LATIN AMERICA

Mexico nearly captures its most notorious drug trafficker

Leader of feared Sinaloa cartel was on the verge of being captured by authorities Frustrated bust came one day after Hillary Clinton’s visit last month to the same resort

El Chapo Gúzman in 1993.
El Chapo Gúzman in 1993.

Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficker, the leader of the feared Sinaloa cartel, was on the verge of being captured by authorities three weeks ago at a resort mansion on the country’s Pacific coast. The frustrated bust occurred one day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit last month to the same resort.

The revelation was made Sunday by Associated Press, which interviewed José Cuitláhuac Salinas, deputy director of Siedo, Mexico’s organized crime division.

Labeled the most powerful trafficker in the world by the US Treasury Department, Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán was tracked down by Mexican law enforcement authorities to the Los Cabos resort mansion. “We knew he was there,” Salinas said.

The incident reaffirms indications that President Felipe Calderón wants to capture the 54-year-old Guzmán before he leaves office in December.

Two men and two women, who were inside the house where Guzmán was staying, were arrested. Salinas declined to identify them but said one of the men had been Guzmán’s personal pilot. Police also confiscated weapons inside the mansion.

As has taken place on previous occasions when the police closed in, Guzmán escaped at the last moment thanks to an apparent tip-off. Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel controls roughly half of the drug-trafficking operations in Mexico; the Zetas control the other half.

Guzmán, who, with insider help escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, has more cocaine connections throughout the world than any other drug trafficker, say US officials. Each year, he makes the annual Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest billionaires.

The price for his capture is $7 million, and he is wanted by both Mexico and the United States. According to some reports, Guzmán is hiding out somewhere in a remote mountainous region in his native Sinaloa state.

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