The United States has announced they intend to seek the extradition of drug kingpin Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman from Mexico to the U.S. on a variety of charges, according to a spokesman from the United States Attorney in the district of Brooklyn, New York. Guzman, considered the most wanted man in Mexico, was the head of infamous Mexican drug cartel Sinaloa. He was captured in a raid on Saturday in Mazatlan, Mexico. It was the culmination of a joint year long operation with the two countries that included the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Homeland Security and included support from U.S. intelligence. The United States had a $5 million bounty in place on the kingpin’s head leading up to his capture.
The drug kingpin has been a high target for the U.S. government since 2011. There are pending extradition requests in place in eight other districts across the country, including California, Texas, Illinois and Florida before today’s extradition request from the United States. A big target of Guzman’s was the city of Chicago. He was viewed as “Public Enemy Number One” by the city’s crime commission, a title that they had not bestowed on someone since gangster Al Capone.
The latest estimation by Forbes magazine of Guzman’s fortune before today’s extradition announcement by the United States has it listed at more than $1 billion. It placed him on the magazine’s “World’s Most Powerful People” list above the presidents of France and Venezuela. He was able to evade arrest since he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001, hiding out before Saturday’s arrest in the mountainous area of Sinaloa known as the “Golden Triangle.” He was helped by locals there who benefited by Guzman’s fortune. The Mexican Defense General Galvan Galvan said in a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks that the kingpin moved between 10 to 15 locations around Sinaloa to avoid arrest. He also added that the Sinaloa kingpin had a security detail of over 300.
It is believed that the organization he had headed for a decade will soon appoint a replacement at the top of the cartel for the man nicknamed “El Chapo.” There are rumors the replacement may be Guzman’s co-leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. Zambada was arrested in Arizona in November. There is also a belief that his arrest will result in a drug war in the area due to his financial connections with Mexican officials as well as a desire by rival drug gangs to seize power in the country that Guzman left as a result of his arrest.
Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel has been notorious for smuggling billions of dollars in cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. through a series of underground tunnels. He was also able to acquire other trafficking routes into his organization along the Mexican-U.S. border, including in the towns of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. The resulting battles created a bloodbath in Juarez and turned Tijuana into one of the world’s deadliest cities. He had recently become a major exporter of drugs into Europe and Asia before yesterday’s arrest and today’s subsequent extradition request by the United States.
By Brian Ault