The arrest of drug overlord Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman has struck a blow against a major drug cartel that spawned a global drug network affecting millions of people and earning hundreds of millions of dollars.
Guzman was Mexico’s most wanted man, arrested in his native northwestern state at the Pacific beach town of Mazatlan early on Saturday after an operation involving Mexican and US agencies.
Officials have confirmed Guzman’s identity “100 percent”, and the operation passed off without a single shot fired, he added.
Guzman, wearing a cream shirt and dark jeans, was frog-marched across the tarmac by soldiers and put aboard a federal police helicopter.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the arrest a “landmark achievement,” saying Guzman’s activities contributed to the destruction of millions of lives worldwide “through drug addiction, violence, and corruption.”
Businessweek reported that since the 1990s, Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel has fought with almost all Mexico’s major drug cartels, including a gang founded by former elite soldiers known as the Zetas.
Guzman, who is in his 50s, overcame a poor, rural upbringing with limited education to become what the U.S. Treasury labeled in January 2012 as the “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker.”
The Sinaloa Cartel smuggles cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin, said Jeffrey Scott, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency in Washington. It operates in the U.S. and is thought to have presence in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru, he said.
Guzman entered the drug trade in the 1980s and rose to direct the local cartel’s operations, according to Malcolm Beith, author of “The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord.” Guzman’s rise was interrupted in 1993 when he was arrested in Guatemala and extradited to Mexico.
At Puente Grande prison in Jalisco state, Guzman bought off guards and inmates with funds provided by the cartel, according to Beith.
“Puente Grande became Chapo’s personal playground,” Beith wrote. Guzman and his allies were able to wander throughout the compound, throw parties and enjoy “smuggled alcohol, cocaine and marijuana, not to mention conjugal visits by women other than wives and girlfriends,” Beith said.