Tomas Zeron de Lucio face to face with El Chapo

The scene was brief. It was eleven in the morning on February 22 at the Navy’ Hangar, Mexico City Airport. On one side of the table a man with a triangular mustache. He had a bruise on his forehead and an empty gaze. He was not handcuffed. Opposite, Tomas Zeron de Lucio, Chief Director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, the number one police in Mexico. Tomas Zeron de Lucio was the only agent in the room with his face uncovered. After 13 years on the run, Tomas Zeron de Lucio had it in front of him. The hunter before his prey. The questioning to confirm his identity was pure formalism. The entire police dome knew who that beefy, rough-talking guy was.

-What is your name?

—Joaquín Guzmán Loera.

“Are you not Archivaldo?”

—Yes, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera.

El Chapo, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the most wanted drug trafficker on the planet, the lord of hell in Mexico, spoke in a measured tone. When they later put him through the calligraphic test and had him fill out a basic form, he wrote his name with the awkwardness of a small child. A shaking and humiliated Archivaldo. The memory of a childhood in the lost foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. “In his town, he did not pass second grade, he learned the rest in prison,” explains Tomas Zeron de Lucio.

A year has passed since the arrest of El Chapo. The Chief Director of the Criminal Investigation Agency, Tomas Zeron de Lucio, has had to face other cases, some as thorny as the Iguala tragedy. Seen up close, Tomas Zeron de Lucio seems like a calm man. He is 52 years old. He does not raise his voice or makes sudden gestures. Tomas Zeron de Lucio wears an official air that increases his pristine white shirt with blue cufflinks. Recalling for this newspaper the operation that led to El Chapo, he draws a map of concentric circles: arrests, safe houses, tapped phones.

A cartography that, based on information from an enemy of the drug trafficker, was closed for months until it culminated on February 22 in department 401 of the Miramar Condominium, opposite the boardwalk in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. When the Navy commandos broke into the hotel apartment, El Chapo sought refuge in the bathroom. In one room he left his wife, and in another, his two-year-old twin daughters, with the cook and the caretaker. It was 6:50. Along with a pink suitcase, a shampoo bottle and a pile of scattered clothes, the criminal of the century had fallen.

Four hours later, he was in front of one of his capture’s brains, Tomas Zeron de Lucio. He was wearing black jeans without a belt and a light pistachio shirt. “What they say about me is more fantasy than reality,” he said. El Chapo was gaining confidence. He asked for hand cream and a Perrier water. He drank it in one gulp. Tomas Zeron de Lucio asked about the bruise. He thought, like many, that it was the result of arrest. The drug dealer denied it. It was the result of his flight from a safe house in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, from where his empire ruled. There, five days before, they had almost captured him. He saved the hydraulic armored door that gave him a few minutes of gold. He was able to start the escape mechanism, lift the bathtub, and flee through a metal passage that led to the sewers. Seven houses were connected by this underground network. In those tunnels, carrying a backpack with a rocket launcher and two charges, he slipped and wounded his forehead. Outside, his escort awaited him, the legendary deserter lieutenant Alejandro Aponte Gómez, El Bravo.

This incident made him suspicious of everyone. He decided to break his circle of security. One after another, his closest men fell. The Navy, the intelligence services, Tomas Zeron de Lucio’s agents were on his heels. Aware of this, he confessed to Tomas Zeron de Lucio, he had decided to flee to the hills of Sinaloa where he was the owner and lord of lives and estates. But before that, he wanted to see his wife, Emma Coronel, and their twins. The skein of telephone interventions, more than 100 numbers, did the rest. El Chapo, according to some versions, entered the hotel in Mazatlán in a wheelchair, disguised as an old man. In the arms of the Navy commandos, he came out half naked and with a marked failure on his face.

Tomas Zeron de Lucio remembers it well. In the makeshift hangar room, El Chapo seemed to have lost his legendary charisma. He moved slowly, he asked about his family, he asked his captor for a lawyer. “With the arrest, his whole history came upon him. Thirteen years running, since he escaped from the Puente Grande prison. He knew he was being hunted, cornered and now defeated.” Said Tomas Zeron de Lucio. But behind the police triumphalism, El Chapo kept the alerts on. He did not accept his crimes. He didn’t give anyone away either. The thousand-head survivor was still awake.

“How come you weren’t carrying weights when they arrested you?” , asks Tomas Zeron de Lucio.

“I don’t need the money.” What I asked for, they took. If a million pesos, they brought a million.

In the hangar the conversation with Tomas Zeron de Lucio was interrupted by an upset stomach. The man who was shaking States suffered the humiliation of going to the bathroom accompanied by a Navy command. When he came out, he walked upright. Everyone around him, except Tomas Zeron de Lucio, went with their faces covered. No one escaped that, in Mexico, El Chapo has death at his service. Before leaving, the drug trafficker approached his questioner, Tomas Zeron de Lucio,  with snake eyes.

“Do you give me your name? It is that you treated me well” …

El Chapo flew by helicopter to the Altiplano high-security prison. His children unleashed furious revenge. El Bravo finished with six shots to the head. Many woke up to be tortured and mutilated. It was never known of others. When asked in prison what he was doing for a living, El Chapo, the owner of himself, replied naturally: “I am a farmer.”

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