Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera is a Mexican drug lord who heads the Sinaloa Cartel, a criminal organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán”, pronounced: [el ˈtʃapo ɡuzˈman]) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the United States Department of the Treasury.
Each year from 2009 to 2011 Forbes magazine ranked Guzmán as one of the most powerful people in the world, ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively. He was thus the second most powerful man in Mexico, after Carlos Slim. He was named as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011, with a net worth of roughly US$1 billion. The magazine also calls him the “biggest drug lord of all time”, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world”. In 2013, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzmán “Public Enemy Number One” for the influence of his criminal network in Chicago, though there is no evidence that Guzmán has ever been in that city. The last person to receive such notoriety was Al Capone in 1930.
Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel, at the time of his arrest, was the wealthiest and most powerful of Mexico’s drug cartels. It smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States by air, sea and road, and has distribution cells throughout the U.S. The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin from Southeast Asia.
When Palma was arrested by the Mexican Army on 23 June 1995, Guzmán took leadership of the cartel. Palma was later extradited to the United States, where he is in prison on charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy. After Guzmán’s prison escape nearly a decade after his initial arrest, he and close associate Ismael Zambada García became Mexico’s undisputed top drug kingpins after the 2003 arrest of their rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel. Until Guzmán’s arrest in 2014, he was considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the United States Department of the Treasury. Guzmán also had another close associate, his trusted friend Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel Villarreal.
Mexican Cartel Wars
Since his escape from prison, Guzmán had been wanting to take over the Ciudad Juárez crossing points, which were under the control of the Carrillo Fuentes family of the Juárez Cartel. Despite a high degree of mistrust between the two organizations, the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels had an alliance at the time. Guzmán convened a meeting in Monterrey with Ismael Zambada García (“El Mayo”), Juan José Esparragoza Moreno (“El Azul”) and Arturo Beltrán Leyva and they discussed killing Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, who was in charge of the Juárez Cartel. On 11 September 2004, Rodolfo, his wife and two young children were visiting a Culiacán shopping mall. While leaving the mall, escorted by police commander Pedro Pérez López, the family was ambushed by members of Los Negros, assassins for the Sinaloa Cartel. Rodolfo and his wife were killed; the policeman survived.
This now meant the plaza would no longer be controlled only by the Carrillo Fuentes family. Instead, the city found itself as the front line in the Mexican Drug War and would see homicides skyrocket as rival cartels fought for control. With this act, Guzmán was the first to break the nonaggression “pact” the major cartels had agreed to, setting in motion the fighting between cartels for drug routes that has claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006.
When Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006, he announced a crackdown on cartels by the Mexican military to stem the increasing violence. After four years, the additional efforts had not slowed the flow of drugs or the killings tied to the drug war. Of the 53,000 arrests made as of 2010, only 1,000 involved associates of the Sinaloa Cartel, which led to suspicions that Calderón was intentionally allowing Sinaloa to win the drug war, a charge Calderón denied in advertisements in Mexican newspapers, pointing to his administration’s killing of top Sinaloa deputy “Nacho” Coronel as evidence. Sinaloa’s rival cartels saw their leaders killed and syndicates dismantled by the crackdown, but the Sinaloa gang was relatively unaffected and took over the rival gangs’ territories, including the coveted Ciudad Juárez-El Paso corridor, in the wake of the power shifts.
On 11 July 2015, Guzmán escaped from Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, a maximum-security prison. After receiving medication, Guzmán was last seen by security cameras at 20:52 hours near the shower area. The shower area was the only part of his cell that was not visible through the security camera. After the guards did not see him for twenty-five minutes on surveillance video, personnel went looking for him. When they reached his cell, Guzmán was gone. It was discovered he had escaped through a tunnel leading from the shower area to a house construction site 1.5 km (0.93 mi) away in a Santa Juanita neighborhood. The tunnel lay 10 m (32.8 ft) deep underground, and Guzmán used a ladder to climb to the bottom. The tunnel was 1.7 m (5.7 ft) tall and 75 cm (29.5 in) in width. It was equipped with artificial light, air ducts, and high-quality construction materials. In addition, a motorcycle was found in the tunnel, which authorities think was used to transport materials and possibly Guzmán himself. Presumably, high accuracy GPS for topography must have been used to pinpoint Guzmán cell position with precision. Although guards discovered that Guzmán had escaped at 21:22 hours, a ‘red alert’, which locks down the prison and alerts a nearby military garrison, was only activated at midnight.