Though Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (a.k.a. El Chapo), the world's most infamously elusive drug lord, was last seen supposedly escaping a hospital after being injured in a minor car accident, the Drug Enforcement Administration's No. 2 guy remains confident that another capture most certainly awaits him. Jack Riley, former head of the DEA in Chicago and current acting deputy administrator with a corner office at the Pentagon, was actually planning to retire until El Chapo bafflingly escaped prison earlier this year.
"One of the reasons he’s been successful is he’s used the media," Riley tells Yahoo News in a recent interview. "There are folk songs written about him. There is the Robin Hood theory that he builds soccer fields and water purification. I’ve never seen any evidence of that, but he tries to paint himself that way." Riley considers El Chapo a "stone-faced killer," even going as far as saying his methods easily dwarf those of Al Capone and other legends.
Riley speaks from personal experience, having dedicated much of his life to the pursuit of El Chapo. "Just so you know, I was going to retire until this dick escaped," says Riley. "[But] I'm in it for the long haul." When asked about his history with El Chapo, which dates back to at least 2007 in El Paso, Riley details a possible assassination attempt that still informs his enthusiasm for El Chapo's capture to this day:
I had just arrived there, as the [DEA] boss. I’d given an interview to a Juarez-based newspaper. I was told later [El Chapo] actually [owned] a piece of it, or had somebody in there. What I said was, “I was here. I was going after Chapo. We were going to target his organization and most importantly, him.” He didn’t like it at all. Several days later, we got information [from wiretaps] there were some people negotiating a price [to kill me]. I tell you — it kind of got my attention. I saw a transcript — and the transcript basically said, “What do you think Chapo would give for us to shut him up and cut his head off.” The joke is, they talked about [only] $100,000 — which pissed me off.
Riley confirms that his office still receives similar information of threats from numerous informants, though he remains steadfast in his belief that El Chapo simply can't continue his increasingly cinematic existence forever. As for Riley's thoughts on the equally cinematic experiences depicted on the recently renewed Netflix series Narcos, he considers those Colombia years a "great time for the DEA," though he's not particularly fond of the series' subtitles:
I know both [of the DEA agents depicted] Steve [Murphy] and Javier [Pena] really well. You know what I don’t like about it? I don’t like the subtitles. But that was a great time for DEA. A lot of what we learned in Colombia, we are using today. In terms of cooperation, sharing information.
Ready your fat-free popcorn and film criticism expertise, as the saga of El Chapo is still showing little to no signs of entering its final act.