Drug Lord “El Chapo” Guzman is likely to face justice in the United States if US prosecutors succeed in their attempts to extradict the recently captured leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured Saturday in a resort town in Mexico and faces an extradiction request from eight districts in the United States.
US Justice Department spokesman Robert Nardoza was reported by CBS saying that U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in the Brooklyn federal district plans to formally seek Guzman’s extradition.
In Brooklyn, a federal grand jury charged Guzman and other co-defendants in 2009 with participating in a criminal enterprise responsible for smuggling cocaine into the United States.
While the U.S. did not want to bring it up in the first day of arrest, there will be a conversation about extradition in the weeks ahead, a government official told CBS News. At the moment, the Mexicans want to keep Guzman in custody but there is concern due to his 2001 escape from a Mexican prison inside a laundry truck. There has been widespread belief among drug war watchers that Guzman escaped because he had many Mexican officials on his payroll.
The United States had placed a $5 million bounty on Guzman’s head. Guzman’s cartel has smuggled billions of dollars worth of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States, and fought vicious turf wars with other Mexican gangs.
He pioneered the use of sophisticated underground tunnels to smuggle drug shipments across the border and also became a major narcotics exporter to Europe and Asia in recent years.
In the U.S., Guzman had targeted Chicago in recent years.
Major Problem with Drug Trafficking
Trafficking remains a highly lucrative business: according to U.S. State Department figures, the gangs send between $19-29 billion each year from the United States to Mexico.
In spite of steps to decriminalize marijuana usage in parts of the United States, the drug is still smuggled in vast quantities, and the market for harder narcotics is thriving.
Between 2008 and 2012, the amount of heroin seized at the U.S. southwest border increased by 232 percent, according to National Seizure System (NSS) data. And though cocaine seizures are down, that has been offset by higher consumption in Mexico and Europe, said Alberto Islas of consultancy Risk Evaluation.
Meanwhile, demand for Mexican methamphetamine is still enjoying “double digit” growth annually, Islas added.
RISK OF VIOLENCE
The illegal drugs market remains a massive problem.
Guzman was reportedly looking after a commercial enterprise that may have as many as 150,0900 people in its employ, according to the author of the book “The Last Narco”, Malcom Beith.
The fallout from Guzman’s arrest will likely be violent, he said.
“Whenever the leadership of a drug cartel is compromised, there are turf wars at lower levels,” Beith told Reuters.
“We’ve seen increased violence already in recent months in Sinaloa since the capture or death of several high-ranking lieutenants, I expect more to follow.”
Blows against capos have sparked conflagration in the past. Killings surged in the border city of Tijuana during a lengthy battle for control of the local cartel following the capture of kingpin Francisco Arellano Felix in 2006.
Guzman’s lieutenant Ismael Zambada could now take over but he is over 65 and younger rivals may seek to exploit the sudden opening.
In the meantime, the government must press home the attack on the Sinaloa Cartel, said Michael Braun, managing partner of security consultancy SGI Global who was formerly a top official at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“Now is the time to throw every available asset and resource, Mexican and U.S., at the cartel and relentlessly strike at every aspect of the organization,” Braun told Reuters.
But Mexico’s efforts to stamp out organized crime will fail if the government does not do more to tackle the corruption that has sustained Guzman and his ilk for years, said Edgardo Buscaglia, a crime expert at Columbia University.
“The politicians who protected El Chapo aren’t being arrested, nor are the businessmen who worked with him,” he said. “Without that, the arrests end up being inconsequential for dismantling the organization.”