Joaquin Guzman Loera's arrest today by Mexican Marines raises a lot of questions, the most basic of which is does it actually matter, and if so, how?
With so many drug traffickers vying for "El Chapo Guzman's" spot as Mexico's most powerful drug lord, will his removal from the scene reduce drug violence in Mexico or do anything to stop cocaine exports to the United States? Or could it possibly make things worse, as more violent organizations fill the gap?
Of course, it all depends on who you ask. Here's what some analysts and politicians in Mexico are saying about El Chapo's capture:
Felipe Calderon, the Mexican ex president who failed to capture El Chapo during his administration [even though he got close a couple times] took to Twitter early to comment on the events. According to Calderon, El Chapo's capture, is a "great blow," to organized crime in Mexico.
Calderon has long espoused the theory that cracking down on criminal bosses like El Chapo weakens their organizations and discourages aspiring bosses from designing ambitious plans. El Chapo ran a $1billion criminal empire that included links to meth traffickers in Asia, and drug labs in Guatemala. His organization, the Sinaloa Federation, is the world's largest cocaine exporter according to Insight Crime.
But not everyone in Mexico is as upbeat about this arrest as Calderon. Fernando Belauzaran, a congressman who recently introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in Mexico, said that El Chapo's capture is "laudable" but "will do nothing to reduce violence, drug trafficking or drug consumption in Mexico."
Belaunzaran's theory is that much of the violence in Mexico is actually fueled by drug prohibition, which encourages criminal groups to fight over drug smuggling routes. His supporters argue that for violence to stop in Mexico, the government must actually stop focusing on drug interdiction, and devote more resources to stopping crimes like extortion and kidnappings, which go largely unpunished in this country.
El Chapo's capture however could have a direct impact on how Mexico's criminal underworld is organized. Alejandro Hope, a renown analyst of the drug war in Mexico said that this incident "closes a chapter for organized crime in Mexico." Hope writes that El Chapo's capture "accelerates the transition from export oriented gangs, to local predatory mafias."
What Hope is referring to here is that in recent years Mexican gangs have shifted from making money from drug trafficking to kidnapping people for ransom and implementing extortion rackets. Two powerful cartels who've become notorious for this are the Zetas and the Knights Templar, the later of which has become famous for taxing lemon farms, avocados, mines, and even tortilla shops in the state of Michoacan.
Hope is reckoning that El Chapo's capture, along with recent developments like the tightening of border security in the United States, will continue to discourage gangs from exporting drugs for a living [a specialty of El Chapo's Sinaloa Cartel], and encourage them to keep on focusing on extortion rackets within Mexico.
Some analysts are still betting that the Sinaloa cartel will continue to function and export drugs.
Jeremy Mc Dermot from Insight Crime writes the El Chapo's arrest "does not signal the end" of the Sinaloa Cartel. Mc Dermot points out that El Chapo's main business partner, Ismael Zambada is still at large, and holds equal stature within the organization as El Chapo.
"There are other significant leaders like former policeman Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul," who could quickly seek to fill the vacuum created by Chapo's removal from active service," Mc Dermot writes.
Mc Dermot finishes his analysis by mentioning that the Zetas gang could benefit from this arrest.
"The Sinaloa Cartel's bitter rivals, the Zetas, may try to take advantage of Chapo's arrest and annex territory or retake ground lost over the last year. Under the previous administration of President Felipe Calderon, there were allegations that the government favored the Sinaloa Cartel while hammering the Zetas," Mc Dermot writes.
Over the next weeks and months we will begin to see what impact El Chapo's arrest will have in Mexico and the United States, where he is wanted on drug trafficking charges. It is even possible that El Chapo, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001, could be extradited to the U.S.
For the moment, Mexican government will enjoy a boost in credibility, and a good amount of positive media coverage.
"This generates a good precedent," Cesar Camacho, the president of Mexico's ruling party, the PRI, said on Excelsior TV, a Mexican news channel. "This improves confidence in Mexico's institutions."
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.