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The Legend of El Chapo Guzman

Besides following the show about Joaquin Guzman’s escape from a maximum-security prison, or the political melodrama that came after, in order to understand the real meaning of legendary the ‘El Chapo’ we must consider the following:

  1. Historically, organized crime in Mexico has had a mutual and beneficial understanding with the political establishment. Lubricated by the corruption of authorities at every level and the extremely high levels of impunity due to a rotten justice system, criminal activities of drug cartels have always had counted on the tacit complicity of the political system.
  2. On behalf of a pragmatic approach to its National Security rhetoric, the United States foreign policy has a long tradition of building synergies that favors the “lesser of two evils”. To combat Nazism, the system allied with Joseph Stalin; to fight Iran they worked with Saddam Hussein. Against the Soviet Union advancement in Afghanistan they supported Osama Bin Laden. And of course, in order to fight communism in in the Western Hemisphere (Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, etc.), the establishment had no qualms in joining forces with drug traffickers.

So, here we are. The most wanted criminal in the world is able to escape, twice, after being captured in two very foggy and suspicious circumstances. And of course in the center of everything there is the bad luck of the U.S. justice machine that took 15 months to do the paperwork to initiate the extradition request for the man that less than a month later just disappeared. (Not that the promise of Mexico’s General Attorney to send him north “after 200 or 300 years” was too encouraging).

So, who really is Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera?   Well, he is a 59 year old man who finished third grade of elementary. The top player in an industry that generates around $430 billion revenues each year, he was born in Badiraguato, a small and very poor town located at the entrance of the Sinaloa golden triangle, the mountainous region where one of the most productive source of heroine poppy is located.

Street smart, charismatic and fortuitous, el Chapo (his nickname, obviously, means Shorty) has been a very lucky man. Around 25 years ago he became the natural heir of the two most iconic drug lords of modern Mexico, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

From the first, the founder of the first Federation of Drug bosses, took a corporate vision that allowed him to divide the country (with the exception of the Gulf of Mexico) in territories. Felix Gallardo was captured due to the famous murder of a DEA agent. (The same crime in which, some experts say now, the CIA maybe was involved).

From the second, The Lord of the Skies, the drug lord that went global, moving tons of cocaine in large planes across the continent, Chapo got an international perspective that allowed him to assume a continental leadership when the DEA’s strategy of divide and conquer succeeded in their war against the Colombian big capos.

His lucky charm stopped working on May 24 1993 when his enemies tried to kill him in the Guadalajara Airport and instead murdered the local Cardenal. Then, the killers were not touched but he was the object of a huge manhunt that ended a few weeks later when he was arrested and sent to jail.

In 2000, the PRI lost its first presidential election in 70 years, and soon enough, Chapo just checked out of jail (Jan 2001). Thousands of “narco corridos” were sung in his honor and soon he was included in the Forbes list of the richest man on the planet.

In the next 15 years, while Mexico went through a bloody war among cartels (over 100,000 people died), his organization prevailed and retook the leadership of the whole industry at a continental scale. Also PRI recovered power in Mexico.

In 2014 he was arrested (without a single shot taken) and in 2015 he escaped prison, again. And because he is so lucky, or has a huge angel over his head, he is back.

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