man who handled transport and logistics for Guzman.

This month the noose continued tightening. Federal forces began sweeping through Culiacan, capital of the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa — closing streets, raiding houses, seizing automatic weapons, drugs, and money, and arresting a series of men Mexican officials carefully described to reporters as top officials for Zambada.

But the target was bigger. By Saturday, they had nabbed Guzman, 56, in the resort city of Mazatlan, where he fled after reportedly escaping a law enforcement net in Culiacan.

‘‘My sense in talking with Homeland Security officials and others last night is that we were able to penetrate his circle, get people within the organization to cooperate,’’ US Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. ‘‘It’s not just the most significant capture and the arrest of one man, but it bodes well for our efforts to dismantle and unravel the Sinaloa cartel.’’

Translation: the AmeriKan government has turned on and double-crossed them!

McCaul called Sunday for Guzman to be extradited to United States to ensure he remains behind bars, noting that the drug lord escaped from prison in 2001.

But the Mexican operation that netted Guzman was praised across the board in the United States as a sign of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s commitment to battling organized crime.

On Feb. 13, a man known as ‘‘19,’’ whom officials called the new chief of assassins for Zambada, was arrested with two other men on the highway to the coastal resort city of Mazatlan.

Four days later, a man described as a member of the Sinaloa cartel’s upper ranks was seized along with 4,000 hollowed-out cucumbers and bananas stuffed with cocaine. In the middle of this week, a 43-year-old known by the nickname ‘‘20’’ and described as Zambada’s chief of security, was arrested transporting more cocaine-stuffed produce.

By the middle of the week at least 10 Sinaloa henchmen had been seized.

A US law enforcement official said Saturday at least some were actually security for Guzman, and authorities used them to obtain information that helped lead to the head of the cartel. The official was not authorized to talk to journalists and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Agents learned that Guzman had started coming down from his isolated mountain hideouts to enjoy the comforts of Culiacan and Mazatlan, said Michael Vigil, a former senior DEA official who was briefed on the operation.

‘‘That was a fatal error,’’ Vigil said.

Well, not yet. He's still alive and in custody, right?

Working on information gleaned from Guzman’s bodyguards, Mexican marines swarmed the house of Guzman’s former wife but struggled to batter down the steel-reinforced door, according to Mexican authorities and former US law enforcement officials briefed on the operation.

As the marines forced their way in, Guzman fled through a secret door beneath a bathtub down a corrugated steel ladder into a network of tunnels and sewer canals that connect to six other houses in Culiacan, the officials said.

Guzman fled south to Mazatlan. On his heels, a team of US Drug Enforcement Administration agents set up a base of operations with Mexican marines in the city, according to the current US law-enforcement official.

Early Saturday morning, Guzman’s reign was halted without a shot fired. Marines closed the beachside road in front of the Miramar condominiums, a 10-story, pearl-colored building with white balconies overlooking the Pacific and a small pool in front.

Smashing down the door of an austerely decorated fourth-floor condo, they seized the nation’s most-wanted man at 6:40, just minutes after sunrise.

Guzman was caught with an unidentified woman, said one official not authorized to be quoted by name, who added that the DEA and US Marshals Service were ‘‘heavily involved’’ in the capture. Mexican officials said, however, that Guzman was detained along with a man they identified as Carlos Manuel Hoo Ramirez.

I bet they were!


"Drug kingpin’s lawyers seek to block extradition to US; Mexico considers its own charges against ‘El Chapo’" by Mark Stevenson |  Associated Press, February 25, 2014

MEXICO CITY — Lawyers for drug kingpin Joaquin ‘‘El Chapo’’ Guzman are seeking an injunction against any attempt to extradite him to the United States, a federal court said Monday.

Mexican drug suspects have used such motions in the past to delay extraditions for months or even years, though most eventually lose the bid.

On Sunday, Guzman was formally charged with violations of Mexico’s drug-trafficking laws, starting a legal trial process in Mexico that would also make a swift extradition to the United States less likely....

Guzman was arrested Saturday morning in the Pacific coast city of Mazatlan by Mexican marines acting on US intelligence....

It is a politically sensitive subject for the Pena Nieto administration, which has sought to assert more control over joint antidrug efforts with the United States. Analysts said the Pena Nieto administration was probably torn between the impulse to move Guzman to a nearly invulnerable US facility, and the desire to show that Mexico can successful retry and incarcerate the man whose time as the fugitive head of the world’s most powerful drug cartel had embarrassed successive Mexican administrations.

Many in Mexico, however, see extradition as the best way to punish Guzman and break apart his empire, given the United States’ more certain legal system and better investigation capacities.

‘‘The only option that would allow for dismantling this criminal network is extradition, and that’s unfortunate,’’ said Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert on the cartel and a senior research scholar at Columbia University. ‘‘Because, in the end, extraditions are an escape valve for Mexico.’’

The nation has been slow to improve its own investigative police, prosecution, and court system.

‘‘There are arguments for and against extraditing him,’’ said security expert Jorge Chabat. ‘‘If he stays in Mexico, there are risks he could escape or continue to control his criminal organization from inside prison.’’

Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel allies have hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars at their disposal, along with networks of corrupt officials, hitmen, and other allies throughout Mexico. The cartel is believed to sell cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine in about 54 countries....

Is that who is moving in the killer heroin these days, and if so, WhereTF is it coming from?


Only one way to win the drug war:

"Soldiers, civilians clash in Mexico" by Mark Stevenson |  Associated Press, January 15, 2014

ANTUNEZ, Mexico — The Mexican government moved in to quell violence between vigilantes and a drug cartel in Michoacan state, but the campaign turned deadly early Tuesday with a confrontation between soldiers and civilians who witnesses say were unarmed. 

I'm sure there is a connection there.

There were widely varying reports of casualties, but Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of two men said to have died in the clash, and spoke to the family of a third man who was reportedly killed in the same incident.

The attorney general’s office said it could not confirm a number of dead. The Interior Ministry said it had no information about reports that soldiers had fired on an unarmed crowd.

‘‘This is how they plan to protect the community? We don’t want them,’’ said Gloria Perez Torres, who was grieving over the body of her brother, Mario, 56.

Antunez was calm again Tuesday, and self-defense groups remained armed and in control.

In the city of Apatzingan, hundreds of federal police offices, armored vehicles, and buses amassed in the city square.

Osorio Chong announced the new strategy following a weekend of firefights as the vigilantes extended their control to the communities of Antunez, Paracuaro, and Nueva Italia. 

I guess vigilantes is the corporate pre$$ term for those defending themselves.


RelatedMexico legalizes vigilante groups

As the U.S. government seeks to disarm its people!

Also see: U.S. Government Brings Drug War to U.S. Cities 

So that's how it got here. 

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Drug kingpin should face justice in US, not Mexico