- - Monday, June 18, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

HUNTING EL CHAPO: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE AMERICAN LAWMAN WHO CAPTURED THE WORLD’S MOST-WANTED DRUG LORD

Andrew Hogan and Douglas Century

HarperCollins, $28.99, 352 pages

Joaquin Guzman Loera was once listed by Forbes as one of the richest and most powerful businessmen in the world. Unfortunately for the world, Guzman’s business was drug trafficking and murder.

Former DEA Special Agent Andrew Hogan and his co-author Douglas Century have written a book about the hunt and capture of Guzman, better known as “El Chapo,’ or Shorty in English.



But this “Get Shorty” book is not about the final capture of the Mexican drug trafficker and murderer in 2016. That arrest landed him in a Mexican prison and he was later extradited to the U.S., where he now resides in an American prison and on trial for leading a multi-billion dollar continuing criminal enterprise responsible for importing and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics into the U.S., as well as conspiring to murder people who posed a threat to his drug trafficking operation.

“Hunting El Chapo” is about an earlier capture of the wily criminal in 2014. Although we know that Guzman would again escape from prison in 2015 and be on the lam for another year until his final arrest, the book is still interesting and suspenseful, rather like Frederick Forsyth’s classic thriller “Day of the Jackal.” We know that Charles de Gaulle was not shot and killed by a Jackal-like assassin, but the suspenseful hunt for the hired killer was what made Mr. Forsyth’s first novel so fine a thriller.

“Hunting El Chapo” is the story of a former deputy sheriff from Kansas, DEA Special Agent Andrew Hogan. He graduated from the DEA Academy in 2006 and worked undercover in Arizona prior to moving to Mexico City to head the DEA’s Sinaloa Cartel desk in 2012. Working with the Mexican Marines’ SEMAR group, a special operations unit similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs, Mr. Hogan led the manhunt that captured Guzman in 2014.

The book begins with Mr. Hogan’s adventures as a DEA special agent in Phoenix, Arizona, where he worked against street level “narco juniors” with his partner, Diego Contreras. Mr. Contreras schooled Mr. Hogan in Mexican culture and undercover work.

Sitting with his partner in a Mexican bar in Phoenix in 2009, Mr. Hogan first heard about Guzman while listening to a four-piece band play a narcocorrido ballad that told the story of El Chapo.

“El Chapo?” Was “Shorty” supposed to be a menacing-sounding nickname?” Mr. Hogan writes in the opening of the book. “How could a semiliterate kid from a tiny town of L Tuna, in the mountains of the Sierra Madre — who supported his family by selling oranges on the street — now be celebrated as the most famous drug lord of all time? Was Chapo really — as the urban legends and corridos had it — even more powerful than the president of Mexico?”

The book goes on to tell of Mr. Hogan’s pursuit of Guzman in Mexico. Working with Homeland Security special agents, U.S. deputy marshals, other American federal law enforcement officers and the Mexican Marines, Mr. Hogan led a hunt that employed surveillance, electronic eavesdropping of the drug traffickers’ cell phones, informants and other modern law enforcement techniques. Mr. Hogan accompanied the Mexican Marines on their raids and he writes of their skills and toughness.

Mr. Hogan also tells of the frustration and setbacks of the long hunt for a clever, vicious and super-rich criminal who escaped from prisons, bribed officials, evaded capture and evoked fear through murder and violence.

But finally, after a gun battle between the Mexican Marines and Guzman’s gunmen, they got their man.

“I stopped abruptly in front of him. We were face-to-face at last,’ Mr. Hogan writes of the moment that he confronted Guzman after his arrest. “I couldn’t resist: What’s up, Chapo-o-o-o!?

“Guzman’s eyes bulged, then he hunched one shoulder, flinching, as if he thought he was going to be slugged.”

After Guzman escaped and was captured yet again in 2016, Mr. Hogan notes that the Mexican government was no longer interested in prosecuting him at home and allowed Guzman to be extradited to the U.S. He quotes Loretta Lynch, then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who called Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel the largest drug trafficking organization in the world.

“Guzman faced U.S. federal prosecution for alleged involvement in cocaine, marijuana and heroin trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit murder,” Mr. Hogan writes. “The indictments allege that Guzman employed sicarios (hitmen) to carry out hundreds of acts of violence in Mexico, including murder, torture and kidnapping.”

“Hunting El Chapo” is an interesting true crime book about a dogged and dedicated DEA special agent’s quest to bring to justice one of the world’s most wanted drug kingpins. The book reads like a thriller and there are already plans to produce a film based on the book.

• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.

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