Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

CHAPO: Lord of the Mountains, Grows Stronger in Mexico’s Sierra Madre

Friday, October 28, 2011 |

Buela Chivis
From the Forums

He was the barefoot son of a peasant who became one of the richest moguls in the world, a billionaire entrepreneur with a third-grade education. He controls a vast drug distribution empire that spans six continents, but he still carries his own AK-47. He is generous and feared, a mass murderer and a folk hero. He is a ghost who has become a legend.

In the fifth year of a terrible war in Mexico that has exhausted the military, consumed the presidency of Felipe Calderon and left more than 43,000 dead in drug violence, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the founder of the Sinaloa cartel, reigns supreme.

His pursuers compare him to Al Capone, Butch Cassidy or Osama bin Laden. But none of these gets it quite right. Guzman is the single largest supplier of illegal drugs to the United States, and though he is in hiding, he is not on the run.

Ten years after he escaped from prison in a laundry basket on the eve of his extradition to the United States, Chapo is more powerful than ever: His networks are deeper, his territory is expanding, and his supplies of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine are essentially undiminished, according to U.S. and Mexican agents and officials, who were grinding their teeth at the news that Guzman’s 22-year-old beauty queen wife was able to travel in August to a Los Angeles County hospital, where she gave birth to healthy twins.

Calderon, reportedly desperate to nail his nemesis and prove himself a winning commander in chief in an increasingly unpopular war that might cost his party the presidency, has raised the stakes to demand that Chapo be taken down before he leaves office next year.

As a sign of the intensified effort, Mexico now operates at least three full-time capture-kill units solely dedicated to ending the reign of Guzman, said officials with direct knowledge of the groups. These special operations teams — one each in the Mexican army, navy and federal police — have been vetted to work alongside agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who have supplied detailed intelligence about Guzman’s possible locations.

Calderon and his top law enforcement officials say they have come close to getting Guzman — within an hour or two — several times in the past two years.

Despite such assertions, Calderon has been dogged by perceptions among many Mexicans that his administration, especially his military, has gone easy on Guzman’s cartel, or even that it’s helping him, while it goes after his biggest rival, Los Zetas, a rising criminal power in the country.

“He’s protected by the government,” said Javier Valdez, a top editor of the Sinaloa-based journal Rio Doce, adding that he doesn’t think any urgent effort is underway to find Chapo.

Elusive mountain ‘lord’

Guzman, one of the most wanted criminals in North America, has proven impossible to catch — even as U.S. drones penetrate Mexican airspace, and Mexican security forces, supplied with sophisticated U.S. eavesdropping equipment, scan the ether for the sound of his encrypted voice. His pursuers suspect he is most likely in a mountain stronghold here in the Sierra Madre range of northwest Mexico, a hardscrabble backwater of Mexican hillbillies that gives new meaning to the words “poor” and “remote.”

PAGE 2
Guzman was indicted on drug conspiracy charges in the United States, with the Justice Department putting a $5 million price on his head. Rumors of his whereabouts float through Interpol offices, Caribbean honky-tonks and Mexico’s Federal Police intelligence bunker, with recent unconfirmed sightings in a Buenos Aires condo, a Veracruz seafood joint and the streets of London.

“Of the Mexican drug trafficking organizations, the Sinaloa cartel has the broadest reach into Europe, Australia and Asia,” DEA intelligence chief Rodney Benson said in testimony before Congress this month.

Unlike the 1980s Colombian cocaine king Pablo Escobar, to whom he is often compared, Guzman is not flamboyant — or reckless. He is the hands-on CEO of Cocaine Inc., and, like fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, he is known to drive himself around in a battered pickup truck.

In the mountain towns of Sinaloa and the Golden Triangle region that is the Napa Valley of Mexico’s marijuana and heroin poppy industry, Guzman is a godfather figure. Locals don’t call the 5-foot-6 Guzman by his popular moniker “El Chapo,” or Shorty, but speak of him in whispers as “El Senor,” meaning “The Man” or “The Lord.”

At the outdoor market here in Santiago de los Caballeros, where the arrival of an outsider draws wary stares from young men with brand-new pickups and walkie-talkies, the CDs of narcocorrido bands venerate “The Lord of the Mountains” with songs such as “I am Joaquin.”

I am Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

The one the government hunts and wants to lock up

They’ve hurt me before, but they should know

I'm not going back to that lonely jail cell

Life and freedom are too beautiful for that . . .

Facundo Sillas, a blue-eyed, 72-year-old cowboy in a white sombrero, said life in Guzman’s domain wasn’t bad as long as one followed El Senor’s simple dictum: “Either you behave,” Sillas said, “or you end up in a hole.”

As he spoke, sitting in the shady central plaza of Badiraguato, the county seat, another man interrupted to interrogate a Washington Post reporter. “What are you doing here? Are you a DEA agent?”

The message? Scram.

“You’ll never get ‘El Chapo’ ”

“If I were a betting man, I would say Chapo is not too far from where he was born. I have been in those mountains, and you could live there for centuries and never be found,” said Michael Vigil, former chief of international operations for the DEA.

