An Unlikely Chip in the Mexican Drug Empire

Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as “El Chapo,” in custody following his capture by Mexican authorities.

The capture of Joaquin Guzman Loera early this past Saturday in Mazatlan, a Mexican beach town, was a takedown that will undoubetly make history. More commonly known as “El Chapo”, Guzman has been branded as Mexico’s and the U.S.’s public enemy number one since his escape in a laundry cart from the Punete Grande prison in 2001. For someone who did not even finish third grade, Guzman’s story is one that made its debut in poverty but ended with a multinational drug trafficking organization and billions of dollars.

The infamous drug lord, after all, controlled the Sinaloa Cartel, responsible for at least a quarter of drugs going into American soil from Mexico. But Sinaloa continues to handle a lot more territory than just the American one. From marijuana to cocaine to opium, the cartel’s influence expands from the Americans to Asia to Europe and benefits from a yearly income comparable to Facebook’s.

The capture broke the myth that continually surrounded Guzman. Not only did he escape from his 1993 prison sentence, he beat the prison system and the police and outlived his enemies and the law. King of the underworld, he managed global operations that were both complex and flourishing, and dominated the dangerous realm that came with it.  And yet, his capture will most likely not do anything but chip at the Sinaloa billion-dollar international business.

There is reason to remain skeptical. After all, when Sinaloa’s previous jefe (Hector Salazar also know as El Guero) was taken down in 1995, he was simply replaced by fresh blood: another drug kingpin, namely El Chapo. This was when Sinaloa was still known as La Alianza de Sangre and yet, since then, Sinaloa remains as powerful as ever and continues to wage a war against longtime rivals of the Tijuana Cartel.

New questions therefore come to light, ones that will only be answered with time. Will this takedown, undertaken by Mexican and American authorities, simply induce a transition to a new leader, the next “El Chapo”? Or will it provoke rival attacks and slowly undermine the power that this cartel took so long to amount to? Will it bring any changes to the darily horrors and tragedies that occur as a result of a deeply corrupt drug distribution system around the world? Most importantly, will it prove to be anything but a dent in the bloody drug war that has been destroying Mexico since anyone can remember?


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