Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Chapo’s Rise: From poor, abused to cartel kingpin


< Previous Page


All of that changed when Gallardo’s group started taking payment in cocaine instead of cash, slowly gaining control of the cocaine chain stretching from South America to the United States. Then Medellin’s Pablo Escobar was killed in late 1993, and the Mexicans eventually overtook the Colombians.

Guzman and his cohorts became known as the Sinaloa Cartel, and they waged an increasingly bloody war with a gang of former allies, the Tijuana-based cartel run by the Arellano Felix brothers. The feud made global headlines in May 1993 when gunmen said to be hunting Guzman opened fire on a car carrying a Catholic cardinal, blasting the prelate 14 times at close range.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The slaying jolted Mexican officials out of their longtime tolerance of, and complicity with, Guzman and his allies. They put out a $5 million reward for information. Though Guzman fled to Guatemala, he was arrested less than a month after the cardinal’s killing.

His case filled 14 volumes of evidence on a variety of crimes — among them drug-smuggling, murder and involvement in the cardinal’s killing. In 1995, Guzman was convicted and sent off to a prison in Guadalajara, where many thought he’d never be heard from again.

They would be wrong.

———

On Jan. 19, 2001, with 12 years left on a 20-year sentence, Guzman crawled into a laundry cart and was wheeled out of prison by a guard, according to the ex-DEA agent Vigil. Guzman ordered the guard to stop their getaway car at a convenience store and then vanished into the night.

The escape fueled Guzman’s near-mythical status, and he grew ever more powerful.

He solidified his distribution networks in Los Angeles and Chicago, which became the Sinaloa Cartel’s main U.S. hubs. He expanded to Europe and Australia, sending emissaries to develop local contacts who knew whom to bribe and how to set up distribution networks.

To ferry cocaine from Colombia, he began using private airstrips in Guatemala, then moved the drugs over land to the U.S., where authorities say he controlled roughly half the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border. He used a Boeing 747 jet, trucks, cars, boats and rail cars to move his drugs, according to one federal indictment in Chicago. From that city, drugs spread west to Vancouver, British Columbia, and east to Philadelphia and New York.


story continues below
story continues below

After the U.S. cracked down on methamphetamine production, Guzman expanded to that market, importing chemicals from Asia and Europe to giant labs in Sinaloa.

As Mexican authorities killed or arrested his rivals, Guzman stayed on, his hold on the trade growing seemingly stronger even after then-President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in 2006.

All the while, he evaded capture, sparing no expense on communications gear and developing a security apparatus to rival that of some countries, said one senior U.S. law enforcement official. As a result, he moved freely, attending family bashes and marrying a beauty queen, Emma Coronel, in 2007 at a well-attended party in Sinaloa. (In all, Guzman is said to have at least nine children with three women.)

Guzman outlasted contemporaries by forging temporary alliances with other traffickers and sharing intelligence on rivals with government officials who killed or arrested them, said David Shirk, associate political science professor at the University of San Diego.

"The Sinaloa Cartel brought economies of scale and organizational capacity but, most importantly, they knew how to knock out their rivals," Shirk said. "There’s more to this than knowing how to hide the drugs. It’s about good intel and good working relations with the authorities."

Guzman also was mindful of his image, avoiding some of the more horrifying public displays of violence used by other cartels. Forbes magazine named him one of the "World’s Most Powerful People" in 2009, provoking an angry reaction from the Mexican government. For years he also was included in the publication’s list of world’s billionaires, alongside Bill Gates and others.

Indeed, he ran his operation like a Fortune 500 CEO. Wiretaps indicated Guzman would accept a 20 percent loss on drug shipments, said Anthony Coulson, retired head of the DEA’s Tucson, Ariz., office. Anything greater would prompt him to seek new methods.

"He was a thug who had capacity for great violence but also had the capacity for great, great strategic planning," Coulson said.

———

On Valentine’s Day last year, the Chicago Crime Commission held a news conference to announce a new "Public Enemy No. 1." It was the first such declaration since 1930, when mob boss Al Capone nabbed the label.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the commission said that day, was far more menacing than even Capone.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.