If you need him, set him free? Chapo Guzmán at large
According to Proceso … a generally reliable source on the narco-“war”… two anonymous U.S. government sources are claiming that Chapo was NOT arrested in Mazatlán by Mexican marines on 22 February 2014, but by U.S. Marshals and D.E.A. agents wearing Mexican Marine uniforms.
Co-incidentally, Chapo was picked up (in a beachfront condo) three days after Barack Obama and Stephen Harper had met with Enrique Peña Nieto in a less-than-successful “Tres Amigos Summit”. The trip came
… at complex time for Mr. Peña Nieto, whose star is shining brighter abroad than it is at home. Legislators recently have approved broad changes to Mexico’s education system, tax system and antitrust regulation. Most important, they agreed to open up the country’s closed energy industry, raising the prospect of foreign investment in Mexican oil and gas for the first time in 75 years. But ordinary Mexicans have yet to see many benefits. The economy grew only an estimated 1.3 percent last year.
On security, Mr. Peña Nieto has pulled back from his predecessor’s close cooperation with the United States …
It could simply be that in cooperating closely with the United States, or, rather misdirecting the public on the expanded U.S. involvement in Mexico, the Peña Nieto administration was simply timing the arrest to distract from the widespread public disapproval of those “broad changes” that so enamored the foreign media. Claiming the “arrest” (and I use quotes around arrest for a reason that will be clear shortly) was made by Mexican forces was perhaps meant to create an image of a competent administration that was rapidly cleaning up and “reforming” (another word that belongs in quotes) the economic system.
I don’t buy that. The Tres Amigos summit… despite the happy talk on some minor issues (mostly cultural and academic exchanges, and customs regularization) was largely a non-event. Especially for Mexico, where the summit was barely covered. For the other two NAFTA partners, however, the summit did mean extensive coverage of Mexico and her ills… at a time when the U.S. Congress was waiting on the Department of Defense for its requests for the 2015 Federal Budget. AND… during a time when the U.S. media (Huffington Post, Wall Steet Journal, Reuters, etc.) was reporting on bank involvement with money laundering for the “cartels” (yet another word belonging in quotes).
With the United States NOW claiming they wanted Chapo extradited one is left wondering why — if he was in their custody back in February 2014 — he wasn’t taken to the United States and put before any of the federal judges who have issued warrants for his arrest. It wouldn’t be the first time U.S. agents simply kidnapped a Mexican (or other) suspect — or, if it was a “rogue” operation, didn’t hold Chapo at some black site until he could be brought into court. I would venture that either the U.S. budget or the banking scandal had more to do with it. If the former, the Department of Defense and Homeland Security all had a vested interest in making it look as if “Plan Merida” … which, incidentally, had widely reported as a failure by the Mexican media in February 2014 (On the 19th… three days before Chapo was picked up, El Universal was reporting on U.S. doubts about the funding plan).
On the 13th of February, 2014, SIPSE reported on an agreement between Osario Chong and Janet Napolitano to commit 900 million dollars to “security” for Mexico. This money doesn’t go to Mexico, but to US businesses and bureaucracies supposedly assisting Mexican law enforcement. That alone makes me wonder if the U.S. Marshals and the DEA agents weren’t basically justifying the expense in anticipation of a budget fight in Congress, by creating a success for the Mexicans in the “drug war”.
And what is more spectacular than arresting the alleged “kingpin” of Mexican narcotics exports? Try to overlook the fact that the guy was not exactly in hiding, but staying in a low-key resort hotel with his family (ok, and a few bodyguards). It sounded then, and sounds even more now, less like a capture or arrest, than an arrangement. With allegations of Chapo’s involvement with the C.I.A. generally come from the less “respectable” news sources (and a few totally unreliable ones like Alex Jones) one should be dubious of claims that Chapo was a player (or a pawn) in some deep conspiracy within the government, but I am hardly the first person to notice that during the worst of the “drug war”, the only Sinaloa Cartel people being captured (or killed) were rivals to Chapo’s continued control of the loose federation of gangs, and that those being killed without benefit of trial were generally former allies who had for one reason or another become rivals. All too convenient.
AND THEN… THERE WAS THE GREAT ESCAPE on the 11th of this month. The story about a secret tunnel is interesting (and amusing) in a way, and which individuals assisted in the escape (and whether it was actually an escape, or just an unauthorized release) are all of secondary interest to the question of what now… and why now?
By February of this year, it was obvious that arresting Chapo solved nothing, and even made narcotics exports to the US and beyond a more serious problem (for the consumer countries, anyway). As El Economista suggested last Friday in their article on probable consolidation in the narcotics biz now that Chapo is free to run his organization, there is every indication that violence outside of gangsterdom would drop. That is, the Sinaloans will increase their … uh… market penetration … and while “liquidating” their rival’s operations, it would also eliminate the rationale for various turf wars. On the other hand, by claiming Chapo is the most dangerous man on the planet, the hunt for him justifies the massive increase in military spending here in Mexico, which has the U.S. Army absolutely giddy at the prospects. A win for them.
Do I think there’s a “conspiracy” to keep Chapo free? Not really… just that the major consumer nation’s heavy investment in Chapo, to the extreme of covert operations within the country, do raise the question of whether the U.S. … and the Mexican government… really knows whether or not it wants Señor Guzmán dead or alive.