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THE WORLD

Kingpin's Brother Captured

September 09, 2001|CHRIS KRAUL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — The capture last week of the brother of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, one of Mexico's most-wanted drug traffickers, has fed hopes among law enforcement authorities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border that the audacious capo himself might soon be reapprehended.

Head of the so-called Sinaloa drug mafia, Joaquin Guzman staged a dramatic escape from Guadalajara's high-security Puente Grande prison Jan. 19, apparently hidden in a laundry cart after prison video cameras were disabled.

The escape of Guzman, who had been in custody since 1993, was a major embarrassment for President Vicente Fox, who had promised during his election campaign to capture drug kingpins.

The major Mexican drug cartel leaders remain at large, although several lieutenants have been jailed this year. And although the arrest of Arturo "The Chicken" Guzman is a positive step in Fox's drug campaign, the brother is no higher than a mid-level trafficker, said Jorge Chabat, a professor at Mexico City's Center for Economic Research and Teaching who studies drug trafficking and law enforcement.

Arturo Guzman's arrest was announced Friday night by Mexican Atty. Gen. Rafael Macedo de la Concha, who said the suspect was taken into custody Thursday based on leads developed during the effort to track down his brother. Both brothers are under indictment in the U.S. for drug trafficking.

Macedo also said that Ricardo Bonilla Arizmendi, said to be Joaquin Guzman's security chief, was captured Monday. Marco Antonio Cruz Garcia, another Guzman bodyguard, was arrested Tuesday. Few details of the arrests, including their locations, were made public. The government did not say Friday whether it would extradite "The Chicken."

"With these arrests, we have significantly cracked one of the main cartels that operate in the country," Macedo told reporters.

Chabat said he is not so sure, adding that arrests such as these will not impede the flow of drugs.

"The cartel leaders have a protective network that is very efficient. The proof is that they are still at large," he said.

Although the cartel Joaquin Guzman heads is not considered as pervasive as gangs based in Tijuana, Juarez and Matamoros, he and his confederates have produced their share of lurid headlines.

Both Guzman brothers were indicted in U.S. federal court in 1995 for masterminding the infamous "narco tunnel" in Tijuana, a 1,400-foot passageway near the commercial Otay Mesa border crossing near San Diego. Designed to smuggle drugs, arms and cash, the tunnel was nearly complete when found in 1993.

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