But no sign of the boss himself
Mexican marine forces have arrested Francisco Javier Rodríguez Picante, also know as "El Fantasma" - The Ghost. He's accused of being the chief executioner for Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the unquestioned leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and the most wanted drug trafficker in the world.
Rodríguez was taken into custody in Sinaloa state, in a house in the small town of Costa Rica, along the Culiacán-Mazatlán highway. Costa Rica is a half hour's drive south of Culiacán. Sinaloa is on Mexico's Pacific coast.
Four other gunmen were arrested with Rodríguez, whom authorities claim is Guzmán's security chief.
Guzmán escaped from a Mexican prison in January 2001 and has been on the lam since. The U.S. and Mexico have offered combined rewards of $7 million for his capture. He has been indicted several times in American courts, including last April in El Paso. In that case Guzmán faces allegations of drug smuggling, kidnapping, conspiracy, murder, money laundering and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The charges carry up to life imprisonment without parole. Twenty-two other key Sinaloa cartel operatives were also charged with him. El Chapo Guzmán indicted by feds in El Paso.
Costa Rica residents told the press that at 5:00 a.m. Saturday, they heard the roar of helicopters overhead. Marine vehicles carrying heavily armed tactical units arrived in their town soon after. The ensuing military operation lasted about six hours, they said.
Mexico later confirmed that a special forces unit had captured Rodríguez and his armed escorts.
"We knew The Ghost was hanging out here, together with other narcos, but there had never been any problems. It's good they got him, though, because he was a danger," said one person.
Authorities claim that Rodríguez was in charge of the Sinaloa Cartel's brazo armado ("armed wing"), and was the head of its sicariato - execution force. He reported directly to Guzmán.
Rodríguez has been taken to the headquarters of Mexico's Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada (SEIDO), in the nation's capital. SEIDO is a special organized crime strike force which focuses on drug cartel and narco kingpin prosecutions.
There have been no reports that Guzmán himself was in the area, but police and prosecutors will undoubtedly question Rodríguez at length on that topic (Chapo Guzmán, just missed in Los Cabos).
Opinion: Thank God for the Mexican army.
U.S. travelers have a "generalized terror" of northern Mexico
Feb. 24 - An excellent Associated Press story this morning recounts at length the tragic story of María "Susy" Flores, and her ultimately fatal decision to become involved with members of the Sinaloa Cartel. The still disputed question is whether on the day of her death Flores was an active combatant, or a human shield. The details are in Triste fin de reina de belleza seducida por narco - "The sad end of a beauty queen seduced by narcos." The AP points out that thousands of Sinaloans directly or indirectly participate in the drug trafficking industry. It's long been a way of life for many.
Mar. 26 - Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel enjoys 90% market domination in U.S.
Feb. 14 - Chicago calls El Chapo Guzmán "Public Enemy # 1"
Feb. 11 - The Chicago Connection: Sinaloa Cartel moves cocaine from Windy City to Australia
Mexican marine participation in drug war
Mexican security forces kill Los Zetas leader in gun battle
Mexican marines arrest top financial aid to Z-40, Zeta # 2
Peña Nieto agrees that Veracruz should remain under federal military control
Mexican armed forces raid drug houses in Playa del Carmen tourist zone
Top boss of Los Zetas arrested in Veracruz - said to be co-founder of dreaded cartel
8 Matazetas, 12 Zetas arrested in Veracruz
El Chapo Guzmán
Guzmán women head north to deliver - kids, not drugs
Routine traffic stop in Mérida yields Sinaloa Cartel "Boss of the Plaza" in Cozumel, Playa del Carmen
What do business magnate Carlos Slim and El Chapo Guzmán have in common?
Is Mexico closing in on El Chapo Guzmán?
U.S. confirms: El Chapo Guzmán is world's biggest drug trafficker - and # 1 target
Key aid to El Chapo Guzmán arrested - an underboss of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel
World's most wanted man - "El Chapo" Guzmán - makes Forbes top list again
El Chapo Guzmán: "Dead or Alive"
"El Chapo" Guzmán must be in United States, says Felipe Calderón
Sinaloa Cartel of "El Chapo" Guzmán dominates U.S. drug trade, says DOJ
Wife of Mexican drug lord "El Chapo" Guzmán delivers twin girls in U.S. hospital
Mexican marines operating in Veracruz, 2011-12 . . . headless bodies just kept turning up everywhere