The tourists at a beautiful beach resort in Mazatlan Mexico did not know they were vacationing with notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera. It should make for thrilling vacation stories when the tale of the arrest of El Chapo is told. On Saturday February 22, 2014 the world’s most wanted criminal found himself in handcuffs. The arrest of Guzman is a big score for the DEA and Mexican officials.
“El Chapo” means shorty in Spanish. However, it was big business the 52-year-old drug lord was into. His Sinaloa cartel had operations in 23 countries including parts of Europe and Australia. His known products range from cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines. Guzman had gotten so powerful that he had been a regular on the Forbes lists of billionaires until the magazine dropped him in 2013. His inclusion on the list caused controversy because many saw Forbes glorifying the life of the world’s most wanted criminal.
To begin to understand who Guzman is and how big his arrest is to the war on drugs there needs to be a separation of the man and the myth. One legend had El Chapo walking into a diner a few years back with his armed guards. He leisurely sat down for a meal while his guards prevented anyone from leaving. After finishing his lunch, Guzman paid everyone’s bill just for the inconvenience. This makes a good story, part Al Capone, part Robin Hood. That is far from how Guzman really operates. He lives in a world of shadows. A world so thick that his real age is not known. He keeps a low profile and his where abouts are rarely known. In fact, that is the reason Guzman was dropped from Forbes list. They could not determine if he was alive or dead.
There were stories that Guzman was preparing for retirement. Rumors had him about to go under the knife for plastic surgery so that he and his family could blend in. Before El Chapo Guzman had a chance to disappear, the Mexican marines and the DEA swooped in and closed the biggest arrest in recent memory.
The problem that DEA officials have now is how Guzman will be detained. If he is immediately extradited to the U.S then game over? He goes to prison for the rest of his life. However, if there is a delay and he is detained for too long in Mexico, then it is possible he can plan an escape. He has actually done that before. In 2001 he escaped a high-security Mexican prison by hiding in a laundry basket. Officials also noted his vast wealth and influence to bribe corrupt officials.
The Sinaloa cartel has been blamed for the bloody drug war in Mexico that has claimed nearly 70,000 lives. There can be no certainty that the arrest of El Chapo will bring down the dangerous cartel, but one of the world’s most dangerous criminals will have to answer for his crimes. Just the fact that Guzman was arrested says that the DEA and Mexico have cleared a big hurdle in the war on drugs.
Editorial by Tony Bowers
Los Angeles Times
Wall Street Journal