El Chapo, the world’s most-wanted drug lord has been captured according to sources within American law enforcement. El Chapo, whose real name is Joaquin Guzman Loera, was captured Saturday, ending a 13-year search for the main supplier of drugs to the US and the rest of the globe.
Guzman, whose nickname ‘El Chapo’ means Shorty, had evaded authorities repeatedly since he escaped from prison hiding in a laundry basket. Guzman faces a plethora of drug trafficking and other charges resulting from the multibillion-dollar drug cartel he ran.
Very few details are currently available. An image of Guzman, handcuffed and cuts on his face and body was passed around between law enforcement officials. Guzman had managed to stay so far under the radar that law enforcement wasn’t positive of what he looked like. Mexican marines captured Guzman in the Pacific beach area of Mazatlan. Over the past twelve months, a few of his top men had been arrested. With dwindling numbers of associates around him, it has been speculated by crime analysts that Guzman’s days as a free man were limited.
Guzman, who took on near-iconic status, was on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people. Often going into restaurants, he would pick up the tab for all of the customers. In exchange, diners would keep quiet about Guzman’s location. A leaked diplomatic cable from Mexico reveals that Guzman had surrounded himself with 300 armed men for protection.
Guzman always appeared to have been tipped off as he continually managed to slip away just as law enforcement agents were closing in. In 2012, El Chapo was hiding in a mansion in the Mexican State of Baja. Meeting with foreign ministers in the same town, at the same time was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A raid the following day failed to net the drug kingpin.
Guzman was the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful cartel, reaching out and having operations on every continent. Security analysts have suspected though that as the authorities increased their pursuit, most of the routine management fell to subordinates.
Guzman’s story is a classic rags-to-riches tale that served to feed the legend. Born in poverty in the foothills of Sierra Madra in Sinaloa State, Guzman quit school in the third grade. In the 1980s, a job for Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, one of Mexico’s biggest cocaine dealers, was his first move into drug smuggling. Guzman learned quickly and was able to exploit the cocaine boom in the US making valuable contacts from Colombia to Arizona.
When Mexican authorities had captured Gallardo in 1989, Guzman inherited one of the drug smuggling routes and started forming his own cartel. Charged in the US with money laundering and subsequently convicted, Guzman was given 20 years in a Mexican prison.
The racketeering charges continued to mount. One in 1994 said Guzman continued to operate his organization through a relative, his brother, Arturo Guzman Loera. Running the cartel from prison, Guzman would arrange drug shipments from South America to the US. In January 2001, Guzman’s career took an unexpected detour. Escaping from the maximum-security prison in Guadalajara, he was taken out in a laundry cart, after bribing prison officials.
At the end of the day, Guzman’s fall may not mean the end of his cartel. Rather, subordinates may redistribute the power and tomorrow it will still be business as usual. Even if El Chapo can’t make it to the office.
By Jerry Nelson