‘El Chapo’ Guzman is one of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. He is the leader of the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel, which is arguably the biggest in the country. Over the years, Guzman has had two high-profile run-ins with the authorities.
His first altercation with them was in 1993 after the killing of a highly regarded religious figure in Mexico. President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was head of government then, gave the order for the capture of all suspected individuals, and it so happened that Guzman was one of them. With his face on the TV and in the newspapers, he attempted to live under the radar in Guatemala, but he was captured by the Guatemalan Army and extradited to Mexico.
However, it is said that while in prison, he practically ran the institution with the help of associates who paid extensive bribes for him, consequently turning the penal institution into something of a resort.
According to a 2000 description of his life in prison offered by the then lawyer for the Guadalajara Catholic Church, Jose Antonio Ortega, who went to interrogate him, “The interrogation wasn’t held in the usual room. We were taken into a private office and given VIP service… El Chapo calmly explained to me, ‘Today I had a conjugal visit, and afterwards I needed to take a bath, with hot steam, to relax myself and wind down. After that I took a little nap to receive you properly.”
According to Business Insider, Ortega revealed that at that moment, he realized that the person really in charge of the prison was actually Guzman himself, and genuinely feared antagonizing him.
“He was the boss of the prison. I felt afraid that my questions would make El Chapo think that I was his enemy,”
Guzman later managed to escape from the prison using a laundry cart pushed by one of the prison guards.
In his most recent escape, in which he scampered out of jail through a 1.5km tunnel, a mastermind known as Jose Sanchez-Villalobos, a Sinaloa cartel operative, is said to have overseen its construction. Having been linked to two of the gang’s biggest super-tunnels spanning across the Mexican-American border, he was arrested in 2012 for possessing 15 million dollars in cash, which was suspected to be drug proceeds.
He was believed to have kept a very low profile before the arrest and was the only high-ranking operative of the cartel to have contact with the tunnel digging teams. Some of the measures used to hide his identity included using different nicknames for each operation. According to Yahoo, the design of the tunnels used in El Chapo’s escapes and those overseen by his associate seems to be strikingly similar. And with Guzman having access to a mobile phone while behind bars, it is speculated that Sanchez also had one and could have coordinated with others to make the boss’s escape a success.
Here is a photo of El Chapo’s tunnel-building mastermind.
[El chapo Guzmán” by Fabrizio León Diez – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons]