Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman remains on the run days after an elaborate prison escape and the possibility exists that he may never be found.
El Chapo, a nickname which translates as “the midget” or “shorty” in Spanish, had been serving out a prison term following his 2014 arrest for crimes related to his activities as the leader of Mexico’s infamous Sinaloa Cartel. According to CNN, El Chapo was last seen by authorities heading into Altiplano Prison’s showers. From there, the 58-year-old kingpin used a mile-long tunnel to walk to freedom.
For those familiar with El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel, the story probably seems like déjà vu, as it is not the first time Guzman has escaped from a prison. El Chapo first escaped from prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart. He wasn’t captured again for more than 12 years.
The seeming ease with which El Chapo escaped from prison the first time, coupled with the fact that he was able to go about his life afterward, made him something of a folk hero in parts of Mexico, especially in his home state of Sinaloa. CNN notes that there are a number of folk songs that have been dedicated the legend of El Chapo.
For his part, Chapo seems to be enjoying life on the outside since the prison break Saturday. He’s already taken to Twitter, issuing a taunt to the authorities who thought they had him under wraps. “There’s no jail for such a big midget,” he tweeted. The Daily Mail notes El Chapo also took time to fire off tweets at U.S. Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, both of whom had made comments against him in the media.
No hay jaula para este chapo tan grande.— Joaquín Guzmán Loera (@ElChap0Guzman) July 12, 2015
While El Chapo may be having a bit of fun, the Mexican government is not. The efforts to find Guzman have been characterized in the media as “desperate,” and with good reason: El Chapo is worth a reported billion U.S. dollars, and has a reputation for using his wealth to protect himself from capture.
Even though thousands of Mexicans have died as a result of illegal drug activity in that country, CNN notes that El Chapo has made it a point to foster a sort of Robin Hood persona. Many of the poor and struggling in Sinaloa look at El Chapo as a loving uncle, and he managed to avoid a number of arrest attempts because locals would tip him off when federal authorities began to approach.
For those that he can’t persuade with charm or brute force, El Chapo is known to open his wallet. Even during his periods of incarceration, Forbes has continued to list him as one of the most powerful men in the world. CNN reports that El Chapo’s 2001 escape most likely cost him more than $2.5 million in bribes. Several guards who took money from El Chapo were later convicted for their part in the crime.
[Image via Fabrizio León Diez]