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The Capture Of Mexico Kingpin Joaquin Guzman: How The Cartel Boss Used Escape Tunnels To Evade Cops Just Days Before His Ultimate Arrest

//the elaborate escape tunnels mexican drug lord el chapo wide

Feb. 25 2014, Published 11:21 a.m. ET

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Getting your Trinity Audio player ready... has got the latest on the capture of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, including updates on the intricate tunneling system officials say he used for his escape, the political fallout of the high-profile seizure and the small sect of those who literally worship the fallen crime boss.

Going Under

With new reports detailing the underground tunnel system Guzman to travel through, we've taken a closer look at the methods involved in the illicit transit network. The stash houses Guzman and his underlings used to move through all had the same set-ups: steel doors, escape hatches under bathtubs linked by ladders leading to the sewer system. An AP writer who toured the underground system said that trap doors linking the tunnels were complete with lit, wood-paneled, air conditioned tunnels.

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Not Coming To America

While Guzman was named in indictments in seven U.S. federal courts on charges from murder to drug smuggling, the crime boss Monday was formally charged in Mexico with a 2009 cocaine trafficking indictment, setting him up for a possible trial and appeal process that would heavily delay any possible extradition Guzman could be subjected to. In addition, Mexican authorities still have the option to charge Guzman in a number of other incidents he's been tied to since his 2001 escape from prison. Still, venerated trial lawyer Juan Velasquez told the AP that the bureaucratic process very well means the drug lord could wind up as a defendant north of the border as well at some point. Velasquez said that "If the United States asks for a Mexican to be extradited, that Mexican, sooner rather than later, will wind up extradited."

Political Prize

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto boasted that Guzman's arrest is a step in the right direction to build a secure country, citing the hybrid of technology and investigation as the driving force behind the coveted catch for lawmen, military and politicians. At a Mexico Flag Day event, Peña Nieto said that "the apprehension of one of the most wanted drug lords at the international level shows the effectiveness of the Mexican state, but in no way should it be a motive to fall into triumphalism; on the contrary, this institutional accomplishment encourages us to move forward, working with passion and energy to demonstrate that, yes, it is possible to achieve a peaceful Mexico." Peña Nieto, 47, said that Guzman's arrest proves his government's unrelenting push "to employ all of its abilities in fighting organized crime."

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Trickle-Down Effect?

While govt. officials were exhilarated over the captures, locals in Mexican state Sinaloa expressed concern that the local economy would buckle under the drought of drug dollars that were diverted to other industries, such as construction. One local told the L.A. Times the crime boss has "helped a lot of people," "built many things" and "given out a lot of money."

Folk Saint Strikes Again

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As we previously reported, the Latin American world has a phenomenon of those in the drug trade praying to folk saints, the symbol of everything for protection to prosperity for those in the dangerous business. According to the Mexican media, Guzman himself at some point left a humble note at the Culiacán shrine of Jesus Malverde that read, "Thank you, boss. Today I humbly ask you for only Juarez and Tijuana. Thanks so much for everything else." The legend of Malverde was chronicled in the "Negro y Azul" episode of Breaking Bad, when a DEA agent kept a memento statue of him to understand the cartels better.

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The Worst Is Yet To Come

Lots of bloodshed is expected in the wake of Guzman's arrest, with many drug and underworld players expected to launch violent campaigns to fill the powerful -- and vacant -- chair. Excelsior columnist Leo Zuckermann questioned "whether the arrest will help stop the violence in this country or not … I fear that the answer isn't promising." The Mexico City reporter predicted "there will be an increase in homicides, kidnappings and extortion in the short run" as the remaining drug dealers battle to absorb the massive business to be picked up in the wake of Guzman's exodus. In what's left of Guzman's crew, lieutenant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada is rumored to be the heir apparent, though there is a suspicion among locals the lieutenant gave up the boss, the L.A. Times reported. Culiacán Riodoce newspaper columnist Ismael Bojorquez predicted that the arrested kingpin's "children are poised to take over for him."

As we previously reported, the 56-year-old Sinaloa Cartel head, a lavish-living billionaire, was credited by many as being the world's biggest drug trafficker. His outfit, officials said, is tied to the sale of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and meth in more than 50 countries. He's currently in custody at a maximum security prison near Mexico City.



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