I was born in Venezuela, and my mother was a Mexican-American. The only reason I say that is to show you that I’m familiar with Latin American culture. With the exception of Colombia and El Salvador, Latin American countries don’t produce highly skilled professional warriors. Too many Latin Americans believe that snazzy uniforms and high-tech weapons make the soldier. Nothing could be further from the truth.
On January 8, 2016, drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was captured by men of the Mexican Naval Infantry Force, commonly called marines. Guzmán had escaped from prison twice before, the last time on July 12, 2015. His second escape was surreal: He took off on a motorcycle inside a mile-long tunnel dug under the “maximum-security” prison.
El Chapo's escape motorcycle
The tunnel had lighting and ventilation. There’s absolutely no way that the Mexican authorities didn’t know about it. The sound of the jackhammers—the marks of which can be seen on the tunnel walls—would’ve been plainly audible. That tunnel was a professional job, done for a professional escape artist.
Mexico simply doesn’t believe in the rule of law. It never has. The Mexicans didn’t want to extradite Guzmán to the US; it’s a matter of pride. If he stays in Mexico, he’ll escape again. Guaranteed.
The Mexican government released video of 17 marines attempting to capture Guzmán. This footage tells a very depressing story, but it explains why Mexico is unable to eradicate the drug cartels. Here’s the official version of events.
About 2500 military and police were sent out on a manhunt, called Operation Black Swan. After multiple close calls, the marines located Guzmán. They assaulted the house in Los Mochis at 4:40 a.m. People inside opened fire, wounding one marine. In response, the marines fired back and threw hand grenades, killing one gunman. Guzmán and Ivan Gastelum escaped through a tunnel into the sewer, while four other gunman ran to the roof. Marines pursued these four, killing them all. At the same time, Guzmán and Gastelum emerged from a manhole, stole two cars in succession, and were then arrested by federal police on the highway.
After capturing Guzmán, the police took him to a sex hotel and kept him there under guard until the military could transport him back to Altiplano Prison.
Professional warriors shouldn’t be like this.
WARNING: Graphic violence and bloodshed. Video shows Mexican marine infantrymen raiding El Chapo's hide-out.
The video of the raid on Guzmán’s hideout shows a fiasco.
First of all, the Website SOFREP—run by veterans of US special-operations units—says that the Mexican marines didn’t know that Guzmán was in the house. The raid was intended to capture Ivan Gastelum, the Sinaloa Cartel’s head sicario or assassin.
U.S. Army Delta Force special operators involved in the take-down of El Chapo
The marines use a battering ram to bring down the front gate, and then they start banging on the front door. At 0:48 someone fires through the window, hitting a marine standing there, completely exposed to…someone firing through the window.
There are multiple edits in the video, concealing the order of events. The marines throw several hand grenades through the open door, and then the man wearing the camera that provides most of the footage begins micromanaging the assault. He has to tell these professional warriors absolutely everything.
“I need two more men. Go in. Get up. Go stand on that side. Go out. Enter over there. Stand and fire from that side. Another man. Go in. Hurry! Move! Let’s go! Enter! Enter! Enter! Look for the stairs. Be careful. Pay attention to all sides. Watch the window. I need two more men! Let’s go! Slowly. Any more of them over there? Go over there. Get out of here.”
He actually has to push men forward and grab other men who are wasting their time in areas already cleared. Nobody’s telling him anything.
“Send in another man. Go over there. Station yourself by that door. I need two more men. Go in at one time. GO IN AT ONE TIME! Go over there. Enter. Go by me. If you don’t see anything, don’t shoot! Upstairs. Upstairs! Go up! GO UP!”
Nobody goes upstairs. I’m sorry, but they seem…afraid. This is their job. Don’t they prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for combat?
There’s a commotion at 6:03.
“What do we have? What do we have? What do we have?” the commander asks. He gets no answer.
