Mexican president trumpets capture of 'El Chapo,' calls it 'a win for the rule of law'

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called the capture of fugitive drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, “A win for the rule of law … [and] a victory against impunity.”

In a press conference late Friday afternoon, Peña Nieto trumpeted the capture of the Sinaloa Cartel chief and said the arrest had to happen, “as I promised that it would.”

“For Days and nights elements of our armed forces worked on the mission that I gave them,” Peña Nieto said, “to recapture this criminal and bring him to justice.” He thanked the armed forces and local police that brought El Chapo to justice and said “that there is no force that can’t be defeated by the power of Mexicans working together.”

The celebratory mood of the press conference was a stark contrast to last summer, when the president announced that El Chapo, one of the most wanted and most brutal men in the world, had escaped from a high-security prison for the second time under Mexico’s watch.

The escape was a major blow to Peña Nieto and his administration. Not only did it strain relations with the United States, but his reputation was further stained following a series of scandals the previous 12 months – including the disappearance of 43 students with the complicity of a municipal police force in the southern state of Guerrero.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed to Fox News that Mexican authorities had recaptured Guzmán. Fox News is told the U.S. will request that Chapo be extradited to the U.S. to face federal charges.

“Mission accomplished: we have him,” is how Peña Nieto tweeted out the news. “I want to inform Mexicans Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been arrested.”

The 61-year-old fugitive, who escaped from maximum-security prison last year, was reportedly caught in a 4-star hotel called Hotel Doux located in the city of Los Mochis. Fox News Latino contacted the hotel on Friday afternoon but the receptionist there would neither confirm nor deny the raid had happened there.

A local reporter told FNL that they were first alerted of the military activity when loud explosions were heard at around 5 a.m. in the area surrounding the hotel.

In a press release issued soon after news of the capture broke, around 2 p.m. ET, the Mexican Marines said five suspects were killed and six others arrested during the raid.

Marines seized two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Photos of the arms seized suggested that Guzmán and his associates had a fearsome arsenal at the nondescript white house in which he was hiding.

Two of the rifles seized were .50-caliber sniper guns, capable of penetrating most bullet-proof vests and cars. The grenade launcher was found loaded, with an extra round nearby.

One Mexican Marine was wounded in the clash, but his injuries were not life threatening.

“The events occurred when naval personnel received information from a citizen saying that armed people were seen in a home,” read the official release.

“Acting on that information, elements of the Mexican Marines stormed the home where they came under fire. They proceeded to defeat the aggression of the armed men in a legitimate defense and with only the goal of saving their own lives.”

The release also noted that Orso Iván Gastelum Cruz, an alleged leader in the Sinaloa Cartel, managed to flee the scene.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday's capture is a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States, and a vindication of the rule of law.

"Guzman's latest attempt to escape has failed, and he will now have to answer for his alleged crimes, which have resulted in significant violence, suffering, and corruption on multiple continents," she said.

"The U.S. Department of Justice is proud to maintain a close and effective relationship with our Mexican counterparts, and we look forward to continuing our work together to ensure the safety and security of all our people," Lynch added.

The U.S. had put a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzmán's arrest, and there was a price of $3.8 million on his head in Mexico.

Guzmán faces drug, money laundering and criminal conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court in San Diego.

“This is a very big deal for the Peña Nieto administration,” David Shirk, a political science professor at the University of San Diego and director of the Justice in Mexico project, told Fox News Latino. “This is an important effort by the Peña Nieto administration to restore the rule of law but also restore the credibility of his government.”

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to congratulate the administration and the federal forces for the feat.

The area where Los Mochis is located has been the site of other military operations in recent months as the government continued to search for the prominent cartel leader.

Guzmán fled in July through a mile-long tunnel dug to what authorities say was a building especially set up for the prison break in plain sight of the Altiplano prison. The tunnel was equipped with a ventilation system and even a customized motorcycle most likely used to remove the dirt while digging towards the shower area of the drug lord's prison cell.

Guzmán, who was born in 1957, got his start in the drug business as a lieutenant of Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo, the top leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, in the 1980s.

Félix Gallardo's arrest and prosecution in 1989 led to the Guadalajara Cartel being divided up, and Guzmán relocating to Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, where he founded the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Sinaloa Cartel is widely considered the wealthiest criminal organization in Mexico, and Guzmán and Co. have used that wealth to buy influence throughout the country's institutions, leading to widespread speculation that the government treats the group with kid gloves.

Fox News' Matthew Dean, the Associated Press and EFE contributed to this report.

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