El Chapo: Rise and Fall of the Powerful Sinaloa Cartel Boss

El Chapo was taken in a surprise raid.
U.S. and Mexico law enforcement officials nabbed "El Chapo," the world's most powerful drug lord, in a surprise raid, as recounted in an article by Malcolm Beith and Jan-Albert Hootsen posted on Vocativ.

They write: "Chapo is just one of dozens of alleged drug kingpins captured or killed by Mexican and U.S. authorities in recent years. And while it remains to be seen if his arrest will decimate the Sinaloa Cartel or serve as a tipping point in the deadly drug war, Chapo may very well be the last of a certain breed."

He is condemned for the deaths of thousands but that didn't stop Forbes Magazine from putting him on its list of the world's richest people. His fortune is estimated to be around $1 billion.

Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo,” was caught on Feb. 22, 2014, by Mexican authorities with the assistance of American DEA agents. Key to the arrest was tapping Chapo’s satellite phone.

In the early 1990s, Chapo went headed a loose-knit group of Sinaloa drug dealers who called themselves the Federation. Within a few years, "Chapo was expanding his turf, battling rival cartels in Tijuana and other border areas. The wars helped him become known as the kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, but the strategy ultimately proved costly. In May 1993, the Arellano Felix brothers from Tijuana attempted to murder Chapo at the airport in Guadalajara. They missed, and instead killed a Mexican cardinal, igniting the wrath of the Mexican government. Chapo fled to Guatemala, and soon the military members he’d bribed there betrayed him."

In 2001, however, only a few days before the Mexican Supreme Court would vote on the implementation of an extradition policy to the United States, El Chapo made his escape and was back running his cartel.

In 2004, he sent a hit team to the border city of Nuevo Laredo, "sparking a drug war that would soon spiral out of control, and eventually force the Mexican authorities to respond with brutal force. In the meantime, rumors began to circulate that Chapo was in Honduras or Guatemala, adding to the drug lord’s mythology and making it increasingly difficult for the authorities to find him."

Chapo had lived life on the lam for years, but he certainly didn't live "a no-frills existence. At a massive methamphetamine compound in Durango, for instance, soldiers found evidence that Chapo had been there in 2009. The compound was decked out with living quarters for hundreds of employees, and featured several rooms with full bathrooms, high-speed Internet access, satellite and plasma screens, king-size beds, minibars and air-conditioning. The soldiers also found tens of thousands of dollars in cash."

Critics contended he was able to live free from the law because the Sinaloa Cartel had struck a deal with the government.

But now, finally, he is in a maximum security prison outside of Mexico City and facing indictments in multiple states in America. "He could find himself on trial in Chicago, where some of his alleged associates are seeing their day in court. In recent years, Mexico has sent a record number of drug suspects to the United States, so extradition is possible. (Chapo’s lawyers filed an appeal today for an injunction against any extradition attempt.)"

The Sinaloa cartel is far from collapse. It doesn't live or die based on one man's fate. In fact there is an odd custom in Mexico. "Several narcocorridos (drug ballads) have already been written in Chapo’s honor. In the county of Badiraguato, the mood appears surprisingly calm. Some locals are disgruntled. Chapo was their patron, after all, says one resident, but there are no immediate signs that tensions will flare as they have in the past when capos have fallen."

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