EL PASO — On February 14, 2014, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured in a small, rather dull condominium. Guzman ran a drug business worth approximately $3 billion, and he has been on the run from Mexican officials since his first escape from prison in 2001.
According to Mexican officials, he escaped jail the first time by simply bribing prison guards and walking out the front gate. However, this escape was highly romanticized and eventually grew into a daring urban legend.
Guzman’s most recent capture has left borderland residents with mixed emotions ranging from elation to apathy. Residents of the borderland are hopeful that the end of thr drug war will come soon, and Guzman’s capture could be the catalyst to bring about that change.
According to Victor Manjarrez, vice president of the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, “I do not think that Chapo’s arrest is going to change the safety of the border since someone else is going to take his place in his cartel.” That theory is echoed in the general public and several El Pasoan’s feel the same way.
Another concern is that Guzman will escape from jail as he did in 2001. According to Shannon Rigsbee, a 22-year resident of El Paso, “he did escape once, I think he could do it again.” However, Manjarrez said, “I do not think he will be able to escape again, but only time will tell. I think the Mexican government is looking to make an example of El Chapo and wants to convince citizens that they can be trusted to take care of their people.”
In an interview with an ex-Black Water, a private security agency, agent who could not be named, he explained that the Mexican people are extremely resilient and have developed a shell when it comes to violence surrounding the drug cartels.
“The people have learned to live with violence and adapt, there is not going to be much of a difference in the behavior of people in and around Mexico unless the government proves that they can be trusted,” he added.
Guzman has amassed a fortune that rivals many legitimate businesses. He was listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s wealthiest men. His business did not suffer any drawbacks when he was arrested the first time.
Manjarrez predicts that his business will continue to run even without Guzman’s direct supervision. He explained that, ”It is like a company such as Microsoft or Apple, they would continue to operate as usual without their CEO’s.”
Manjarrez compared Guzman to Pablo Escobar because of the two drug lords’ popularity and notoriety. He also thinks “Guzman wanted to be captured like Escobar, not asleep with some random woman in a small room. Escobar was killed in a gunfight atop the roof of one of his safe houses, and Guzman’s arrest did not come close to that kind of fame.”
Guzman and Escobar both are hugely popular with the citizens of their hometowns. Guzman is reported to run a charity to launder the money his illegal businesses make. Because a good amount of money is given back to the poor in Guzman’s community, it is understandable that he is rather idolized among the poor of Mexico.
Although it is estimated that Guzman’s extradition will take a very long time, most believe it is a necessity. Manjarrez predicts that Guzman will be tried in Mexico, sentenced to a few years, just to prove to the citizens of Mexico that there are punishments for crimes committed in Mexico.
Manjarrez went on to predict that, “he will be extradited to the United States, and serve the rest of his life in prison.” Rachael Lopez, a 24 year old El Paso native said that, “I don’t think that Mexico is capable of giving Guzman the punishment he deserves. He really should be extradited to the United States and get the maximum penalty for the crimes he has committed.”
No official reports have been made regarding Guzman’s extradition. The capture of this infamous drug lord has led to the capture and prosecution of many others in Guzman’s drug cartel. Guzman, for now, remains incarcerated and awaiting trial in Mexico City.