MEXICO CITY — Mexico's military said it had captured the son of Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, dealing a major blow against the notorious crime syndicate run by this country's most wanted man.
As billionaire head of the Sinaloa cartel, the elder Guzman has a $5 million reward on his head in the United States and has long sparred with US and Mexican authorities.
Jesus Alfredo Guzman is "one of the main leaders of the Sinaloa cartel and a key element of the criminal organization" who was in charge of managing his father's possessions, said Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for Mexico's navy, as he presented the suspect to the media.
The junior Guzman was arrested in Zapopa, a municipality near Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, together with Kevin Daniel Beltran, another Sinaloa member, following an investigation conducted jointly with US intelligence agencies over months, Vergara added.
Known as "El Gordo," he is wanted by the United States under an extradition request dating back to 2009.
The 26-year-old and his wife Alejandrina Salazar were placed on a US list of Sinaloa cartel operatives last year. In May, the US Treasury Department froze the assets of the fugitive druglord's sons Ivan and Ovidio, barring Americans from doing business with them.
The Treasury Department said the sons played "a significant role" in the elder Guzman's drug trafficking activities.
Since escaping from a western Mexican prison in 2001, "El Chapo," also known as "Shorty," has become one of the world's most powerful drug traffickers and richest men.
During his decade on the run, his Sinaloa cartel has moved from relatively low key drug-trafficking operations to controlling large swaths of Mexican territory, while it continues it bloody turf battles with rival gangs.
But even as Guzman has eluded capture or death, one of his brothers was killed in a Mexican jail in December 2004 and a son was killed in a Culiacan shopping center in May 2008.
His organization's reach, meanwhile, extends way beyond Mexico, deep into Latin America and Europe.
Guzman escaped less than a month into the presidency of Vicente Fox, setting off allegations that the Sinaloa cartel was protected by Fox's conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Thursday's arrest came just a little over a week before Mexicans head to the polls to vote for a new president.
President Felipe Calderon's ruling National Action Party has lost popular support in the wake of brutal drug violence that has killed over 50,000 people since December 2006 and has turned parts of the Latin American country into war zones.
Still, the deadly drug-related violence has far from driven the conversation in the run-up to the July 1 elections.