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World's Most-Wanted Drug Dealer Is Under Arrest Again In Mexico


There was a Hollywood flavor to the arrest of Mexico's most famous drug lord. Joaquin El Chapo Guzman was caught after being interviewed by the actor Sean Penn. He'd also been talking about a movie about himself. Fascinating as all this is, that kind of detail can obscure what Guzman did for a living, which is what Tony Garza faced as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, appointed by President George W. Bush. Welcome to the program, sir.

TONY GARZA: Morning, Steven, how are you?

INSKEEP: OK. Thank you very much. Are you surprised to find El Chapo was reaching for the stars, so to speak?

GARZA: (Laughter) Well, yeah, it did surprise me a bi. Although, Steven, as you well know, the heads of these organizations tend to work very diligently on their - on their public images, in a sense. Typically it's at the local level, cultivating a sense that they are patriarchal, trying to project that they can assure security in a way to the people in their communities. And in fact, in the wake of his recent arrest, you saw people in Los Mochis, which is his hometown along the Pacific, talk about this - talk about him in a sense of he had always given to the community, built ball fields, had assured security, so that they cultivate their public image and songs are written about them, the famous narcocorridos, this sort of thing.

But this, I think, was a bit different. This, really, I think was that next step into - into hubris almost beyond the sense of his public image in the areas where he operated. And he may have been thinking about his legacy, recognizing that his time was short. When you start talking about movie deals...


GARZA: There was something a bit different about this. But yes, you're right, they do work very hard to cultivate an image at a local level, almost romanticize what they do.

INSKEEP: Maybe he began believing his own publicity then.

GARZA: Well, that may be the case. It's interesting. It's curious - kind of a outreach to both Mr. Penn and Miss del Castillo, but to the extent that it contributed to his arrest, I suppose that's good.

INSKEEP: Kate del Castillo - of course she's the Mexican actress that he was interested in in some fashion, and she was part of this entire story.

GARZA: Correct.

INSKEEP: Now, the last time that Guzman was arrested, Mexico declined to extradite him to the United States, said don't worry, we can take care of this. And, of course, he was able to escape. Now Mexico is trying to extradite him. Why the difference do you think?

GARZA: Well, I think there were a couple of things. The last time he was arrested you had had a transition in administration from the Calderon administration, which is the PAN. Pena Nieto recently - you know, he had recently been elected. And I think they wanted to project a certain strength that they had the ability and the resources both to hold him and properly prosecute him.


GARZA: And this, I think, it's different. In the wake of his escape and the challenges that the Pena administration has had, they recognize that broadly speaking I think the Mexican public would like to see El Chapo Guzman, or Joaquin Guzman Loera, extradited. And, you know, there's long been that old expression that there's nothing that a drug dealer fears more than an American prison because they are without the resources or the net that they might have cultivated in the communities where they've been operated - where they've been operating. And the potential for escape or co-opting and corrupting the officials holding them is far less. So I think the Mexican public broadly supports extradition this time.


GARZA: And the Mexican government is inclined to do that.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, we've just got about 15-20 seconds here, but if Guzman does stay in prison this time, how much difference do you think it'll really make to the drug trade?

GARZA: Well, ultimately, these organizations are so large and they - much like any corporate body they have succession plans in place, so if you're asking me will the drug flows stop because Guzman is in prison, my guess is no.

INSKEEP: That is Tony Garza. He is the former United States ambassador to Mexico, talking with us about the re-arrest of El Chapo Guzman. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.