Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been captured, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Friday via Twitter.
“Mission Accomplished,” the President wrote. “We have him.”
Mexican Federal Police spokesman Jose Ramon Salinas confirmed Guzman’s capture to CNN.
Nicknamed “Shorty” for his height, Guzman has escaped twice from Mexican custody. The first was from a maximum-security prison in 2001 when he reportedly hid in a laundry cart.
The latest instance came when he broke out of another maximum-security prison in Almoloya de Juarez through a mile-long underground tunnel in July.
He then traveled north about 140 kilometers (85 miles) to San Juan del Rio, where two small planes were awaiting his arrival and took off from an airstrip, Attorney General Arely Gomez has said.
In this story
- "We have him," Mexico's President tweets
- Guzman escaped twice from Mexican prisons, most recently in July
Since then, he’d been rumored to be many places, including as far away as Argentina. In October, authorities revealed they were hot on Guzman’s trail, only to have him slip out of sight, though not before apparently breaking his leg.
Gomez said last fall that 34 people have been detained in connection with Guzman’s breakout last year, including the drug lord’s brother-in-law.
The Sinaloa cartel chief’s high profile and ability to elude authorities have been held up as an example of Mexico’s reputed ineptitude in dealing with powerful drug cartels.
The breakout also spurred major criticism about the Mexican government’s ability to safeguard such a notorious criminal, with some saying he should have been held in the United States.
Led one of Mexico’s richest, most violent cartels
Born in Badiraguato in Sinaloa state, Guzman started his career in the drug trade working for Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, according to Time magazine in 2009.
He started his own cartel in 1980, expanding it into other states and even poaching some of his mentor’s territory.
That creation — the Sinaloa cartel — soon became Mexico’s most powerful and richest, a multibillion empire that supplied much of the marijuana, cocaine and heroin sold on American streets.
It was also one of the most violent. U.S. indictments claim the organization used assassins and hit squads to show its muscle.
The rivalry with other drug cartels has spurred an ongoing drug war that’s left thousands of Mexicans dead.
“He’s the epitome of the problem,” said Malcolm Beith, author of “The Last Narco.” “He’s a poor kid who had some family connections in the drug trade, no options, no real education … (and) becomes a big-time drug lord.”