Escaped Mexican Drug Boss “El Chapo” Back In Custody, President Says

Update: After nearly six months as a fugitive, drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera is back in police custody, according to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Peña Nieto took to Twitter on Friday, writing: "Mission accomplished: we have him. I would like to inform Mexicans that Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been detained." The escape of Guzmán from a maximum-security prison down a long, ventilated tunnel, complete with a motorcycle, drew criticism on both sides of the border in July. U.S. officials expressed skepticism about how prison officials had failed to notice the construction of the tunnel. Some seven people who worked in the prison were charged after his escape, the BBC reported. But capturing Guzmán is just one victory in an ongoing war between the government and the cartels that has taken an enormous toll on Mexico's people. Drug war-fueled violence has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world; at least 100,000 people have been murdered or disappeared since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels in 2006, Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Refinery29.
This story was updated on July 15, 2015. It took more than a mile of tunnel, two carts pushed by a specially modified motorcycle, and likely more than a year of digging, but this week, the notorious leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel was once again a free man. Now, new video released by the Mexican National Security Commission and published by the Associated Press on Wednesday shows first glimpses of the tunnel used by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera in his prison break. Built with ventilation, overheard lighting, and two carts that could be pushed by a specially modified motorcycle, El Chapo's escape route has been called a "feat of engineering” by authorities. The tunnel was dug more than 60 feet underground between Mexico's maximum-security Altiplano prison and a makeshift barn built on land officials believe the cartel purchased just for this purpose, according to the Associated Press. The intricacy of the tunnel and the massive amount of noise it would have generated have led many to believe El Chapo had significant help inside the prison. On Monday, Mexican Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters that three prison officials had been fired. But the whereabouts of one of Mexico's richest and most dangerous drug lords remain unknown.
This story was originally published on July 13, 2015. Two days after escaping from a maximum-security prison down a mile-long ventilated tunnel with a conveniently parked motorcycle at the end, the head of the Sinaloa cartel — and one of the world's richest people — Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, appears to be back on Twitter. An unverified Twitter account claiming to be the official handle of the 58-year-old cartel boss has been particularly active since his weekend escape, posting expletive-laced tweets mocking Mexican government officials while celebrating his freedom. Guzmán was last seen in the maximum-security Altiplano prison's showers on Saturday. "I'm back, and all of my people are with me," the @ElChap0Guzman account tweeted in Spanish on Sunday. Spanish-language media have previously reported that the account is run by the drug lord's son.
Guzmán was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison after being arrested in 1993, and initially escaped from jail in 2001 by allegedly hiding in a laundry basket — he was recaptured only last year after more than a decade as an escapee. In 2013, Forbes ranked Guzmán as 67th on its 2013 list of Powerful People. Now, Guzmán is back on the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of most wanted fugitives. Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Refinery29 that Guzmán's escape is a symptom of a far bigger problem. "It's not just the drug war; the whole Mexican justice system has broken down. There is so much corruption that even with maximum security, it's hard to hold someone like him," Tree said. "There is near total impunity for murders and violence. So imagine that you are a prison guard and you are given a dossier with the names and addresses of all of your friends, family, and loved ones. Then someone makes you a deal that you can either shut up and look the other way while someone escapes or be whacked yourself. You're going to look the other way." On Monday, the El Chapo account took aim at Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto: "And you, @EPN, don't call me a delinquent again because I give people work, unlike your fucking government."
Guzmán also responded to a tweet about him that was posted by Donald Trump. The real-estate developer has come under fire for making disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants during his presidential campaign. Following reports of Guzmán's escape, Trump tweeted: "Mexico's biggest drug lord escapes from jail. Unbelievable corruption and USA is paying the price. I told you so!" The account purportedly belonging to Guzmán fired back: "Keep fucking around and I will make you choke on all of your bitch words, you whitey." The tweet ends with a homophobic slur.
Guzmán's escape is a huge setback for the Peña Nieto administration, which has made apprehending cartel bosses the centerpiece of its drug-war strategy. But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection study found that such a strategy isn't the most effective, stating, "There was no change in the [drug] seizure rates when a key drug trafficking organization member was arrested or killed." Tree said the strategy of apprehending bosses like Guzmán may even do more harm than good. "Whether catching big fish and parading them in front of the cameras is effective or not, it's good P.R. But it is counterproductive, because you have lieutenants or rivals running to fill that vacuum, and they typically can't do it peacefully, so they do it violently," he said. "And it's these turf wars that create more violence. The fact is that the only thing worse than organized crime is disorganized crime." And while homicides in Mexico have fallen in recent years, drug violence still claims many lives. According to the Justice in Mexico project at the University of San Diego, at least one third and as many as half of homicides in Mexico were attributed to drug violence and organized crime in 2014.

More from Global News

R29 Original Series