The Arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán


The arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on January 8, 2016 has ended the manhunt for Mexico’s most wanted man. This article will detail the arrest of Guzmán, as well as providing a brief overview of the Sinaloa Cartel headed by the man known as “El Chapo”.

Operating through a vast array of street and prison gangs, police, the military, government and customs officials, front companies and banks, the illicit drug trade has become an integral part of Mexico’s economy. The Sinaloa Cartel is the leading player in Mexico’s illicit drug trade, and considered the most powerful organised crime group. Headed by Guzmán, the cartel is responsible for an estimated 25 per cent of illegal drug imports into the United States, with a revenue of $3 Billion. Overall, Mexico’s war on drugs have killed an estimated 70,000-100,000 people with approximately 26,000 ‘missing’ by security forces.

Guzmán was hiding in the coastal town of Los Mochas. The raid to arrest Guzmán occurred on the Río Quelite street in the affluent suburb of Las Palmas. It was led by the elite Mexican Naval Infantry Force (Marines). Located in a white house, the raid Marines began around 4:30am. It is apparent from media reports that members of the Sinaloa Cartel began shooting at the Marines, whom returned fire immediately. Local police and additional support from the Marines had sealed off surrounding streets but this did not prevent Guzmán from escaping.

Guzmán escaped via the underground sewer system beneath Los Mochas, with his chief of security Orso Iván Gastelum Cruz whilst members of the Cartel were engaged in a bloody shootout with Marines. However, the Marines were prepared and followed Guzmán into the sewers. Through the fetid tunnels below, Guzmán and Cruz wallowed around until 10am when they surfaced on Adolfo Lopez Mateos boulevard, near a local hospital where they carjacked a red Ford Focus. Guzmán and Cruz sped northward away from the mountains and onto Highway 15. Trailed by police and Marines, both men were eventually caught and arrested.

Immediately after his arrest, Guzmán was then taken to a local ‘sex motel’ where he was hidden until reinforcements arrived. This successful attempt to recapture Guzmán took less time than when he escaped in 2001, which took 15 years. The Marines were credited with success as the Marines are considered more of an elite force than the Army, whom had failed to catch Guzmán despite many attempts.

It was, however, a lust and quest to cement his own ego, his own reputation as the ‘greatest’ drug lord in the Americas that led to his undoing. Meeting with actor and activist Sean Penn for an interview with The Rolling Stone magazine also contributed. A yearning to cement his status as the world’s most prolific drug Cartel leader ultimately brought down the now infamous man known as El Chapo.

As the malicious stream of illegal drugs flows into the United States, this arrest is significant. It has been observed as a clear victory in Mexico’s ‘War on Drugs’. Alas, the Sinaloa Cartel will prevail, new leaders will emerge, and Mexico’s tyrannical illicit drug industry will endure.

Callum Cross

Callum Cross recently graduated with a Honours Bachelor of International Studies with Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) from the University of Adelaide, Australia. His research interests include peace, conflict and security, liberal institutionalism, environmental politics and international diplomacy. Follow him on Twitter: @Callum_DC

About Callum Cross

Callum Cross recently graduated with a Honours Bachelor of International Studies with Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) from the University of Adelaide, Australia. His research interests include peace, conflict and security, liberal institutionalism, environmental politics and international diplomacy. Follow him on Twitter: @Callum_DC