Joaquin Guzman, or El Chapo – “Shorty”, is considered to be our modern day Pablo Escobar in which smuggling cocaine through tunnels has made him one of the worlds most powerful and richest people. The drug king of the Sinaloa cartel has escaped prison twice and is again caught and arrested by the police in Mexico after a raid at his secret hideout.
He’s considered hands down the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world.” The Chicago Crime Commission has named him “Public Enemy Number One,” while Forbes magazine has ranked him as not only the “biggest drug lord of all time,” but also one of the most powerful people in the world. There’s a reason why the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency considers him the “godfather of the drug world,” as he’s easily surpassed both the influence and reach of the late Pablo Escobar. His name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera…aka “El Chapo.”
December, 1954: Joaquín Guzmán Loera is born in Badiraguato, a rural town in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Growing up in poverty due to limited job opportunities, Guzmán followed an abusive and violent father into drug dealing. As a teenager, he was kicked out of his family home and had to rely on making money illegally. By his late 20s, Joaquín Guzmán Loera earned a valuable reputation n the narcotics business by working efficiently in the transportation of drugs form his home district of Sinaloa to the western part of the United States. He was given the nickname “El Chapo,” which is Spanish for “short” for his height of 5’ 6” tall and his stocky stature. More money was flowing into impoverished Badiraguato than ever before and “El Chapo” Guzmán was often regarded as a hometown hero, a modern-day Robin Hood. He quickly climbed the ranks and proved his worth working for Guadalajara Cartel founder, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. El Chapo continued his rise to power alongside Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, his future partner in leading one of the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking organizations. They maintained a low profile and profited greatly until in 1985, when El Chapo murdered an American Drug Enforcement Agency member and debuted himself to the public as a Mexican drug lord who was quickly on-the-rise. Inheriting territory from his former boss and leader of the Guadalajara Carte, Guzmán decided to form his own cartel in 1989, known as the Sinaloa Cartel.
The Sinaloa Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel began dominating the drug trafficking network in the early 1990s while at the same time, the major Colombian drug cartels were weakening. El Chapo profited greatly and with little challenge to his power from the DEA or FBI, who considered him one of Mexico’s most powerful and dangerous men. He conquered to cocaine trade between South America and the United States with his creative leadership. For example, the Sinaloa Cartel developed a system of air-conditioned tunnels connecting the borders of Mexico and the U.S. they avoided detection underground and took extra measures in discretion by hiding cocaine inside fire extinguishers and even dying the cocaine red and labeling it as “chili powder.” In addition to cocaine, the Sinaloa Cartel frequently smuggled heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Eventually, the cartel became one of the largest drug operations in the world, spanning five continents and bringing in about $3 billion every year. El Chapo Guzmán established protective relationships for his Sinaloa Cartel with other powerful gangs, such as Los Chanchos, Los Texas, Los Lobos, and Los Negros. Very few people were able to challenge El Chapo’s cartel and those who did were violently met by his men. Over 1,000 murders throughout Mexico can be credited to El Chapo’s command, many victims of which were rival leaders.
1993 Arrest & 2001 Escape
El Chapo Guzmán was arrested in 1993 by Guatemalan authorities and extradited to Mexico. There he was convicted for the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo and was sentenced to serve 20 years in a maximum security prison in Guadalajara. Behind bars, El Chapo ran the Sinaloa Cartel with his partner-in-crime, Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, who was based on the outside. At the Puente Grande Federal Prison, his popularity with locals and bribes towards prison employees not only granted him conjugal visits, but also the ability to continue leading the Sinaloa Cartel in drug operations. Nearly halfway through his prison sentence, El Chapo managed to escape in a laundry cart with the help of bribed prison guards. The Guadalajara Prison underwent a federal investigation and resulted in the arrest of its warden along with 71 other employees.
El Chapo Guzmán was at large and reached an individual net worth of $1 billion. In 2009, he earned the 701st rank on Forbes’s list of the World’s Riches People. Despite all this publicity, the Mexican government still failed at apprehending the drug lord. El Chapo Guzmán’s family and home life was lavish and erratic. He had many affairs and two wives before marrying his current wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, a beautiful Mexican soap opera actress. His first bride was Alejandrina Maria Salazar, whom he married in a humble ceremony in 1977 and went on to have three children with: Cesar, Ivan Archivaldo, and Jesus Alfredo. With his second wife, Griselda Lopez Perez, Guzmán had four more children: Edgar, Joaquin, Ovidio, and Griselda Guadalupe. His sons followed their father into the drug trafficking business and helped run the Sinaloa cartel drug operations. In 2007, he married his current wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, an American citizen with whom he had twin daughters in Los Angeles, California. With his large family spread between Mexico and the U.S., extra surveillance was taken by both governments. Nevertheless, the Sinaloa kingpin flaunted his so called “untouchable” status and power with extravagant parties celebrating his marriages and birth of nine children. He even had police officers and local politicians as guests. The American government decided to step in by increasing their efforts and targeting El Chapo with great priority. A $5 million reward was offered for information leading to his arrest. In 2012, U.S. authorities froze all of the Guzmán’s American family assets.
