Saturday, October 17, 2015
‘El Chapo’ Fled as Security Forces Closed In, Mexico Officials Say
Security forces hunting for the escaped drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera tracked him to a hide-out inMexico’s remote northwestern mountains, but he fled as they approached, injuring his leg and his face, Mexican officials said late Friday.
The government’s national security cabinet said in a statement that information from “international agencies” had directed the manhunt in recent weeks to the area known as the Golden Triangle, a rugged area at the border of Mr. Guzmán’s home state, Sinaloa, and the neighboring states of Durango and Chihuahua.
There was no direct confrontation between security officials and Mr. Guzmán, who is known as El Chapo, or Shorty, the government said. The statement did not say how grave his injuries were, nor how long ago he fled.
Mr. Guzmán, believed to be about 60 years old, escaped from a maximum security jail on July 11, walking out through a mile-long tunnel that had been dug by his associates.
The escape was a stinging blow to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who celebrated Mr. Guzmán’s capture in February 2014 as evidence that his government was winning the drug war.
Mr. Peña Nieto promised that his government would keep a permanent watch over Mr. Guzmán to ensure that he would never escape. The drug lord had escaped from another maximum security jail in 2001, an operation believed to have been made possible by corrupt prison officials.
Over the dozen years that followed, Mr. Guzman, believed to be operating from the same mountain redoubt where he was hiding now, built his Sinaloa organization into Mexico’s most powerful drug gang, waging bloody wars with rival groups to establish control over trafficking routes to the United States.
Many of those routes included elaborate tunnels across the border, equipped with lighting and ventilation.
A surveillance tape from Mr. Guzmán’s cell that was recently leaked to the Mexican station Televisa offered new evidence of the incompetence and corruption that allowed his escape in July.
On the night that Mr. Guzmán slipped into a hole dug in the shower stall in his cell, the repeated banging of a mechanical drill is audible over the tinny screech of a small television that he had turned up to full volume.
The noise is repeated over the course of six minutes as Mr. Guzmán lies in bed, watching television. Then, at 8:52 p.m., he changes his shoes, walks to the stall, which is blocked from the camera’s view, and disappears.
Officials watching the monitors appear not to notice his disappearance until 9:17, when they send two guards to check.
“Commandant, there’s a hole in the shower,” one shouts.
“How big?” is the response.
“Big, commandant, big.”
“But the prisoner isn’t there?”
“No, commandant, he isn’t.”