The seizure of a large cocaine shipment in El Salvador in 1993 began to reveal clues about El Chapo's organization.
After his capture in Guatemala on the eve of the Salvador raid, U.S. authorities began to piece together his criminal history.
In June 1993 six tons of Colombian cocaine were seized in a warehouse on the outskirts of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.
Despite the apparent success of the operation, one detail was missing: the alleged owner of the cocaine, who got away.
Guzmán had visited San Salvador two months before the operation, using the fake identity of Jose Luis Ramírez. He was there to inspect one of his new drug warehouses.
“They wanted to use El Salvador as transhipment base,” according to a former Salvadoran undercover police officer who asked not to be identified.
Unbeknownst to Guzmán his movements were being watched by Salvadoran agents who had infiltrated the drug ring.
One evening, Guzmán went out drinking with friends, and ran into the undercover agents. When a bar brawl broke out the agents took advantage of the confusion to snap photos of Guzmán that appear in the case file.
The net had been closing on Guzmán for months. While he was in San Salvador, Mexican authorities busted a truck with 7.3 tons of El Chapo’s merchandise hidden in 1,400 boxes of chilis just outside Tijuana.
According to court documents the agents were expecting Guzmán back in San Salvador. The plan was to arrest him the day the drugs were seized. “The DEA’s idea, as far as I know, was to capture him and immediately transfer him to the United States,” said the undercover agent.
But Guatemalan authorities beat them to it, detaining the drug lord June 9 for his alleged involvement in the murder of Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo.
Guzmán spent eight years jailed in Guatemala before escaping in 2001. Guzmán then spent 13 years on the run before his second capture in February 2014.
Despite the disappointment of Guzmán getting away in 1993, Salvadoran officials made an impressive six ton drug bust.
The Salvadoran operation would provide the DEA with an important new lead, thanks to a telephone number for one of his most trusted accountants in the United States.
As a result El Chapo's organization would soon begin to crumble as his high level connections began to emerge.
The accountant’s main residence was a house in Mexico City that belonged to the son of former president Luis Echeverria, Univision Investiga has learned.
Segoviano decided to cooperate with the DEA and incriminated Guzmán's deputies, among them the pilot, Martinez Martinez.
He also began talking and became another key witness against Guzmán.
"I told him, 'Hey, when you were there – when the planes were arriving to Guanajuato, you sent a lot [of drugs] through there,'" said Villalbos. "'You were incredible. Planeload after planelaod came in full from Colombia.'”
He replied in English, "We were good, weren't we?"
In another blow to the drug lord, one of El Chapo’s tunnels from Mexicali to Otay Mesa was discovered by Mexican authorities.
Face to face with El Chapo
Sitting in Mexico's Puente Grande federal prison, Guzmán became frustrated over threats his family was receiving from rivals in the drug trade, the Arellano Felix brothers. Guzmán was also upset that he was being accused of the shocking murder of Mexican Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo during a gunfight at Guadalajara airport.
Villalobos maintains that this was Guzmán's main motivation to meet with DEA agents and a Mexican federal investigator. The agents agreed with one of Guzman’s intermediaries that they would identify themselves as psychologists. The meeting’s password would be: "I am Pepe."
"We entered the room where they brought in El Chapo and he asked if we were with human rights," said Villalobos. "We answered 'Yes,' and DEA agent Joban stood up and introduced himself as we had agreed with his intermediary; 'I am Pepe.'"
Villalobos went on: "He became pale, pale. He dropped to the ground as if he was going to do push-ups, and he looked underneath the door to see if the guard was outside because he did not want him to know that we were with the DEA, that we were talking with him."
Guzmán had a proposal for his guests.
"He says, 'I'm no white dove, but I had nothing to do with the Cardinal’s death. That was the Arellano Felix brothers and the people they brought there to kill me, I was the target,'” said Villalobos.
"'My family cannot see me because I fear that they will kill them and I should not be here. So what I want is to turn them in,'" he added.
In exchange for the information, Guzmán asked for a deal over the charges facing him in the United States.
Villalobos told him he was looking at 60 or 70 years jail time in the U.S. "The United States government will not do anything for you, there will not be any arrangement with you,” he said.
A few months later El Chapo escaped from the Puente Grande federal prison.
His brother Arturo Guzmán met with the DEA agents later in Bristol Hotel in Mexico City to plead the trafficker's case.
“'Chapito' wants to continue talking with you, he wants to turn in the Arellanos,” Arturo Guzmán said.
The brother left the hotel and half an hour later he was arrested by Mexican authorities.
Arturo Guzmán was murdered in prison in 2005.
Jose Luis Patiño Moreno, the Mexican federal investigator who participated in the DEA meeting with El Chapo in prison was murdered in Tijuana in 2000, while investigating the Arellano Felix brothers.