“Ivan” for Borderland Beat 

The last boss Guzman Loera escaped through a false door to a sharp cliff. The marines found his crucifix, his bible and his simple lifestyle.

A blue and white brick house. With two floors, skylight and a small cistern. With a black gate and a concrete ramp that leads to a garage where, at the back, there is a false door that leads to some hills with sharp cliffs where El Guano, the last great patriarch of the Guzmán Loera clan, would have escaped for the last time.

This is how one of the houses of El Chapo Guzmán’s older brother was described by residents of the community of El Durazno, deep in Tamazula, Durango, to members of the Secretariat of the Navy. By air and land, the Armed Forces searched for the mysterious drug lord between February 23 and 24 with the objective of placing him in the hands of US authorities, who consider him the second most relevant person in the Sinaloa Cartel, only behind Ismael El Mayo Zambada.

The search for Guano was laborious throughout the operation. Stubborn, said one of the marines who participated in the attempted arrest and who spoke to MILENIO on condition of anonymity. From the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, the agents collected information from neighbors in the Golden Triangle -sometimes false, sometimes fearful- and contrasted it with the information they had been given by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) to make their search more effective.
The information about the blue-and-white house coincided. So did that of a gray-walled construction with loopholes that was located by an Armed Forces helicopter gunship. But by the time the marines were able to reach those hideouts in El Durazno, El Guano seemed to have turned to dust.
“They alerted him long before we could get there. We didn’t even come close to catching him… he was about an hour ahead of us,” said the sailor, unable to hide his frustration. According to him, El Guano has several of his colleagues on his kill list who have been trying to stop him since at least 2016. “It would have been quicker to arrive by helicopter, but it would have been almost impossible to land without them shooting us down.”
In the empty houses the marines searched, they found the footprints of a man who sleeps under a crucifix, with a Bible on one side and a 9-millimeter caliber pistol on the other. He does not wear flashy shirts like Chapo’s blue Barabas or extravagant jewelry like Ovid’s; instead, they found simple, white shirts, discreet jeans and peasant boots. There are no traces of whiskey bottles or excesses: being one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world, he no longer drinks alcohol, smokes or consumes drugs. His vice, they say in Durango, is power.
Wanted by the US
The return of the marines to Mexico City empty-handed dashed the hopes of the federal government for his capture: criminal intelligence reports say that at 78 years old – or 79 years old, not even the U.S. Justice Department knows for sure – his health is decimated by advanced diabetes that affects his speed to move through the Pacific ravines. But that, they thought, would make him an easy target.
Still, Aureliano Guzman Loera is worth as much as a gold-plated athlete: the US government is offering $5 million for his head. The size of the purse shows his weight on the binational organized crime chessboard.
In November 2019, judicial authorities in Arizona charged him with four criminal counts related to international trafficking of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. Three months later, again in Arizona, he was charged with two more counts of distributing kilos of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico to the United States.
The six crimes are enough to tie him to a life sentence like that of his brother El Chapo; so longed for is his punishment that Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened its own email to receive information leading to his capture: guano-tips@dhs.ice.gov.
But El Guano seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to die a free man. Federal sources confirmed that, unlike his nephews Los Chapitos, Aureliano Guzmán Loera does not use smartphones, does not take photographs – no one now knows exactly what he looks like except for two old pictures – and does not show himself in urban areas. As old as he is, he has learned from the mistakes of others, including his family.
A document prepared by the Secretariat of National Defense entitled “Infn. Guano”, and publicly exposed by the hacker collective Guacamaya Leaks, exhibits the network of eyes that watches over him from the Armed Forces: armed arms such as Los Acapadores de Droga, Los Cotero, La Válvula, Los Aboyta and retired public officials ranging from a judge to two former presidents of the Municipal Board of Durazno in Tamazula.
Close to Mayo
When his brother was arrested for the third time and extradited to the United States, he preferred to cut ties with his family and formalize an alliance with El Mayo, whom he considers more of a brother than El Chapo: from him he learned to operate with a low profile, to avoid the cameras and to live in the hills. The two of them split the Golden Triangle: Sinaloa and Chihuahua for Ismael Zambada and his gang; Durango for Aureliano Guzman Loera and his allies, according to the military deployed in the Sierra Madre Occidental.
More tactics he has learned from his false “brother”: Guano’s first circle is small and very trustworthy. Without exception, they have military training and deploy security rings with hawks throughout the sierra. Only an appointment approved by him – and requested through a “secretary” – manages to penetrate this guard of some 30 armed men who look at everyone and everything with distrust.
Despite his age, his explosive character is known by allies and enemies alike: military personnel deployed in the Golden Triangle say that El Guano recently approved the assassination of Rafael Diaz Beltran, alias Rafita, whom many considered his adopted son and head of the Tamazula plaza, after learning that he had disobeyed the order not to charge extortion fees to neighbors in Durango.