MEXICO CITY — Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the man who supplied more illegal drugs to the United States than anyone else on Earth, was captured by Mexican navy commandos without a shot early Saturday morning in the Pacific coast resort town of Mazatlan, according to U.S. and Mexican authorities.
The arrest of the world's most-wanted drug lord was electrifying news in Mexico and a major political victory for its president, Enrique Peña Nieto. On Saturday afternoon, Peña Nieto confirmed the capture in a tweet and thanked his security forces. "Congratulations to all," he wrote.
After 13 years on the lam, Guzman was found, with the help of information provided by U.S. law enforcement officials, in a condo building known as Miramar, several blocks off the beach in Mazatlan. He was arrested, flown to Mexico City and frog-marched by the back of the neck in front of TV cameras across a navy base tarmac to prove he had been found.
The arrest challenges two central criticisms of the Mexican government: that security cooperation with the United States had deteriorated, and that it had eased off on Guzman's cartel in favor of other targets. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the arrest a "landmark achievement, and a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States."
Guzman, 56, ran an organized crime empire that spanned several continents and earned billions of dollars. He built a shipping and transport empire that plied air, sea and roads to sate the world's demand for cocaine, heroin and marijuana. From Los Angeles warehouses to Chicago barrios, his network criss-crossed America to supply customers.
His Sinaloa cartel is the grandfather of Mexican drug-running organizations, the wealthiest and most powerful corporation in the business, whose riches have corrupted generations of Mexican politicians and corroded the nation's democracy.
"He's a legend," security analyst Jorge Chabat said in Mexico City. "He is the jewel of the crown."
Authorities had been closing in on Guzman and his associates over the past few weeks with operations in his home state of Sinaloa, a sliver of land on the Pacific coast. Several of his associates had been arrested.
In a brief news conference announcing his capture, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the arrest was performed "impeccably."
"There was not one bit of damage or anyone injured," he said.
Guzman separated himself from other drug lords because of his longevity and ability to evade the law for years. Captured in Guatemala in 1993, Guzman was sent to Mexico's high-security Puente Grande prison. He escaped in 2001 on the eve of his extradition to the United States. Legend has it that he sneaked out in a laundry cart.
Guzman has been on the run ever since, periodically surfacing in Mexican beach resorts, Central American villages, even South America, only to vanish before authorities arrived.