Comparisons between Mexico’s recently escaped crime lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera and Columbia’s most famous drug kingpin Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria seem inevitable. This is especially true thanks to the recent popularity of Narcos on Netflix, combined with the fact that El Chapo is currently making headlines for elaborate prison escapes and Twitter fights with Donald Trump.
Can you envision Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton negotiating with 'El Chapo', the Mexican drug lord who escaped from prison? ....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2015
...Trump, however, would kick his ass!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2015
Here are five things El Chapo could learn from what happened to Escobar, according to Jhon Jairo “Popeye” Velásquez Vásquez, Escobar’s chief assassin, who spoke to Mexican news magazine Proceso in August, Business Insider reported.
1. You can run but you can’t hide.
Popeye only gives El Chapo “between 16 and 18 months” before he is finally cornered by U.S. agents, Mexican military police, or even the Los Zetas criminal syndicate.
“It’s the logical amount of time to corner his finances, his family, his security apparatus. That’s not overnight, it’s millimeter work. They have to do a lot of intelligence, and that’s slow.”
By comparison, Escobar was on the run for 16 months and 11 days after escaping from prison in July of 1992, when then-President of Columbia Cesar Gaviria attempted to trick the drug lord into a move that would have ultimately seen his extradition to the U.S. Escobar was eventually shot to death on December 2, 1993 on the roof of a house in his hometown of Medellín by a group of elite military police who had pursued him day and night.
2. Crime undermines national security.
El Chapo’s antics are undermining Mexico’s government and national security, Popeye points out, much like Escobar did as he eluded justice in Columbia. The negative effect this has had on perceptions of Mexico’s institutions, as well as the administration of current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, may be hard to properly quantify until the story plays itself out. Still, El Chapo’s July 11 prison break earlier this year definitely highlighted Mexico’s prison system’s weakness, as well as its inability to contain a criminal of his caliber.
“He is a political issue for the Mexican government… Of honor.”
3. Death or extradition are the only ways out.
El Chapo – like Escobar – is probably not going to make it out of this alive no matter what, according to Popeye.
“El Chapo is a dead man. He knows he has to be killed, because if they catch him alive they will extradite him to the United States. Being in a U.S. prison is a very hard thing. So El Chapo is killed.”
While El Chapo might be fearful of extradition, much as Escobar was during his reign, it still remains to be seen whether he would rather die than be captured alive and forced to endure the confines of a U.S. prison for the rest of his days.
Interestingly, both Escobar and Guzman have also done turns on the annual Forbes‘ Billionaires List, with Pablo appearing from 1987 to 1993 and El Chapo gaining recognition from 2009 to 2012, when he was dropped because Forbes could not reach him to “verify figures,” CNN reported.
[Photos via Julian Kopald on Flickr (left) & Facebook screen capture (right)]