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April 17, 2014

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Mexico drops gun charges against ‘El Chapo’s aide

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 | 3:57 p.m.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The self-described "assistant" to drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was charged Wednesday with possessing illegal weapons when he was captured this weekend with the Sinaloa cartel boss, a Mexican federal official said.

U.S. officials have said that intelligence about the suspect, Carlos Manuel Hoo Ramirez, was key in leading Mexican marines to a condominium in the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan where Guzman's years as fugitive came to an end Saturday.

The Mexican federal official said a judge had yet to decide whether to try Hoo Ramirez, who is being held in a Mexican prison. The official agreed to discuss the suspect's status only if not quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Authorities have said that the marines who raided the condo caught Hoo Ramirez, also known as "Condor," with two rifles, two handguns, ammunition and a grenade launcher.

Hoo Ramirez told authorities he had been working as an assistant to Guzman for three years, the official said. U.S. law enforcement has said he was Guzman's chief of communications.

Officials in the U.S. say a cellphone found Feb. 16 at a house Guzman had been using in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan belonged to Hoo Ramirez. Other arrests followed the phone discovery, and those detentions provided clues to the whereabouts of Guzman in Mazatlan.

Guzman, 56, was also with his 20-something former beauty queen wife and their twin toddlers. She was let go because there were no charges pending against her.

"El Chapo" is widely considered the world's most powerful drug lord. In rulings Tuesday, two federal judges said Guzman will have to stand trial on separate drug-trafficking and organized-crime charges in Mexico.

Guzman, who escaped from a western Mexico prison in 2001, is to remain in Mexico's highest-security prison while the criminal cases against him in the country are pending. The Mexican government has said he would not be extradited to the U.S. soon, despite several indictments against him stemming from California to New York.