10 Things You Need To Know About 'El Chapo,' The World's Most Infamous Drug Lord
This past weekend, news broke that a joint effort between Mexican marines and US federal agents led to the arrest of Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as "El Chapo," the world's no. 1 drug lord.
Guzman, who is nicknamed "El Chapo" (the short one) for his diminutive stature, was apprehended in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan, which lies in his home state of Sinaloa.
So elusive was Guzman over the years that authorities waited nine hours to confirm that they'd caught the right man.
Though Guzman's arrest represents a symbolic victory for Mexico, and its government in particular, the general consensus appears to be that the capture will do nothing to slow down Chapo's Sinaloa Drug Cartel.
"The takedown of El Chapo is a thorn in the side, but not a dagger in the heart of the Sinaloa Cartel," George Grayson, an expert on Mexico's cartels, is quoted as saying by NPR.
Furthermore, his capture seems to have only furthered his legend with many of his fascinating, albeit shameful, exploits being thrust into the spotlight over the weekend.
As the world rushes to learn more about a man who reached mythic status in his homeland, Elite Daily brings to you the 10 things you need to know about "El Chapo," the world's no. 1 drug lord:
He Made Prison His Palace
Some might regard El Chapo's most recent reign on the ground in Mexico as his second, by technicality. That's because between 1993 and 2001, Chapo was imprisoned after being arrested in Guatemala before being transferred into the hands of Mexican officials. Guzman's tenure in jail, however, was no life of the ordinary inmate.
When he didn't appreciate the accommodations of one prison complex, El Chapo "transferred himself" to Puente Grande where he lived a life that featured comfort, prostitution and drugs, all by his arrangement.
As Gerardo Reyes writes for Univision, "from his cell, Guzman turned prison into a five-star hotel room via bribes and intimidation."
He Walked Out Of Jail Through The Front Door
Guzman is said to have run his drug cartel from prison, too, until he got word that the US was in the process of pursuing his extradition, which would have put him in the hands of the American justice system.
From then, he concocted his escape in a bribery job that cost him $2.5 million and involved more than 78 accomplices, according to the International Business Times.
Though the most popular version of the story detailing the escape features Guzman being carted out of jail through a laundry basket, the truth seems to be even more fascinating:
"...That version [the laundry basket story] has become a myth. Investigators and witnesses assert that Guzman left walking through the main doors with the complicity of numerous public officials," Reyes wrote.
He Ran His Cartel With Corporate Efficiency
One of the more intriguing trends that has appeared in the widespread coverage of Guzman's capture is the manner in which his cartel is discussed.
Numerous reporters have used words such as "day-to-day operations," "air logistics" and "chief executive" (to describe Guzman's status upon returning from jail), in a way that characterized the Sinaloa Cartel to be as structured and efficient as a Fortune 500 company.
"During more than four decades, El Chapo Guzman has developed a network of operations that resembles an enormous multinational corporation, with operations on five continents and multimillion-dollar profits that boggle the imagination," wrote Tomás Ocaña and Camilo Vargas, who put together another fascinating in-depth report on Guzman's operation for Univision.
Indeed, the Cartel had the financial numbers to match such a reputation, as well. According to NPR, the Sinaloa Cartel records an eye-popping $3 billion in profit a year.
His Great Wealth Made Him A Regular Fixture In Forbes
As is the case with most wealthy individuals, Joaquin Guzman has been featured in Forbes magazine on numerous occasions.
His most notable appearances were in Forbes' list of the world's billionaires, on which he debuted in 2009, and the list of the world's most powerful people, on which he was ranked no. 67 last year.
Forbes also featured a story on Guzman in 2011, officially declaring him as the world's biggest drug lord ever.
He Is On Another Level Of "Wanted"
To say that El Chapo was a marked man would be an understatement. Of course, all criminals who are worthy of being regarded as "drug lords" are wanted, but the extent to which Guzman had a price on his head was nothing short of ridiculous.
In the US, $5 million was being offered to those who had information that could lead to the arrest of Guzman while $2.3 million was being offered by Mexican officials.
In February 2013, Guzman was named public enemy number no. 1 by the city of Chicago, a distinction that had not been given to any criminal since Al Capone in the 1930s.
In addition to being wanted by the US and Mexico, Guzman was always wanted by INTERPOL.
His Capture Is Expected To Disturb The Peace
In the same way that widespread chaos ensued after Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in 1994, there is an expectation that, in a twisted way, El Chapo's arrest will do more harm than good.
As CBS News pointed out, it is common for there to be turf wars in the aftermath of a capo's capture, and with Guzman now gone, it is almost certain that conflict will erupt either within the Sinaloa Cartel or elsewhere within the Mexican state, as other criminals look to seize the opportunity to gain new power.
One worker in Sinaloa even disclosed his fears to NPR's Carrie Kahn. As Kahn wrote, "El Chapo is feared here, Amado says, but at least he kept Sinaloa relatively peaceful all these years."
His Influence Spread To Five Continents
In the United States, the Sinaloa Cartel is said to be responsible for a quarter of all illegal drugs that enter the country.
Further south, El Chapo has close ties with Colombia's top drug lord. The relationship is said to be the key to Guzman's drug routes, with origins in the South American country. In Europe, he has linked up with Italy's most notorious mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta, according to the LA Times.
Univision states that the base of Guzman's operations is in Guinea Bissau, while private planes are said to transport El Chapo's illegal drugs from Chicago to Australia.
In all, the Sinaloa Cartel is estimated to have injected its influence into 50 countries as part of an operation that had many tentacles.
His Network Of "Employees" Was As Sophisticated As It Gets
El Chapo was one who ran a well-organized, tight ship. While his arrest will now put him out of action, for good it seems, some experts say that his 150,000 person-strong staff can be expected to continue working without a hitch.
That organization is due to the sophistication of Guzman's employee base. In addition to employing assassins, chiefs of security, chauffers and other members on his team to carry out a wide range of specific tasks, El Chapo also had a "board of directors," which is expected to facilitate a smooth transition of power in Guzman's absence.
He Had A Fascination With Tunnels
One method through which Guzman facilitated his drug trade was an incredibly sophisticated tunnel system. Of the 120-plus underground tunnels that are detected between Mexico and the US, Guzman is said to be responsible for at least 62 of them, often employing Sinaloa miners to construct them, some with ventilation systems and electricity, at costs that reach millions of dollars.
In Mexico, Guzman was known to have escaped through tunnels, as well, with a series of seven safe houses interconnected. During one attempt for his capture, he was able to escape through those tunnels, which were connected to the sewer system, while Mexican authorities struggled to open the steel doors that barred his home.
There Are Conspiracy Theories That Explain His Elusiveness
One of the theories that some suspect to explain El Chapo's ability to evade capture all these years is a secret deal that the Sinaloa Cartel was believed to have between themselves and the DEA.
“Couldn’t it be that El Chapo Guzman is the most powerful drug trafficker of all time because he is protected by the most powerful country in the world?” asks Anabel Hernandez, a Mexican journalist.
The suspected deal is said to have been struck during a meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City in 2008, under the condition that the Sinaloa Cartel provide intelligence for the US to goth other drug lords.
In a trial against Vicente Zambada Niebla, El Chapo's no. 2 man, the US Attorney General admitted to the meeting taking place, though no deal was made between the two parties.
Top Photo Courtesy: Cortesia