2023 Author: Steven Freeman | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 15:22
After an intense and unsuccessful search with the help of an informer named Nariz, the DEA and the Mexican authorities faced the possibility in February 2014 of adding yet another failure in their effort to lay hands on the elusive Joaquín el Chapo Guzmán Loera, one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world.
The considered head of the Sinaloa cartel has just escaped through a tunnel hidden under a bathtub in the precious seconds it took for the Mexican marines to knock down the armored door of the house in Culiacán, Mexico, in which they had finally been located.
The registration of three other houses identified by Nariz did not bear fruit either, so they continued to search stores and houses of collaborators of the drug trafficker, without obtaining results. It seemed like another missed opportunity.
That is what emerges from the testimony this Thursday in the trial of Chapo in the federal court of Brooklyn, NY, of the DEA agent Víctor Vázquez, who was part of the operation executed by the Mexican Marines in collaboration with the US authorities.
Those responsible already came from another failure a few days before when an assault on a ranch in Sinaloa had not resulted in the capture of Ismael el Mayo Zambada, a member of El Chapo and whom some point to as the real head of the cartel. After that setback, the Mexican-American agent said they decided to go for their second target: Guzmán Loera.
On the trail
The opportunity came when they located a party - apparently through wiretapping - to Nariz, one of the "errand boys" who had the boss. "He knew everything about Guzmán Loera," said Vázquez.
Nose tried to trick them at first by telling them that he was in house 3 - they used numbers as a code name - but they already knew from the intervention of messages that he was in 5, although they did not know his address. There, the drug dealer agreed to cooperate and take them to the property, in the Guadalupe neighborhood.
After locating it, they established a perimeter and the Marines began the assault with the battering ram, which broke and failed to knock down the blast door. With a second battering ram they finally managed to enter. "At 15 seconds I heard on my radio: 'tunnel, tunnel,'" said the agent, who assured that the Marines came to hear the voices of those fleeing.
The soldiers threw a stun grenade - "you never know what you can find" - and entered the tunnel, which was "very small" and "very hot", without being able to catch their target.
The next step, always according to Vázquez, was to continue searching the houses pointed out by Nariz. They found drugs, rocket launchers, a pistol with the initials JGL in diamonds and even fake bananas ready to be filled with cocaine, but nothing from El Chapo. His intention, he stressed, was to destroy the capo's infrastructure in Culiacán.
They recovered the trail when another collaborator of Guzmán, Mario Picudo Lopez Osorio, confessed to them that he had been the one to have collected his boss, another of his companions and two women after they had escaped through the tunnel and had taken them to Mazatlán, just over an hour south.
To go unnoticed in the tourist destination, Vázquez said that on the way to the coastal city in civilian cars they stopped at a Walmart to buy beachwear for the team of 24 marines. The wiretaps of the US authorities had managed to locate Miguel Cóndor Hoo Ramírez, the assistant who accompanied El Chapo and had fled with him through the tunnel, in a hotel in Mazatlán.
The next day, on February 22, they went early in the morning to the Miramar hotel, which was suspiciously guarded by two local police patrollers, whom they made to leave. "We could not trust the local and state police," said the agent, who assured that corruption in those bodies "is uncontrolled."
Once the entrances to the building were secured, the military searched the building room by room until they finally hit the target on the fourth floor. "7.7, confirmed, Vic," Vázquez was reported on the radio. "I knew we had Guzmán Loera."
The agent, who had been on his trail for years, was able to meet his prey minutes later in the basement of the hotel. "I walked to where I was [on my knees]," he recalled. "I said, 'Hey, it's you, it's you.'
Along with Chapo was, in addition to Cóndor, his wife Emma Coronel and their two daughters.
Shortly after, he said, he accompanied the detainee in a Learjet of the Mexican Navy to the capital of the Aztec country, where he last saw him. Until Wednesday, when she found him again, but this time in a federal courtroom.
As is known, after that capture in Mazatlán, El Chapo was convicted by the Mexican courts and sentenced to a prison term, which he served in a maximum security prison when he escaped the following year. Through another tunnel.
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