Joaquín Guzmán Loera wasn’t the only major organized crime figured captured Friday in Los Mochis. His chief of sicarios — the cartel’s main hitman — was also taken in by elements from the Mexican Navy.
His name is Iván Gastelum Cruz, also known as El Cholo Iván, and he was also a fugitive. Gastelum had escaped from prison in 2009 by using a party taking place inside a state prison as a diversion. And he stayed on the loose until Friday.
He was a hitman, a killer. In fact he was in charge of all the Sinaloa Cartel’s killers.
Like El Chapo, Gastelum is something of a legend in narco circles. The group Enigma Norteño immemorialized him in song, with a part of a corrido in his honor going, “Snitches are never forgiven here, because traitors cannot be tolerated . . . He goes by another nickname, el Cholo Iván.”
But Gastelum is no romantic figure. He is in charge of murders for the most powerful drug-trafficking organization in the hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel.
Gastelum was caught the first time in 2005. Ten firearms were found in his possession at the time. The investigation was carried out poorly, however, and el Cholo Iván was released by a court order.
But in 2008, he was arrested again, this time after an armed confrontation with soldiers.
He spent a year in prison. Then, on Aug. 9, 2009, he escaped.
The hunt for him was vigorous, and carried out mostly in Sinaloa. He was spotted at least three times, and in 2010, 2014 and 2015 there were firefights as authorities tried to move in on him.
Each time, it was thought he was injured. But each time he escaped.
In 2013, narco-banners began to be displayed in various parts of Sinaloa, accusing the Army of having killed Susana Flores who had won the Miss Sinaloa crown in 2012. Susana and Iván were a couple. The banners are assumed to be the work of El Cholo.
Gastelum Cruz remained a fugitive until Friday (Jan. 8). He was targeted in the same raid on a Los Mochis home as El Chapo, tried to escape in the same underground drainage system as El Chapo, and soon caught in the same stolen car.
Gastelum’s capture may is not as much of an image-booster for the Mexican government as El Chapo’s, but it is a significant a blow to the Sinaloa organization.
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