In 2009, Hector Gonzalez, the Roman Catholic archbishop in neighboring Durango, announced that Guzman was “living nearby, and everyone knows it except the authorities.” Soon after, the bullet-ridden bodies of two Mexican military officers, suspected to have been working undercover, were found near the dirt-floor village where Gonzalez said Guzman was living. A message beside the bodies read “You’ll never get ‘El Chapo,’ not the priests, not the government.”

According to a 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Mexico’s defense secretary, Guillermo Galvan, told Dennis C. Blair, then the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, “that Chapo commands the support of a large network of informers and has security circles of up to 300 men that make launching capture operations difficult.”

PAGE 3
Chapo moved around among 10 to 15 isolated ranches in the mountains, Galvan said. The arrival of any large military or police convoy on the single-track dirt roads would be quickly reported to Guzman by locals, whose loyalty has been secured through bribery and intimidation — and their deep aversion to outsiders and the government.

A helicopter assault is equally problematic. “He’d have 10 minutes of warning, and, poof, he’d be gone,” said a senior U.S. law enforcement officer in Mexico. Guzman’s men are also thought to wield an arsenal that includes shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles.

A drug boss’s long innings

Guzman turned 54 this year, which is ancient for a drug lord in a brutal culture that believes it is better to live like a king for one year than grovel for a lifetime.

Drug-war scholars say Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel has benefited from Mexican security forces’ aggressive pursuit of the Zetas, because limited resources do not allow the forces to confront every criminal group with the same intensity. Although Guzman’s earnings are thought to derive primarily from drug trafficking, the business model of the Zetas relies heavily on kidnapping, human trafficking and extortion.

“Chapo moves a kilo of cocaine over the U.S. border practically every 10 minutes, so he doesn’t need to extort anyone,” said Mexican national security expert Raul Benitez.

Guzman’s dirty work tends to be less newsworthy.

The discovery this year of Mexico’s biggest mass graves in two regions of the country was a case in point. When authorities recovered 193 bodies from crude pits in a Zetas-controlled area in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, the crimes raised an international uproar, as many of the victims appeared to be innocent bus travelers and U.S.-bound migrants. The Mexican government flooded the region with troops and took dozens of Zetas suspects into custody.

In contrast, just a few weeks later, investigators found more than 220 decomposing bodies buried in the state of Durango, Guzman’s territory. That discovery drew little attention because the victims were said to be his rivals.

Although the Mexican government touts its efforts in the lowering of homicide rates in the border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, many experts in Mexico say a major reason for the diminished body count is that Guzman’s forces are now in control there, rather than any security improvement wrested by Mexican authorities.

Adding to suspicions that Calderon’s administration has put more energy into going after the widely despised Zetas, whose defeat would bring greater political benefits, are allegations by Vicente Zambada, the son of Guzman’s top crime partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. The younger Zambada is facing federal drug-trafficking charges in Chicago. He claims DEA officials have been giving the Sinaloa cartel a free hand to smuggle narcotics in exchange for information about rival drug lords. DEA agents acknowledge meeting with Zambada but deny any promise of immunity.

Then there’s the possibility that removing Guzman will unleash an even bigger bloodbath across Mexico, as rivals rush to fill an enormously lucrative power vacuum. U.S. drug agents warily agree. “It will be a zoo,” one said.

The Washington Post (source)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/mexicos-lord-of-the-mountains/2011/10/27/gIQAXojvMM_video.html

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37 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the real world..sinaloa is taking over

Anonymous said...

Sinaloas taking over what? Theres nothing new about this article.

Yea Chapo wishes he could say he he owns Ciudad Juarez,but Vicente Carillo is still going toe to toe against Chapo and so far (even with the goverments help) Vicente Carillo is still the top dog,Personally I belive Vicente Carillo Fuentes has more power then Joaquin Guzman,and not only because he is the brother of arguebly the most powerful Drug Trafficker of ALL TIMES.
Why dont you guys mention every plaza that the Sinaloa Cartels ever wanted,

Anonymous said...

Without doubt I can almost bet any amount of money and just because I know how Mexico is run by this politicians I'll say one thing: Calderon's party a'int loosing damn thing before new elections Guzman will be capture or death and if a’int him is going to be another big shot from another cartel. Voters are need it and they are going to get them like all the time they do. Every sexenio they have to clean their mess and star all over. Calderon’s party learn well from the PRI that run the country for almost 100 years doing it like that over and over.

Anonymous said...

Chapo your time is ticking.I love articles That praise Chapo,of course im being sarcastic.

Is this guy the same one ordering the killings of innocent ppl in Ciudad Juarez and blames it on La Linea? I think it is.Wait why would the plaza bosses heat up their own plaza? Were not stupid we know whos doing what and even playing dirty you still cant have Ciudad Juarez. The brother of ARGUEBLY the most powerful drug lord of all times VS Chapo. We know who won on that one.

Anonymous said...

No Sinaloa is not taking over. The Zeta's are slowly overcoming the Sinaloa Cartel which is worse.

Seems they cannot be stopped and the stronger they Grow then the smaller the Sinaloa Cartel grows.

Anonymous said...

