Mexican Marines’ Heroic Capture of El Chapo

It took months in the face of brutal violence, but the determination of those pursuing one of the world’s worst drug lords should be what we dwell on.

01.09.16 5:15 AM ET

In the photo of him slouched in a grimy wifebeater after his capture, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán has the forlorn look of someone who has reached an end.

His face is the face of fucked.

And we have the Mexican Marines to thank.

As we in America continued to buy the fugitive El Chapo’s drugs and sell him guns, it had once again fallen to the Marines to catch him.

The Marines had captured him in 2014 only for him to escape this past July via a tunnel that included a motorcycle on rails to zoom him to freedom.

The Marines went right back on the hunt, for month after month.

A convoy of Marines was attacked on Christmas Day, but fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.

Their luck ran out three days later, when two Marines were killed.

The gunman was identified as Jose Maria Penuelas Rubio, allegedly an El Chapo minion in the Sinaloa Cartel. The names of the two Marines were not released.

That is likely because of what happened just before Christmas in 2009, after a Marine who had been killed by a grenade tossed by a cartel gunman was lauded by name as a national hero.

At the funeral, full military honors were accorded Ensign Melquisedet Angelo Cordova. His mother spoke to reporters afterward.

“Thinking as a mother, I used to feel very sad and hurt for the families of soldiers and police who had been killed” she said. “It would make me cry. And now, now it is my turn.”

After she returned home from the cemetery, cartel gunmen burst in and killed her along with her other son, her daughter, and her sister.

Lest some variation of that be repeated, the two Marines killed just after this Christmas were mourned privately.

The bravery of their comrades remained on public display as the Marines pressed on into the New Year.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman


At 5 a.m. Thursday, the Marines acted on a tip that armed men had been seen in the vicinity of the Motel Doux in the Sinaloa town of Los Mochis.

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Until then, the Doux had been known for “luxury accommodations on a beer budget,” offering spotless rooms with a great shower for $50 a night.

Had the famously “risk averse” army been acting on the tip, somebody might very well have made a phone call and a search would have only produced suddenly vacated rooms.

The integrity of the Marines was proven anew as they approached the motel and encountered gunfire.

A two-hour firefight ensued in which five gunmen were killed. One Marine was wounded, but is expected to recover.

When it was over, the Marines recaptured El Chapo.

As before, they restrained themselves from killing or even beating him.

A photograph shows him without a significant mark as he sits on a bed amidst beer budget luxury, a pin-up tacked to the wall. His hands were cuffed in front of him. His dirty shirt suggested he may have made some desperate, last-minute effort to hide, perhaps once again through a tunnel.

He now sat as dejected as a mole without a hole.

Also present was Gastélum Orso Ivan Cruz, aka “El Cholo Iván.” He is said to be one of El Chapo’s righthand men. He is known to have kept with a longtime tradition among cartel bosses of squiring beauty queens and he had once dated Miss Sinaloa of 2012, Susana María Flores Gámez. He is said to have abandoned her during a gun battle with the army the same year as her crowning, telling her just to tell the soldiers that she had been kidnapped. She was shot to death.

At the time of that gun battle, El Cholo Iván had been a fugitive, having escaped prison in 2008. He had been arrested last March only to regain his freedom under circumstances that remain unclear.

On Thursday, El Cholo Iván was initially reported to have eluded capture. But the Marines reported otherwise and a photo appears to show him in custody with El Chapo.

Both El Chapo and El Cholo Ivan no doubt hope they will be able to escape as they each have at least twice before.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman


But El Chapo’s more recent prison break was an international embarrassment for the Mexican government. An obviously elated President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted last week, “Mission accomplished. We’ve got him.”

Nieto surely does not want to join George Bush as another president who prematurely declared “Mission accomplished.” El Chapo will likely have considerable more difficulty in escaping this time.

And there is a chance he might be extradited to the United States. Some Mexican politicians are already calling for it. Others are saying that turning him over to the Americans would be admitting that Mexico is incapable of holding him.

If El Chapo does stay in Mexico, those who spoke out against extradition would have continuing cause to prove they were right by keeping him behind bars.

He seems to understand all this in the photo of him sitting in an unmarked vehicle that would whisk him off to a nearby airstrip, where a white towel would be draped over his head and he would be trundled aboard a small jet bound for Mexico City.

El Chapo remains a billionaire and, if he is not extradited, maybe he will someday have cause to lose the face of fucked.

But should he by some wild chance manage to escape again, the Marines are sure to set out hunting for him once more.

And they are just as sure not to stop until they get him.

Meanwhile, we should at least offer a prayer for the latest Mexican Marines to die, even if we do not know their names.

Of course, if we really want to honor them we should stop buying the drugs and selling the guns.