The last of the 'Classic Era' of Capos...
“In 1989, an up-and-coming drug trafficker called Joaquín Guzmán, and known generally as El Chapo or Chapo—which is what short, stocky men are called in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa, on the northwest coast of Mexico—picked a fight with some of his business associates in Tijuana. Four years later, the estranged associates sent a hit team to Guadalajara, where Chapo Guzmán was living. According to records of the investigation, the Tijuana team was supposed to intercept Guzmán on May 24, 1993, as he arrived at the airport on his way to a beach vacation, but the murderers appear to have confused Guzmán’s white Grand Marquis with one owned by the burly Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, cardinal of Guadalajara.
As the unfortunate cleric pulled up to the curb, the Tijuana hit men opened fire. (According to some versions, Guzmán had arrived at the airport by then, and engaged in a shoot-out with the killers.) The cardinal died on the spot, and even though this was to become one of the most scandalous murders of the century, a subject for endless conspiracy theories, the hit team managed to get on the next commercial flight to Tijuana. No one has ever been tried for the crime. Guzmán’s comment on the day’s events, before he packed his bags and went on the run, was 'Esto se va a poner de la chingada,' or roughly, 'Things are going to get really fucked now.'”
Guillermoprieto, Alma "The Murderers of Mexico" The New York Review of Books October 28 2010.
"After a gun battle between rival cartels at Guadalajara airport, which killed seven - including the city's cardinal - Chapo was arrested in Guatemala in 1993.
He spent eight years of his 20-year sentence behind bars before escaping in a laundry cart in 2001.
But even during imprisonment his empire grew. Chapo lived like a king in jail, enjoying private parties with booze and bands, freedom to roam the halls and even use prostitutes.
He is believed to have paid off everyone in the prison with millions smuggled by cronies.
His escape marked the start of a new era of drug trafficking in Mexico. With a new democratic government in power, the politico-criminal arrangement that had held for 71 years was crumbling.
Chapo decided to go to war with rival cartels. Little by little, he has taken over the bulk of the Mexican drug trade - an industry which employs as many as 500,000 in the country, bringing in up to £25billion a year by some estimates.
One former Mexican official likens Chapo to Osama Bin Laden - an elusive figurehead who remains on the run and continues to outwit efforts to catch him.
Chapo has a large following in Mexico, seen as an anti-hero and provider to those the government has traditionally neglected."
Beith, Malcolm "Wanted: El Chapo" The Sun 21 February 2011
"He enjoyed a private room, regular deliveries of whisky, the services of a mistress and, reportedly, weekend furloughs. Then, in January 2001, shortly before he was to be extradited to the United States to face a 50-year sentence for murder and drug trafficking, El Chapo managed to walk through a dozen remote-controlled doors and sneak out of the prison in a burlap sack hidden in the back of a laundry truck. The prison got a new nickname: La Puerta Grande—'The Big Door.'"
"Over the years, Guzman has made his cartel a vital part of Culiacán's economy, buying up condominiums, restaurants, discotheques, a milk factory and other properties while keeping many other enterprises flush with cash. "Ninety percent of the businesses here are tied to the narcos," I was told by one 33-year-old woman who works for an organization that helps drug addicts, as we cruised the city."
Hammer, Joshua "El Chapo: The Most Wanted Man In Mexico" Newsweek 18 June 2009
“El Chapo ('Shorty') is listed in Forbes magazine's 2009 list of billionaires, based on his success in the multibillion-dollar cocaine-smuggling industry. Videos celebrating his audacity regularly show up on YouTube, and admiring musicians compose narcocorridos, or drug-trafficking ballads, in his honor.”
Seijas, Susana "Meet the Narcos" Slate Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Malcolm Beith author of The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord, an account of Joaquín Archivaldo 'El Chapo' Guzman Loera
On CBC radio here.