After Second Escape, Mexican Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' Recaptured

Jan 9, 2016
Originally published on January 10, 2016 3:51 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

World's most-wanted drug trafficker has been captured - again. Joaquin El Chapo Guzman was arrested yesterday after a spectacular chase through the Pacific coast city - through the Pacific coast city of Los Mochis, Mexico. The cartel leader has been on the run since last summer when he made a brazen escape from the country's maximum security prison. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It was just after noon local time when a tweet from the president's official Twitter account went out. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong interrupted a mid-day public appearance to read it out loud.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIGUEL ANGEL OSORIO CHONG: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Mission accomplished. We have him.

(APPLAUSE)

KAHN: The crowd applauded wildly then spontaneously began singing Mexico's national anthem. It was the news the government had been hoping to give since Joaquin Guzman, known by his nickname El Chapo or Shorty, escaped from the country's maximum security prison through a sophisticated nearly mile-long tunnel. It was an elite group of Marines that stormed a home in the Pacific coast town of Los Mochis early Friday morning. A shootout ensued and five people were killed, but Guzman and another cartel leader managed to escape the home through a sewer tunnel, said Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez at the late-night press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ARELY GOMEZ GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Marines then followed the kingpin, says Gomez, who ultimately popped out of the sewer system to a waiting car. The car was stopped by police a short while later, and Guzman was taken to a nearby motel until backup arrived. Photos of the kingpin at the motel were widely circulated. The man who once made Forbes list of the richest in the world was shown stone-faced in handcuffs sitting on the bed in the $50-a-night motel room. He wore a dirty sleeveless T-shirt. A poster of a bikini-clad pinup girl hung behind him. In a brief live address to the nation yesterday, President Pena Nieto repeatedly touted his government's success in bringing Guzman to justice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PENA NIETO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Today our institutions have demonstrated once again that the citizenry can have confidence in them, said the president. Guzman's arrest comes at a critical time for Pena Nieto. His popularity is the lowest of any president in recent history. In addition to a series of scandals and embarrassments - the biggest being Guzman's escape - Pena Nieto received much criticism for not extraditing the cartel leader immediately to the U.S. This time around, many believe the president won't make the same mistake. The U.S. has already officially petitioned for Guzman's extradition. And in recent months, the Mexican government has resumed sending wanted criminals to the U.S., says Andrew Selee, a Mexican expert with the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

ANDREW SELEE: Since he escaped almost six months ago we've seen a wave of extraditions for the first time in a number of years. And it seems that there's a shift in policy towards deciding that it's better to let the U.S. keep these folks.

KAHN: Lawyers for Guzman are expected to use all legal maneuvers to halt an extradition. Mexico's attorney general said Guzman would be taken back to the same maximum security prison he escaped from six months ago, presumably not to a cell on the ground floor. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.