The Flip Side Of El Chapo’s Escape: The Overlooked Element

“El Chapo” Guzman is one of the most controversial drug lords of modern times. Born into a poor family in Mexico, he began dealing in drugs at a very young age, gaining significant experience in the trade over the years. He now heads the Sinaloa cartel, which is the biggest in the country.

More than a week ago, he pulled off a most audacious prison escape through a tunnel that started under a secluded section of his cell’s shower area, ending a mile away in an under-constructed warehouse.

With the news being a huge embarrassment to Mexico, and infuriating American security officials, his escape may have a silver lining. This is in relation to the current drug cartel wars in Mexico.

Earlier this year, a relatively new and versatile drug gang attacked a contingent of police officers in Jalisco state in what appeared to be a revenge attack against law enforcement in the state. The well-coordinated, military-style assault left 15 policemen dead.

According to Fox News, a number of suspected Jalisco New Generation cartel members had been arrested earlier that day and during the weekend, which may have infuriated its leaders. The attack came almost a week after a botched attempt to assassinate Alejandro Solorio, the state’s Security Commissioner.

The cartel has been largely thought to be headed by Oseguera Cervantes, also known as El Mencho. However, a new report indicates that a cartel leader arrested in February in the Puerto Vallarta beach resort known as Abigael González Valencia may in fact be the real head of the cartel.

The cartel is said to have evolved into one of the biggest in the county after top leaders of the rival Los Zetas and Knights Templar cartels were arrested earlier in the year. Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, who is said to be the Knights Templar chief, was arrested in February this year, while Omar Trevino Morales, who is believed to be the head of the Los Zetas cartel was captured in March.

The vacuum left in the trade is said to have provided fertile ground for El Chapo’s Sinaloa and the CJNG cartel to thrive, making them the biggest cartels in the country.

However, the existence of the Jalisco New Generation cartel has been seen to be a major stumbling block in restoring normalcy and peace in the country. According to Guillermo Valdes, a former director of Mexico’s intelligence agency.

“You’re talking about a powerful, large organization with grand logistics, well-made structures, a strong group of assassins, and dedicated and qualified people with high-caliber weaponry. It’s a new cartel, a second generation born in a restructuring process.”

This is as reported by the Daily Mail.

The cartel has used new levels of ruthless brutality, violence and intimidation to grow its influence, leaving innumerable dismembered victims in its wake, and a public living in fear.

When compared to the Sinaloa cartel’s way of doing things, violence is only mostly used when fighting other cartels, but bribery is preferred to influence authorities. This is as cited by The Week. The Sinaloa cartel also relies mainly on drug trafficking to generate revenue, as opposed to kidnapping and extortion, which are means used by the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

According to an extortion account reported by Vice, a tequila producer and victim in Guadalajara recently offered his experience. This is what he said.

“They warned me that if I didn’t pay, then I’d be in trouble… I changed my phone number and everything, but the extortion continued… This isn’t just happening to us. It’s happening in all kinds of different industries in this region. It’s really frightening.”

As such, with two big evil cartels operating on different principles, flush with money from the United States, and no apparent way out of the situation, a cartel with less violence and a less direct impact on the general population may be preferred.

Of course, Guzman is no saint, but he has significant influence on the general cartel operation climate in Mexico. Now that he’s out of the jailhouse, the Mexican drug trade landscape is bound to change.

But on the specific impact “El Chapo” will make whether positive or negative, only time will tell.

Image via Fabrizio León Diez / CC-BY-SA 4.0 / Own work]