Feature

A drug kingpin’s capture

The world’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was captured by Mexican marines in the resort town of Mazatlán.

The world’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was captured by Mexican marines last week in a predawn raid in the resort town of Mazatlán. The arrest, achieved with the help of U.S. intelligence and electronic surveillance, ends a 13-year manhunt for the head of the Sinaloa cartel, the No. 1 supplier of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin to the U.S., with an estimated $3 billion in annual revenues. Memories of Guzmán’s high profile escape from a Mexican maximum security prison in 2001 have prompted calls for his immediate extradition to the U.S., where he faces multiple state and federal charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, and conspiracy to commit murder.

But the U.S. desire for extradition “doesn’t mean Guzmán will be heading north of the border anytime soon,” said Catherine E. Shoichet and Shimon Prokupecz in CNN.com. Despite his history of escape and the endemic corruption that could allow him to orchestrate his cartel’s global activities even from a jail cell, Mexican authorities appear determined to prosecute him first. And until he gets to the U.S., it’s likely to be “business as usual” for the Sinaloa kingpin.

Of course, capturing “the world’s most wanted man” is no small feat, said Keegan Hamilton in TheAtlantic.com. No wonder the Mexican authorities paraded the shackled druglord “like a human trophy”—such displays are “a hallmark of the war on drugs.” But even this one is not likely to turn the tide of public opinion across the U.S. and Latin America, which increasingly opposes the prosecution of that war at any cost.

In the end, Guzmán’s arrest won’t stem the flow of illicit drugs or curb the violence that sustains it, said Hannah Hetzer in USA Today. The Sinaloa cartel, a sophisticated multinational organization comprising hundreds of interwoven criminal networks, will survive and likely continue to thrive without him. As long as there is demand, drugs will continue to flow north. If we really want to break the power of violent cartels, it’s time we explored legal regulation, as we have with alcohol, and start to look for “alternatives to the failed war on drugs.”

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