U.S. officials on Saturday hailed the arrest of Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, as a significant victory in the war on drugs.
Hours after El Chapo was taken into custody, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described his capture as a “a landmark achievement.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Marshals Service were “heavily involved” in the operation on early Saturday morning, according to the Associated Press. El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel remains a major supplier of narcotics to the U.S. Last year, the drug lord was even named “public enemy number one,” by the Chicago Crime Commission, a title once reserved for Al Capone.
Government officials have not described the U.S.’s involvement in the operation in detail. In a statement, Holder only said that “we are pleased that we were able to work effectively with Mexico through the cooperative relationship that U.S. law enforcement agencies have with their Mexican counterparts.”
But as my colleague Manuel Rueda points out, it remains to be seen how much El Chapo’s arrest will affect drug-related violence and the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico to the United States.
Some analysts in Mexico believe that the Sinaloa cartel will continue to operate seamlessly without him, under new leadership. Alternatively, other cartels, like the Zetas or Knights Templar, could fill any potential power vacuum created by El Chapo’s absence.
The U.S. government’s own research has also raised doubts about whether the capture of drug kingpins leads to a reduction in trafficking. A leaked study of drug seizures between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2010 conducted by Customs and Border Protection showed that removal of “key personnel” did not have a “discernable impact on drug flows.”
Regardless, officials in the U.S. were eager to use the arrest as an example of successful collaboration with Mexico at a time when drug-related violence continues to be a significant problem.
“This is a significant achievement in our shared fight against transnational organized crime, violence and drug trafficking,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “The United States and Mexico have a strong security partnership and we will continue to support Mexico in its efforts to ensure that cartel leaders are put out of business.”
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.