On January 8th, Mexican officials recaptured one of the most wanted drug dealers in the world – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Officials located him in Los Mochis, a coastal city in his home state of Sinaloa, in north-west Mexico after monitoring his house for a month. Officials then raided the house, but Guzman escaped through a secret tunnel. They later found him about 20 km south of Los Mochis near a town called Juan José Ríos.
Guzman has been captured two times before, once in 1993 and once in 2014. While he was serving time, he lived like a king. He bribed guards to basically act like his servants. Both times he has escaped from prison, leaving guards stumped. When Guzman escaped first in 2001, he bribed one of the guards to sneak him out in a laundry cart. The second time in 2015, he dug a hole in the showers at a high security prison and escaped through that, without the guards noticing.
Guzman grew up in a poor family in the rural community of La Tuna, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Mexico. His mother is María Consuelo Loera Pérez, and his father is Emilio Guzmán Bustillos. Guzmán has two younger sisters, Armida and Bernarda, and four younger brothers: Miguel Ángel, Aureliano, Arturo and Emilio. He had three unnamed older brothers who reportedly died of natural causes when he was very young.
His father was officially a cattle rancher, but according to some sources, he may have possibly also been a gomero, a Sinaloan word for opium poppy farmer. Opium poppies are plants that are the source of many drugs, including heroin, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. Guzman grew up selling oranges, and in third grade he dropped out of school to work with his father. He was beaten, but he stood up for his younger siblings to protect them from being beaten like him.
The nearest school to his house was 60 miles away, so he was taught by traveling teachers. Because of the lack of employment in his hometown, Guzman followed his father’s footsteps and became an opium poppy farmer. His father sold marijuana at commercial centers nearby with him but his father rarely returned home with money, for he spent it all on liquor and women. Tired of all of the money being spent, at the age of 15, Guzman started his own marijuana plantation with four distant cousins who lived nearby. With the money coming in from his plantation, he was able to support his family, unlike his father. However, when he was a teenager his father kicked him out of the house and he went to live with his grandfather.
In a couple of years Guzman earned the nickname El Chapo, meaning “shorty” in Spanish because of his stature and stocky physical appearance. In his 20’s, Guzman left his hometown in search of greater opportunities through his uncle Pedro Avilés Pérez, one of the pioneers of Mexican drug trafficking. Shortly after he left Badiraguato and joined organized crime.
Mexican officials are trying to keep Guzman behind bars in his third time in jail. They have pledged to ship him to the United States, and cut off his connections in his home country. Until he is brought to the states, he is locked up in the same prison he escaped from this past July. The question is: can Mexican officials make sure he won’t escape?
The high-security prison has made some changes to its security. The prison now has police and military patrol cars swarming the exterior, making sure Guzman can not escape. The guards are not allowed to space out like they did before his last escape, now they must look at the monitors 24/7, no distractions. Guzman is also not housed on the first floor like before, so no tunnels escapes would be possible without the guards noticing.
Since Guzman’s capture, Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales Heredia, has toured Altiplano, the maximum security prison from which Guzman escaped before, with other prison officials and said that it fully met with international standards. His office said it had established a “rigorous scheme of supervision” that would limit Guzman’s access to visitors, hopefully stunting his plans for an escape. Guzman’s attorneys are likely to delay extradition as long as possible, and the billionaire drug lord still has many connections to make his third possible escape reality.