MEXICO — A social media faux pas or diversionary tactic?
The son of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín Archivaldo Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo,” may have tweeted a clue to the fugitive’s whereabouts.
A post to an account believed to belong to El Chapo’s son, Alfredo Guzman, includes a photo of the 29-year-old flanked by two unidentified men whose faces are obscured by emoticons. The mustachioed man sitting to Alfredo’s right at a restaurant resembles the kingpin.
The post says: “Satisfied here, you already know with whom.”
The tweet’s location shows Costa Rica. What’s unclear is whether the location tag was inadvertently left on, meant to misdirect authorities or intended to mock them. It’s not even clear whether this Costa Rica is the Central American country or a town in Mexico.
“One of the most intelligent traffickers has been Chapo,” said Phil Jordan, who spent more than 30 years with the DEA. “His son is not the brightest star on the Christmas tree. The best recorded intelligence on the son is that he doesn’t have his father’s intelligence. But I caution this could be a diversion to throw off authorities.”
In July, Mexico’s most notorious drug lord stepped into a shower and slipped into a tunnel to escape from the maximum-security Altiplano Federal Prison.
Prison security cameras recorded images of Guzman moments before he apparently crawled through a hole in the shower area of his cell to a lighted and ventilated tunnel that stretched from the prison to a half-built house nearly a mile away.
Monday’s tweet may have given the public its first glimpse of Guzman since the prison footage.
“We’re aware of the picture that has surfaced, but we believe the Costa Rica they’re talking about is not in our country but a town in Mexico,” Marco Monge, a spokesman for Costa Rica’s Office of Judicial Investigation, told CNN.
“There are no current investigations or operations targeting Mr. Guzman in Costa Rica.”
In Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which gives Guzman’s cartel its name and where he was born, there’s a small town named Costa Rica.
“Yes, we are aware of the photo. It’s a few days old now,” Daniel Lee, a spokesman for the Mexican attorney general’s office, told CNN. He did elaborate.
Comments on the post by Alfredo Guzman, who has a Twitter following of 155,000, ranged from adoration to contempt.
“These men give more to Mexico than our rotten government,” one comment said. “Be safe, my hero,” said another.
Another commenter said, “Not only are they gonna get YOU but they are gonna get your fugitive lowlife father too! Just watch!”
When Guzman was arrested in February 2014 — after 13 years on the lam following another prison escape — Jordan, the ex-head of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center, told CNN that the arrest was a big deal, but only if Mexico shipped the kingpin to its neighbor to the north.
“If he does not get extradited, then he will be allowed to escape within a period of time. … If he is, in fact, incarcerated, until he gets extradited to the United States, it will be business as usual,” Jordan said.
Jordan, like many observers, believes Guzman had help in his latest jailbreak, and not just from those who dug the tunnel, ventilated it and laid tracks for a modified motorcycle. Jordan said he thinks Guzman had help on the inside, much like he did during his 2001 escape in which dozens of prison workers, including the warden, were prosecuted.
The U.S. government last month announced rewards of up to $5 million for information leading to Chapo’s arrest. In addition, Mexico is offering a reward of up to 60 million pesos ($3.8 million) for information leading to his capture.
Guzman has been charged with drug trafficking and related crimes in several U.S. federal courts, including ones in Arizona, Southern California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida, according to the DEA.
After his second prison break, Guzman is unlikely to be captured alive, Jordan said.
“Chapo has got a closet bigger than a cemetery filled with skeletons. I think he will be the next Pablo Escobar,” he said, referring to the Colombian drug lord who was killed in a rooftop shootout with authorities in 1993.