Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman: Mexico's number one drug runaway
By Andrea Sosa Cabrios Feb 15, 2012, 11:04 GMT
Mexico City - The drug lord Joaquin Guzman, also known by his alias 'El Chapo,' is the most challenging runaway for Mexico and the United States.
Eleven years after escaping from prison in a laundry trolley on January 19, 2001, the boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel is listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world's richest men.
His feats are the subject of songs and his business is settled in gun battles. Word has it that he lives in the mountains in Mexico, that he has crossed over to Guatemala several times, that he can buy anyone's will and that he is ruthless with traitors.
'Beyond Guanacevi, that's where 'El Chapo' hangs out, that's where he lives. But well, we all know that except the authorities,' a Roman Catholic archbishop said three years ago in Durango, one of the three states in north-western Mexico's Golden Triangle where Guzman is believed to have his stronghold.
Norteno music bands have written songs to honour this short but extremely powerful man. One such song recalls that he used to sell oranges when he was a poor child. Another, with the title El 701 after his position on the Forbes list in his 2009 debut, compares him to the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
'The media compare me to that bin Laden because I have my Taliban too,' says a song by Los Alegres del Barranco.
But 'El Chapo,' aged 54 or 57 depending on which of two birth dates that the authorities have for him is correct, is a lot more than just a character in popular folklore.
The US Treasury regards him as 'the world's most powerful drug trafficker' and the leader of a criminal empire that deals in cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamines, among other business, and has claimed thousands of lives.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Sinaloa drug cartel dates back more than 35 years and has become a real multinational of organized crime.
Guzman had been arrested in Guatemala in 1993. Decades later, after his movie-like escape from prison, he made new alliances and broke with former partners like the Carrillo Fuentes brothers, the leaders of the Juarez drug cartel.
The Sinaloa cartel, also known as The Federation, is now a partnership with subgroups led by 'El Chapo,' his friend Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada and Juan Jose Esparragoza, alias 'El Azul.'
The United States has offered a reward of 5 million dollars for Guzman, whom many describe as Mexico's Pablo Escobar, and Mexicos's Attorney General's Office has offered 2.3 million dollars for the same.
There have been several arrests and drug raids affecting the Sinaloa cartel in recent months. The Army seized 15.3 million dollars of its funds in November, and in December the authorities arrested Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, Guzman's alleged head of security in the Durango mountains.
For Mexican President Felipe Calderon it would be a huge achievement to get Guzman back behind bars before he leaves office on December 1.
Since Calderon took office in December 2006, more than 47,000 people have died in Mexico in incidents linked to organized crime, according to the official tally. The deaths are the result of the authorities' crackdown on the gangs and the cartel's increasingly bitter scrap for a smaller drug-trafficking pie. Beheadings of rivals as well as innocents and other gruesome crimes have become daily occurences.
Some critics of Calderon's strategy have accused the government of protecting 'El Chapo.'
'We would all like to see him arrested,' DEA administrator Michelle Leonhart told Mexican daily Excelsior.
'He is the target of our operations and investigations, and it will be a great day when we manage to catch him.'