When Guzmán’s henchman is found, several voices shout, “Kill him! Kill him!”
“Let’s go upstairs! Let’s go upstairs, Let’s go upstairs! I need two men here. Hurry! What did you find here? What did you find here?” No answer.
“Pick that up. Pick that up. Let’s go upstairs! Let’s go upstairs! HEY! Let’s go upstairs! Shield. Shield. We’re going upstairs with a shield. Upstairs! Go slowly. Advance. Advance! Advance! ADVAAAAAAAAAANCE! Forget about the firing! Advance!”
They finally advance. The commander tells other men to come up the stairs.
“Is there anyone in the room? Search under the bed, in the closets, everything. Do it carefully. Fast! Lift up the bed. Look up there in the closet. Look up there in the closet!”
They don’t search the top of the closet.
“Be careful! There are too many of you in the hallway! DON’T HAVE THAT MANY PEOPLE IN THE HALLWAY! Slowly. Go in. Enter. Is there another hallway over there? Is there another hallway over there? Come up. Come up! The other one! Let’s go to the other hallway! Search carefully. Look under the bed.”
They don’t look under the bed.
Someone shouts, “Come out or you’re going to die!”
“Who is it? Hey! Who is it? Hey! Hey! Who is it?” the commander asks. They don’t answer him. Two women are hiding in the bathroom. They’ve been told to lie on the floor.
The women are asked how many men were in the house. They say six.
“Search well! Search well! Search well! Six men? I saw three below!”
Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman
Well, the Mexicans say five men were killed and six people were arrested, which makes eleven. As far as the marines knew at the time, there was only one man missing. Five armed assailants could’ve been hiding anywhere in that house, ready to mow down these hapless warriors who had to be led by the hand through their raid. “Search well! Search everywhere!”
Was a professional there?
According to SOFREP, men of the American 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta—the Delta Force—assisted in the raid. To my ears, the commander being ignored by the Mexican marines has a very slight American accent. He’s the only man in the unit who knows what he’s doing, and he’s armed with a Heckler and Koch HK416.
HK416 is the preferred weapon of the Delta Force.
The video ends with the commander saying, “We have three males, one killed, and we have two females. Two females and two males alive, and one male killed.”
According to the Mexicans, four other narco-terrorists were killed in a sustained gun battle across the rooftops, but the photos show them on the ground. They were all shot in the head. The gruesome images are here.
I can’t tell you what happened. However, I’ll show you video of United States Marines—among the best professional warriors on earth—fighting inside houses in Fallujah, Iraq, where the enemy had heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and explosives. American Marines didn’t need to be told what to do, because they’d been thoroughly trained.
By the time the video below was taken, those men had cleared hundreds of houses and had been involved in dozens of close-quarter firefights, some of which lasted hours, not fifteen minutes. The reason they run at 2:04 is that the terrorists had built bunkers made of concrete Jersey barriers. Nobody had ever seen that before. Jersey barriers inside houses? Who does that? And every single building was booby trapped. Even so, these Marines improvised, adapted, and overcame.
The most professional operation I’ve seen
For sheer skill and courage, nothing can beat the Tunisian Black Tigers or Brigade Antiterrorisme (BAT), the Brigade de l’Ordre Public (BOP), the Brigade Nationale d’Intervention Rapide (BNIR), and the Tunisian National Guard Special Forces rescuing hundreds of tourists from the cavernous, infinitely dangerous battleground of the Bardo Museum while under fire and dodging hand grenades for two hours.
Every single man in these four units knew what to do and how to interact with the others. Nobody had to be given orders. The operation was launched within two minutes.
This is how close the police and Guardsmen had to get in order to stop the murderer. See graphic video below.
Mexican marines need much better training if they’re going to win the war against narco-terrorists.
Thomas Wictor is an analyst and author of several books, including "In Cold Sweat: Interviews with Really Scary Musicians," and "German Flamethrower Pioneers of World War I" See his blog here.