In February 2014, El Chapo Guzmán was caught and arrested at a beachside hideaway in Mazatlán, Mexico with his family and bodyguard all sleeping in the same condo as him. There were no casualties in the arrest and American officials requested for him to be extradited to the States. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto declined the option and promised that El Chapo would not escape again. However, a year and a half later, he did. During this time, El Chapo Guzmán planned the construction of an escape tunnel located 30 feet beneath his cell’s shower floor at the Altiplano Prison near Toluca, Mexico. He was able to remove the metal shower grate, which he could descend under using a ladder. The mile-long tunnel stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall where for his short height, he could walk upright all the way to a half-constructed home site. This effective smuggling method devised by the Sinaloa Cartel came to excellent use in El Chapo’s second prison escape. He managed to vanish from full camera surveillance in the prison’s most secure wing. This consequently diminished the Mexican president’s vow of security. The Sinaloa Cartel spent over a year and at least $1 million to build this escape route for their leader, equipping it with lighting, ventilation, and even a motorbike. In the end, the Altiplano Prison near Toluca failed to retain the international drug lord.
Disappointed in the Mexican authorities’ ability to retail El Chapo under maximum security, the U.S. government launched a massive manhunt for him in 2015. Members of the Colombian government and rival criminal organizations—most notably the Medellín Cartel—contributed to the search. Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto was suspected for complicity in the drug lord’s second escape. This letdown thwarted the main goal of President Nieto’s administration to completely eliminate drug cartel activity, fueling him to correct the disappointment. The 2015 manhunt sent military forces to aggressively seek out and arrest El Chapo Guzmán. Soldiers got as far as the northwestern mountains of Mexico where, on October 17th, he was reportedly injured on his face and leg in avoiding capture.
Secret Interview with Sean Penn
Early last October, the infamous drug lord curiously arranged a secret interview with Hollywood actor, Sean Penn. His interest in meeting the celebrity was to begin making a movie about his life. Now in his sixties, El Chapo collaborated with producers and his Mexican soap-opera star wife in order to mediate the interview with Penn. It is understood that Sean Penn took a private plane and trekked through the jungle to a northern Mexican area to interview for an article to be published in Rolling Stone Magazine. During this meeting in El Chapo’s mountain hideaway, he professed to Penn that he had a fleet of submarines, airplanes, boats, and terrain vehicles to use in his drug operations. Additionally, he continued investing a movie about his own life despite sustaining injuries from escaping the October raid. But what the wanted druglord was unaware of was that the meetings with actors and producers helped expose him for his most recent arrest.
Recent Arrest – January 8, 2016
The manhunt was still in full force, not only by the U.S. and Columbian governments, but also the Mexican authorities, who hoped they would be able to redeem themselves. Over the holiday months, law enforcement observed his Sinaloa Hideaway in Los Mochis until January 8th, when Mexico’s elite marines led a fierce raid in the capture of El Chapo Guzmán. After a shootout that left five dead, the military operation was successful. El Chapo fled his compound through the sewers before stealing a car and being chased down. After his arrest, the Marines took the criminal to a nearby hotel to await reinforced transport. This was a triumphant success for Mexican law enforcement, to which, President Nieto personally Tweeted that drug lord, Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera was in custody and that the mission was accomplished. This victory ended one of the longest-lasting and most collaborative manhunts that involved every law enforcement agency in Mexico. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated President Nieto for the arrest. In addition, the United States Attorney General commended Mexican authorities for their efforts. Just days after the recapture, they have formally renewed the process of his extradition to the USA.
On Guzmán’s compound, where the final raid occurred, Mexican authorities recorded an impressive arsenal that included two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun, and an RPG launcher. The interview where Guzmán bragged about his weaponry appeared to be accurate. Rolling Stone published Sean Penn’s interview the day after Guzmán’s arrest titled: El Chapo Speaks. Mexican authorities claim that they were greatly helped by information revealed in El Chapo’s electronic communication. Currently, he has been returned to the maximum-security prison in Toluca where he escaped from months before. Many still await his extradition to the United States, where he will ultimately face murder and drug trafficking charges.
What do you think will happen next to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán? Let us know in the comment section below.