El Chapo

Kyle Cody –

Scene one: steel bars over a doorway. Scene two: a mud covered bike in a dark tunnel. Scene three: meeting with a beautiful Spanish soap opera star and an actor. These scenes compose part of the saga of El Chapo, who is a Mexican drug lord with enough power to construct multiple escapes from a “secure” Mexican prison reminiscent of Shawshank Redemption.

Joaquin Guzmán or El Chapo, first and foremost, is the leader of a Mexican drug cartel responsible, according to Forbes in 2011, for an estimated 25% of drugs that enter the United States from Mexico. Their annual revenue exceeds $3 billion and the base of operation is in the western part of Mexico in the state of Sinaloa, which is Guzmán’s home. He quit school in third grade to work in the fields with his father from whom he suffered physical abuse.  As a teenager, Guzmán ran off to work in marijuana fields where he earned the name of El Chapo. He then went to work in the prominent cartel of the 1980’s, the Guadalajara cartel. El Chapo, ever wanting to increase his status within the cartel, had a pragmatic approach to the business of drug smuggling. He would simply shoot the smuggler in the head if the they arrived late and took care of competition by forcing drug dealers to only go through him. He quickly gained the attention of the higher ups and worked his way through the gang. In 1989, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel was arrested. This action caused the creation of a summit where territory owned by the gang was divided among cells. Guzmán then formed part of the cell in Sinaloa. This splitting caused fighting among the factions.

Guzmán’s first arrest came in 1993. While in prison, El Chapo bribed the guards who would act like his servants. Similarly to Al Capone in Alcatraz, El Chapo lived a life of luxury while in prision. His brother kept the drug cartel going in his absence.  At this time the drug cartel became the wealthiest and most powerful drug cartel in all of Mexico.

In 2001, Guzmán escaped prison by hiding in a laundry cart pushed by a guard in whom he had paid off. He then went on the run until he was captured in 2014 and placed in a maximum security prison in Mexico. This prison had 24/7 monitoring of him, except for in the shower room, where he dug a tunnel for his escape in 2015. He used a motorcycle to drive the length of the tunnel.

On the run again, Guzmán met with Spanish soap opera star Kate Del Castillo and begun a relationship with her. Castillo then arranged a meeting in October 2015 for El Chapo to meet Sean Penn, an actor wanting to produce a documentary on drugs. Later in 2015, El Chapo was captured again and placed in another secure Mexican prison. He is waiting to be extradited into the United States.

El Chapo’s story is an interesting one indicative of the state of crime in Mexico and of the drug trade in the United States. It is also a story of money and the power it wields. As El Chapo is extradited to the United States to be prosecuted, hopefully the guards that surround him will not succumb to the money he owns.


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