In an unprecedented move, the Mexican government has been very open about the tracking, arrest and incarceration of Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán since he was arrested last week. Guzmán was arrested on January 8, 2016. By Monday, the Mexican government was signaling its willingness to extradite Guzmán to the United States. Not only has the Mexican government had a change of heart about extradition but it has followed this with extraordinary openness about the investigations, the arrest and the incarceration of the drug kingpin.
As I have previously written, the extradition of Joaquín Guzmán is the best course of action that the Mexican government can undertake now that the drug smuggler is behind bars. Like all drug dealers, El Chapo fears extradition to the United States. It has everything to do with how the prison time is served. Once sentenced to serve time, it will be much more difficult for Guzmán’s attorneys to usurp the authority by frivolous lawsuits and demands for human rights privileges that Chapo’s money can buy.
The fact is that a US Supermax prison is not a picnic for someone like El Chapo who is used to manipulating the system to make his imprisonment more tolerable. In addition, the US prison system will effectively end his career as a drug lord as his communication with the outside world would be severely limited.
The sooner that extradition can be finalized the better it will be for Mexico. Besides, it is time that the largest consumers paid for punishing Guzmán.
El Universal, a Mexico City daily, published a series of photographs taken of Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo on January 11, 2015 by Mexican intelligence operatives as the two arrived in Guadalajara for their meeting with Joaquín Guzmán in October of 2015.
According to several news sources, Mexican authorities have acknowledged that Kate del Castillo had been under surveillance since late 2014. Mexican authorities have also acknowledged that it was Castillo’s contacts with Chapo Guzmán that was the lynchpin to his capture.
What is unique in this instance is how publicly the Mexican government is confirming rumors that Castillo and Penn were under surveillance and that both were important to the capture of the drug kingpin. Not only is the Mexican government acknowledging the parts that the two actors played but they have offered up proof through the release of the surveillance photographs.
Mexican Marines Helmet Cam Video
On Tuesday, the Mexican Navy released 15 minutes of helmet cam video taken during the interdiction of El Chapo’s safe house in Los Mochis. The Mexican military has always been notorious about the release of information about tactical operations even years after they have been completed. The Mexican Navy has been a little more open than the army but, nevertheless, video of an operation less than 90 hours old is unprecedented.
(Warning, the video is raw and unedited. Although there is no bloody scenes there is violence. To meet the requirements of YouTube, because of its content, you will have to prove you are over 18 years-old to watch it.)
In addition to Mexico’s new openness when it comes to Chapo, there is another reason why the Mexican Navy has released the video. It has to do with inter-agency rivalries. Mexico, unlike the United States, has two major military branches, the army and the navy. The air force is subordinate to the army.
Like all branches of the military in most countries, the two branches compete for annual funding from the federal government. It is not a secret that Mexico has embarked on a significant modernization of its military since 2006. For many years, the Mexican military had taken a backseat to the other needs of the country and as a result its infrastructure and equipment suffered. A live helmet mounted video of the navy’s operation against Guzmán’s safe house is the perfect advertisement for not only recruitment but resources as well.
Rotating Cells for Chapo
Yesterday, Mexican officials released details about how they are ensuring that El Chapo does not pull another disappearing act. Since the drug runner was incarcerated again at the Altiplano prison, the drug trafficker has been moved from cell to cell at least eight times. The changes in cells are random, according to the officials.
In addition, Joaquín Guzmán is now under 24-hour surveillance. The cells where he is being kept do not have the shower stall privacy that allowed Guzmán to escape through a tunnel in 2015. Clearly, the Mexican government is intent in ensuring that Guzmán does not escape again.
Why the Change of Heart?
The Mexican government was severely embarrassed by the 2015 jail escape by Guzmán. The administration of Enrique Peña Nieto has embarked on controversial economic reforms that have taken a backseat to the shenanigans of El Chapo. Peña Nieto wants to get his focus back on the reforms and needs to resolve the Chapo enigma once and for all.
The Mexican government has always had a problem understanding how mass-marketing works. The government has always relied in the cozy relationship it has had with the national news media outlets and the international outlets have ignored Mexico unless a scandal like Chapo comes along. This relationship has allowed the Mexican government to contain information.
Unfortunately, the rise of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle has made it difficult to contain the news. Drug trafficking in Mexico has always carried a mystic and the mystic gives rise to numerous conspiracy theories of government collusions and shadow governments. The Mexicans’ penchant for smoke-and-mirrors as well as the social ill of corruption has created a jaded population that believes the more conspiracy involved the more likely it is to be true.
By releasing information and answering questions, the Mexican government seems to have embarked on a new era of releasing information as quickly as possible to keep the conspiracies in check. I hope that this openness remains and thus it will give us an opportunity to dialog about Mexico without stumbling through the numerous conspiracies of shadow governments, criminal collusions and other outrageous illusions of a country mired in ineptitude throughout.