Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto might have made a more auspicious choice of words in proudly announcing the recapture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo" on Jan. 8. "Mission accomplished: we have him," the prez declared in Spanish on his Twitter account. El Chapo's escape from Mexico's top-security prison in July was a bitter humiliation for Peña Nieto and his government. The elusive Chapo had spent a decade and change as the country's most-wanted fugitive after his last escape from a Mexican prison, in 2001. The first time around, he allegedly used bribes to slip out in a laundry cart; the second time he slipped out through an elaborate tunnel that had been built from his shower block at Altiplano Prison to a nearby apartment. The Sinaloa Cartel kingpin taunted the world on social media as the second manhunt was carried out. So we have to ask: Was a nervous Peña Nieto unconsciously echoing the famously premature boast of George W. Bush after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003?
El Chapo was hunted down to an upscale condo in Los Mochis, a port town in his stronghold Sinaloa state. Federal forces backed up with helicopter gunships descended on the apartment complex. Five gunmen were killed in a shoot-out with Federal Police and Navy troops before Chapo managed to escape with a lieutenant through the city's drainage system, reach a road and steal vehicles. But the car thefts were reported to authorities, and federal forces intercepted the duo on a main road out of town. El Chapo was paraded in front of the cameras before being put on a helicopter and flown back to Altiplano.
Mexican authorities now say El Chapo managed to reach Queretaro after his July escape from Altiplano, in México state. There, he was put on a plane and flown back to Sinaloa. Six believed to have aided the escape were arrested in October. The unnamed suspects included the getaway pilot, a tunnel expert and an El Chapo brother-in-law.
The US Justice Department says Washington submitted an extradition request after Chapo was arrested in February 2014. But the drug lord's attorneys have appealed extradition and were granted injunctions that could substantially delay the process.
Will there be yet a third Chapo jailbreak before the matter is resolved? Let's hope the "Mission Accomplished" thing works out better for Peña Nieto than it did for Dubya. (The Mirror, AP, AP, Mexico News Daily, El Paso Times, Jan. 8; DW, Oct. 22; CBC, Oct. 21)