If terrorism is defined by the death toll of the innocents, Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is in the same league as Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the al-Qaida global terror network.
Like bin Laden, who was killed in 2011 deep inside Pakistan in a secret operation involving U.S. Navy SEALS, Guzman is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of users of illegal drugs and members of drug gangs worldwide.
Indeed, just as bin Laden had designated the U.S. al-Qaida’s No. 1 enemy, Guzman and his Mexican drug cartel has made America the No. 1 market for illegal drugs, including cocaine and heroin, from South America.
The death toll of Americans from drug overdoses is in the thousands, just as the number of deaths of Americans in the Sept. 1, 2011, al-Qaida terror attack on America surpassed 3,000.
We make the comparison between Guzman and bin Laden to drive home this point: The Obama administration should treat the drug kingpin’s escape last weekend from a Mexican prison as an opportunity to launch a bin Laden-type search-and-destroy mission inside Mexico or any country that is providing him safe haven.
Given the deep-rooted culture of government corruption in Mexico, especially among members of the national police force and the military, Guzman’s capture and imprisonment last year was met with a great deal of cynicism.
In fact, the refusal by the Mexican government to extradite Guzman to the United States where he has been indicted in several states simply confirmed the belief of many Americans that a conspiracy to facilitate his escape had been forged.
An Associated Press story, in the wake of the drug lord’s escape Saturday from a maximum-security prison, lends credence to those who have long believed that it was just a matter of time before he was sprung free.
The AP report noted that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had alerted Mexican authorities 16 months ago about several plans for Guzman’s escape. The drug boss was captured in February 2014, after a previous prison breakout, and shortly thereafter his family members and drug-world associates began considering “potential operations to free Guzman.
”The fact that a mile long tunnel leading from the shower room used by Guzman to a vacant structure outside the prison was dug and equipped with lights and a ventilation system suggests that the conspiracy goes to the very top of officials in charge of the prisons.
The fact that the tunnel was dug in a part of the shower room not covered by security cameras means that confidential information was passed along to Guzman’s operatives on the outside.
Thus, we aren’t impressed with the show of force by the national police and the military to find Public Enemy No. 1 in the illicit Mexico-U.S. drug trade. Even if he’s captured, it will only be a matter of time before he’s given the keys to his cell. Such is his power. He also is popular with the poor who have benefited from his generosity.
Over the years, he has bought the loyalty of government officials and the citizenry, especially in the states where he established his operational centers.
Guzman is acknowledged as the leader of the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, which have the lucrative U.S. markets in their crosshairs.
The DTOs remain the largest source of heroin in Ohio and the Mahoning Valley. Nationwide, the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico and other central and South American countries continues unabated because governments in that hemisphere are more often than not owned by the drug cartels.
While we joined others in praising the Mexican government and the U.S. DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Mexican navy, marines and other law- enforcement agencies for Guzman’s arrest last year, we had our misgivings about the long-term effect of this high-profile action.
We believed that extradition to the U.S. was essential, but the Mexican government insisted it had the ability to keep him behind bars for a very long time. But given that a conspiracy facilitated his escape last weekend, there is no reason to trust our neighbors to the south.
Thus, we believe U.S. forces should target Guzman in the same way they targeted bin Laden in 2011 and kill him. He is a terrorist whose death is justified.