Who Is "El Chapo?" A Guide to the World's Most Powerful Drug Lord

The world's most notorious drug lord is on the run again.

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Complex Original

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God blessin' all the trap n***as. Or at least that's what everyone is saying after Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera escaped from a Mexican maximum security prison for the second time on Sunday, sending social media accounts into a frenzy. We've heard this story before, though. This isn't the first time "El Chapo" escaped from a maximum security prison. In 2001, with the aid of up to 78 people, he fled Mexico's Federal Center for Social Rehabilitation No. 2 in a laundry cart. A prison guard opened his cell, and a maintenance worker commandeered the laundry cart and put "El Chapo" in the trunk of his car. That was amateur hour compared to his second escape plan. Guzman fled Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1 in a mile-long tunnel in the prison's shower area, the only part of the jail without cameras.

The tunnel was air-conditioned, had lights, and a motorcycle. It stretched from the prison shower area to a construction site in the neighborhood of Santa Juanita located in the town of Almoloya de Juárez. This, to those in know, should come as no surprise as Guzman is credited in Malcolm Beith's book, The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord, for pioneering sophisticated underground tunnels to smuggle drugs across the American border.

So who is the man known as "El Chapo?"

He's this generation's Pablo Escobar. He has amassed a net worth of about $1 billion, according to Forbes. In 2014, Forbes also listed him on their "Powerful People" list and claimed his cartel's annual revenue at around $3 billion and is responsible for at least 25 percent of all illegal drugs smuggled into the United States from Mexico. He rose to power during the mid to late '80s, first working for Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo aka "El Padrino" and the Guadalajara Cartel. Guzman eventually broke off to form the Sinaloa Cartel after Gallardo was apprehended in 1989.

It was during this time Guzman and his associate Héctor Luis Palma Salazar took advantage of the attention the Colombian cartels were getting in their much-publicized war with the Colombian and U.S. governments. After Salazar was arrested in June of 1995, 'El Chapo" took control. He remained a shadow with infinite connections and wealth. Guzman wielded his influence from behind the scenes, colluding with the Mexican government and America's ATF in order to keep his trafficking business afloat for decades. Operation Fast and Furious was spearheaded by the ATF, the plan being to track guns given to Sinaloa cartel members. Instead, as U.S. law enforcement officer John Dodson claimed in his book, The Unarmed Truth, the U.S. government was helping the cartel rather stopping them.

As I mentioned earlier, tunnels were a Sinaloa Cartel signature. With the help of architect Felipe de Jesús Corona-Verbera, one of their first tunnels ran from a home in Ague Prieta, Mexico to a cartel-owned warehouse in Douglas, Ariz. The U.S. government has credited Guzman's cartel with at least 90 border tunnels. When the Colima Cartel's Amezcua brothers were arrested in 1999 for meth charges, "El Chapo" seized the opportunity to take control of the market they left behind, furthering his cobra clutch on Mexico's drug trade.

How did Guzman get arrested the first time?

In 1993, the Mexican government was forced to apprehend the drug lord after Cardinal and Archbishop Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo was accidently killed in a gunfight between El Chapo's crew and the Tijuana Cartel. It wasn't easy, though. The leader of the Sinaloa Cartel bribed his way to Guatemala. However, he was then extradited to Mexico with the help of the same Guatemalan official he had bribed and who turned out to be an informant. El Chapo was incarcerated for about eight years before his first daring escape.

How did the world's most notorious drug trafficker get himself arrested again?

His top assassin was too flamboyant on Instagram. José Rodrigo Arechiga aka El Chino Antrax, known for stuntin' on IG with gold guns and expensive cars, was apprehended after landing in Amsterdam. Dutch officials were waiting for him after Interpol filed a Red Notice. This caused the Sinaloa Cartel to reorganize since El Chino was such a major cog within their organization. Phone calls, texts, and emails. were placed, leading authorities to El Chapo's whereabouts since they had hundreds of phone lines and emails tapped. Guzman had been on the run for 13 years, mainly hiding in the Sierra Madre mountains, prior to his capture in 2014. Use the phrase "on the run" loosely, though. During this period, "El Chapo" wined, dined, got married, had kids, and continued his leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Mexican and American authorities closed in on him twice with the help of wire taps and informants. The first time, he escaped with his bodyguard through a tunnel made possible by a bathtub equipped with a hydraulic lift. Clearly, Guzman had shit that the government got. The second and last time, they caught wind of is whereabouts, he was with his wife and twin daughters in condos in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. He resisted arrest but was eventually cuffed without a single shot being taken.

In February of 2014, he was taken to Mexico's most secure prison—a place where airwaves are compromised in order to thwart cell phone usage by inmates and is urrounded by a no-fly zone to prevent escape by helicopter—and brought up on Mexican drug trafficking charges that would make extradition to U.S. a slower process. Rumors began to surface of Guzman conspiring an inmate hunger strike with rival "La Barbie," a tactic that may have helped "Chapo" with his escape. One would need friends on the inside to hatch such a plan as organized as this latest escape. Mexican authorities were embarrassed by his first escape and were hoping to redeem themselves with his second capture.

What happens now?

Only "El Chapo" and God knows. The Mexican and U.S. government are sure to leave no stone or tunnel unturned. But given Guzman's history of remaining lowkey, and a step ahead of law enforcement officials, it's safe to assume we have seen the last of the world's most powerful drug dealer for a while. Unless, he takes Donald Trump's bait. However, Guzman's son might handle Trump personally. "El Chapo" is bold, not stupid, as he's proven time and again.

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