Tuesday 12 January 2016

El Chapo Tried to Bribe Federales by Side of Highway

In the State of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is a tried and true tradition that when you are stopped by the side of the road, you can usually buy your way out of a jam. That corruption might have let El Chapo to get away yet again, but for the general chaos surrounding his capture.
Here we go again

After El Chapo escaped through a drain tunnel in the town of Los Mochis, he and his number one hitman, Orso Iván Gastélum, ‘El Cholo’, hijacked a vehicle. The alert was put out, and the vehicle was detained by federal police on a highway.

Here, things got dicey. Apparently, as soon as El Chapo was detained by the federal cops, the billionaire leader of the Sinaloa Cartel offered to take the officers to Juan José Ríos, Sinaloa. The roadside negotiations were intense. Guzmán started to offer some serious coin. From the side of the highway, he said he would set up the police officers with businesses and houses in Mexico and the United States, whereupon they could “forget about work for the rest of their lives.”

The official story is that the federal police rejected the offer.

No doubt that is at least partly true. But, just as likely, the situation on the ground was simply too chaotic for the officers to cut a deal.

There must have been at least one honest cop on duty, because the call went out to the Marine Corps – the only security force trusted to handle operations at this level. By that point it would have been hard – though by no means impossible – to lock down a proper negotiation. By all accounts the Marine Corps arrived on the scene with lighting speed.

The federal police will likely get medals, but the one who put out the call might get a few dirty looks from his fellow officers, who are now back to the usual grind, taking bribes from speeding motorists.

The scenario on the highway also partly explains the distrust on the part of the Marine Corps after detaining El Chapo and El Cholo. Rather than using federal facilities, they took the most wanted man in the western hemisphere to a rundown love hotel, awaited reinforcements, and then escorted him to the airport, where a Navy helicopter took him to Mexico City.

Imagine that: federal forces in Mexico, detaining the most wanted man in the country, uncomfortable using federal police facilities, and resorting to locking down a rundown hotel frequented by johns and prostitutes, and awaiting reinforcements. This, more than anything else, paints a picture of how pathetically insecure and corrupt is the state of Sinaloa, Mexico.

Now El Chapo is back in Altiplano, the same prison he escaped from last time. No doubt more plans are afoot for another daring escape. That is a very real possibility.

Upon his capture, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted “Mission accomplished”. But is it? There is little real evidence that Mexico’s culture of corruption, thoroughly institutionalized, has undergone any radical transformation.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)
Twitter: @TimothyEWilson

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