Victor Manuel Felix, the brother-in-law of one of Chapo's wives, was caught in an operativo that netted 9 relatively high-ranking alleged members of the Sinaloa cartel.
There are a few notable things about these arrests that make me think the net may well be closing on Chapo and his closest:
1) Victor Manuel Felix was in charge of both financial and trafficking operations all the way to Ecuador. Only high-ranking, well-respected folks within the Sinaloa cartel get to this level of responsibility. The authorities love to say every suspect caught is high-ranking, but this guy appeared to really be just that. Plus, he was a relative, and Chapo's relatives are usually close to the big guy.
2) It was an international sting. The authorities don't bust people like Manuel Felix, using international resources and perhaps risking leaks about their coordination, to go after small-time narcos. And when they make one big bust, they usually follow it with another or two, effectively hitting the capos with a jab and then an uppercut. Expect another big capture within the coming weeks.
3) The 9 arrested were caught in Quintana Roo, Jalisco and Mexico City. These are not the normal places for average Sinaloa cartel members to be caught. Some bigshots certainly have been caught in DF and Jalisco, but it's not standard fare. That means that the authorities are actively going after the Sinaloa cartel (rather than just rounding up the usual suspects in Ciudad Juarez and Sinaloa). Of course, I've always argued that Sinaloa is not being let off easy, but this is just another little piece of evidence, in my mind.
Incidentally, there's a new general in charge of Sinaloa and the sierra where Chapo is believed to still be hiding out. His name Moises Melo Garcia, and he was previously in charge of the 10th Zona Militar in Durango.
His predecessor, Noe Sandoval Alcazar, was the 3rd general that Chapo has either outwitted, outbribed, or outfought in Sinaloa since his escape from Puente Grande.
But according to a journalist friend who recently traveled to Badiraguato, some locals say that Chapo has become increasingly aggressive these days. Tensions are high in the sierra right now, and the people are scared.
Will this general get lucky? Will the Calderon administration finally be able to move on and claim some sort of symbolic victory in its drug war? We shall see.