‘El Chapo’ Bid for Movie About His Life Helped Lead to Capture, Authorities Say
One of the world’s most notorious outlaws thought about one thing after escaping from a Mexican prison for a second time: a movie about himself, the infamous drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.
It amounted to hubris.
His vanity helped authorities in recapturing him for a third time.
Police and the military successfully hunted down Guzman and his henchmen this week partly because he or his representatives contacted filmmakers about making an El Chapo biopic, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said.
“Another important aspect that allowed us to pinpoint his location was having discovered Guzman Loera’s intention to film a biographical movie through establishing communication with actors and producers, which formed a new line of investigation,” Gomez said.
Hollywood will likely make a movie or even a series about El Chapo, as it has about other drug lords, such as Colombia’s Pablo Escobar in “Narcos.”
But for now, Guzman won’t have a direct hand in any.
His efforts to develop a biopic ends in a scene with high irony: After six months on the run, Guzman is now back in the same maximum security prison from which he escaped, according to a Mexican law enforcement official with knowledge of the case.
Extradition of Guzman to the United States, where his cartel trafficked its drugs, is “very likely,” but “will not happen right away,” a senior Mexican law enforcement official told CNN Saturday.
The Mexican government has not seen a formal U.S. request for extradition, and Mexico has not taken any step yet, but the extradition is likely to happen, the official said.
Surveillance helps in recapture
The tracking of communications including cell phones and electronic exchanges involving people close to Guzman was critical in his recapture, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials.
“It was the same apparatus that caught him last time, staying tight on the people around him,” one of the officials said.
The United States shared intelligence with Mexican authorities, but the actual operation was all done by the Mexicans, the U.S. officials said.
Guzman used an elaborate underground tunnel to break out of a Mexican federal prison in July.
But he was recaptured Friday after the Mexican navy raided a home in the coastal city of Los Mochis in his native state of Sinaloa, where he enjoyed protection from his gunmen and many local residents who revered him as a modern Robin Hood.
Mexican forces transferred Guzman from an armored vehicle and into a helicopter late Friday night.
Guzman’s prison escape — his second one in 14 years — embarrassed the Mexican government and became a symbol of ineptitude and corruption.
Now that Guzman is back inside the Altiplano maximum security prison in central Mexico, officials aren’t disclosing where exactly he is being held inside the facility.
Chase through sewer tunnels
The home where he was captured Friday had been under surveillance for a month, Attorney General Arely Gomez said.
Guzman arrived at the house Thursday, and authorities raided it in the wee hours of Friday.
When the Mexican navy arrived, they encountered gunfire from inside, according to Gomez. The navy said five suspects died and six others were arrested. One navy personnel was injured.
During the shootout, Guzman and an aide allegedly escaped through a manhole that led to the city’s sewer system.
Soldiers chased him through the sewer tunnels, but he made it to the surface, where he stole a car, authorities said.
He almost escaped again, but authorities located the car on a highway outside the city and nabbed him.
Some of Guzman’s alleged accomplices have been detained as well.
A man in charge of building the prison tunnel he used to escape in July was arrested, along with the owner of the land the tunnel was in. So was an attorney who allegedly paid for the tunnel, as was Guzman’s brother-in-law.
In the latest escape in July, Guzman disappeared after stepping into the shower. He slipped through a hole in his cell block and into a lighted, ventilated tunnel.
From there, he took off for San Juan del Rio, where two small planes awaited, Gomez said. Two pilots were among the dozens of people arrested.
Since his escape, there have been reported sightings and near-misses. In October, authorities said they were hot on his trail, only to have him slip out of sight, though not before apparently breaking his leg.
After his capture this week, a relieved President Enrique Peña Nieto applauded security forces.
“Mission accomplished: We have him,” he tweeted.
The Sinaloa state native started his drug cartel in 1980. He became a powerful figure, leading a multibillion-dollar empire that supplied much of the marijuana, cocaine and heroin sold on American streets.
U.S. indictments claim the organization used assassins and hit squads to show its muscle. The Justice Department previously sought his extradition to the United States.
Authorities first arrested Guzman in Guatemala in 1993. They extradited him to Mexico and after his conviction, sent him to the Puente Grande maximum security prison.
In 2001, he escaped using a laundry cart and evaded Mexican authorities for years.
His freedom ended in 2014, when he was arrested in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan.
Guzman was then sent to Altiplano Federal Prison in Almoloya de Juarez, where he made the daring July escape.
Authorities paraded him before journalists late Friday night, then put him on a helicopter.
The attorney general said Guzman is headed back to the same prison from which he escaped last year.