No sooner Mexico announced its capture of "Chapo" Guzman, the Mexican Escobar, if you will, that the US announced its determination to have Guzman extradited to the US.

But the capture of Guzman is more than just the lucky routing of the most wanted man in Mexico.  It is also a political and law enforcement symbol.  What is still to be determined, is whether his capture is part of a facade that Pena Nieto is constructing to increase his political clout, or whether it is a lasting commitment to contrast drug lords.  

It is an interesting fact, that just recently citizens in certain areas of Mexico are uniting to create posses of vigilantes to rout the cartels.  As dangerous as it is, it is also a sign of failure on the part of the government, and although Pena Nieto has now endorsed the posses, it must have come to him, that if Mexico needs its citizens to be armed against the cartels, that his government and efforts to stop the cartels had all but failed.  Arming citizens has long term consequences that any astute politician can foresee.

Although the operation to capture Guzman is a decade in the making, and the real push to apprehend him had begun a while ago, the timing of his arrest, and the intense effort to find him, may have more to do with Pena Nieto's immediate political needs, or a wider cartel conspiracy, than with a total commitment to break the cartels.

The Sinaloa cartel, is the most violent of all the drug cartels, and has killed untold numbers of people all along the Pacific coast and further afield.  Guzman, as the leader of the cartel, and as a person who seemed to make a mockery of the government and the army's efforts to stop him, was the personification of the failures of the Mexican system.  Much like Escobar before him, Guzman is a target because of what he represents, more than what he does, and he too will be replaced when he is gone.  

In the meantime however, his arrest will weaken the Sinaloa cartel for a while, and if Pena Nieto decides to make hay of the moment, this could be a turning point for Mexico.

The fact that Guzman was easily apprehended, not in a bunker, or walled compound, signifies the freedom these cartel chiefs enjoy, but also the fact that there could be changes in act not yet visible to cartel outsiders.  Cartel heavyweights must feel, and know, that they do not have to run, nor hide. 

Even though he might not have lived his life in plain view, his capture definitely was less climactic than Escobar's.   That might have been planned, as the US-Mexican joint task force purposely cornered him as he leisurely slept in a resort apartment building with his wife.   

Mexico for its part has already signified to the US Attorney General Holder, that it intends to try Guzman in a Mexican court, leaving doubt as to whether Guzman will be handed over. That in itself could be a sign that he is still protected. After all, he was allowed to escape from a maximum security prison in 2001.  

DEA officials queried on the clamorous arrest said that what enabled Guzman's apprehension was the fact that years on the run had separated him from the luxuries he had become accostumed to, and that it was just such deprivation that saw him surface for air.  It is almost counterintuitive how a man who had the intellect to build and maintain control of such a powerful cartel could be caught in such circumstances, but Guzman was a child of poverty and it is not hard to understand why he would have tired of the austere lifestyle he had to adopt while on the run. He had, in short, become careless, maybe even tired.

Most of the past escapes Guzman was able to make had been the product of both highly defensive measures, like living in walled compounds, and the tips of corrupt officials.  What kept this operation from falling apart may have been a change of tactics that circumvented possible leakage from paid off officials and other cartel minions.  

However, just as in the capture of Escobar, the crucial factor in the apprehension of Guzman were US phone intercepts and other wiretap techonology.   Such sophisticated tools allowed the US authorities to track Guzman as he fled even in the depth of his escape tunnels. 

But the arrest, as hinted to in the premise of this article, could be little more than face saving on the part of Pena Nieto, and unless he acts to further destroy the cartels, this arrest could be just part of a plan to rehabiltate himself. 

As a matter of fact, Pena Nieto, who had promised to finally eradicate the cartel - a big promise indeed - during his election campaign, had been accused of going after other cartels and being lenient on the Sinaloa cartel.  Considering the breadth of the Sinaloa's reach and the violent means of their trade, Pena Nieto had to redeem himself with just such a sweeping drug enforcement action.  

To be fair, the operation had been underway for a while, even before Pena Nieto's ascension to the presidency. For more than a year, the US agents worked closely in the case.   A lucky arrest in November, placed the son of a high ranking Sinaloa operator in the hands of the US authorities, which allowed them to gain more updated information on the places and routines employed by Guzman and the Sinaloa hierarchy.

Either way, this is a big score, but it will only be a big score if the heat is turned up even higher on the drug cartels. If Guzman remains in Mexico, he will operate from his jail, and worse, be allowed to escape again.  It also would enable him to retaliate even more violently on the community that allowed his arrest.

Some are still very skeptical that his arrest will change anything.  Guzman had every politician in his pocket. And even though the drug authorities in the US say that this arrest means that the current Mexican administration is serious about drug enforcement, Phil Jordan of the DEA has expressed his view that Guzman must have been handed over because he "double crossed someone, or didn't make full payment on bribes."  Jordan even goes so far to say that "something went wrong", in Guzman's power structure, since he had deep ties with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party now in power in Mexico, which were the basis of people's complaints that the Sinaloa cartel was being favored in Nieto's push against the cartels in the first place. 


Partial source : the Guardian /  

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