With family in Sinaloa, the general perception is much like the cowboy's: mind your business and life goes smoothly for you. Like it or not, Chapo has the ability to keep order in society unlike the Zetas. Two different mindsets, two different perceptions.

Anonymous said...

I have a REAL HARD TIME believing they don't know exactly where he is. And that goes for the US gov as well.

Anonymous said...

Puro Sinaloa compa!!

Anonymous said...

he cant even control sinaloa,do you really think his going to finish zetas in veracruz? i doubt it maybe diminish but not finish just like juarez.other than durango he cant really stay long anywhere else.c.d.g is imploding they will become allies with the zetas agaain . just to survive,zetas llegaron a juarez also their cutting sinaloa from guadalajara ,guerrero,michoacan,main areas of mota,opium,,meth, and the most important seaports of the south,coahuila zeta though they have been getting hit hard the last couple of months, because their padrino exgovernor moreira (brother of the present governor if u can believe that shit)is no longer protecting them, just as governor herrera can no longer prtotect them in veracruz.mexico goverment would rather have him dead he knows to much of dirty politicos and is making them look bad.they can always find some one else to administer their cash cow.

Anonymous said...

1 29 there strong but not taking ovr. If you baseing yourself from that map your wrong. Every cartel rises and falls, arrellanos were strong now they're sharing tijuana, juarez cartel was prob the strongest mex cartel ever, now there clinging on to juarez. Same thing with cds, maybee not now, but they will weaken and prob split up to form other cartels. Hope el chapo and mayo continue for a bit, so they can take out los Zetas. Arriva el triangulo de oro

Anonymous said...

Im from zacatecas where in 2007 the zetas came in and started causeing havoc. Kidnappings, extortions and murders where unheard of in our rural part of the country. Now its the norm. People stay in at night. Although the marina has been in town for the last year everyone has been hoping el chapo would keep advancing east and realease us from this hell whole. Before the zetas there were drug dealers and other criminals but they dealt umongst themselves and the general public was left alone. ....... Also side note ....... Has anyone heard the song carril numero tres by los cuates de sinaloa? in the song it talks about how the cia and dea negotiated a whole lane in a border crossing to smuggle unlimited quantities of drugs and even "el senor" himself could cross. It says his license plate has the password for cbp to know its him. Idk i thought it was just a folk song i guess it might be true. Arriba sinaloa durango y zacatecas!!!!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well he should run for fucking president if he's such a great guy. Do us all a favor Chapito! Selling dope to the gringos is a sacred trust. Maybe the Pope should make him a fucking bishop too.

LuciferKilla said...

@10:52 llegaron a Michoacan hace anos pero La Familia Michoacana los tiraron afuera the zetas ain't allowed in there we all saw what happened to Chango Mendez when he turned

Anonymous said...

i hate los zetas and the allies

Anonymous said...

This is a well written article however I wish that it would have been about someone worthy of such writing... Maybe one of Mexico military?

I do not like to see things written that make that no good piece of dog shit midget son of a pig fucking mud farmer whos mother is a toothless one legged retired circus dwarf out to be anything but the author of the deadly bacteria that is killing the entire country Mexico...

He resembles more the psychopath Jim Jones who convinced hundreds of people to commit suicide by drinking cyanide laced kool aid... "SHORTY", is to Mexico what Hitler was to Germany! He is like a continental aids infection that has made Mexico what it is today... He is a mental poison to the poor peoples of Mexico and those that think of him as anything else than what I have described him as have been infected by his poison.

Yes, "The Midget" has given herpes to the entire country of Mexico, he is "the gift that keeps on giving"! "El Chaputo" is like a bowel movement consisting of severe constipation resulting in explosive diarrhea, his entire family tree rotten and infected to the core. There are not words vile enough to honestly describe just what an evil piece of garbage he really is, as with Hitler, Germany and the world Mexico and the world will never fully heal from all the damage that he has done.

Rather than see him die it would be much better to put him in a cement box and let him rot day after day and year after year as that seems to be the one thing that he fears the most, to God I pray for his healthy capture and extradition... CHIVO

Capo said...

No telling what is really going on these days? Supposibly Mexico backing La Federacion and US backing Los Zetas and Mata Zetas(playing both sides). Expect alot more chaos in the next year. Either way lots of drugs being imported from both cartels to satisfy America's need for pleasure and greed.

Anonymous said...

Chapo has more fans than Justin Beiber. People in Mexico have replaced the llorana scary stories with that of the evil Zetas. Meanwhile Chapo still gets his feet kissed by grown ass men praising him like the Messiah. He's a scary dope dealer protected by the government not some bad ass. Take the money and guns away so you can get a clear mental picture of what he really is. He's a coward criminal nothing more. Trying to find something noble and honest in him is like trying to find something pure in a prostitute. Its not there... So get over it! Cant wait to see this marrano full of holes...

Puro Nuevo Leon y Tamps...............................................

Anonymous said...

Its amazing to me to read all the retoric from people who are a part of or complicent with drug dealing in Mexico, CRIME in Mexico appears to be a National sport?? People have their favorite Cartels but there is no attitude that these drug gangs are evil,anti social, destructive, etc --. So whats up, are Mexicans synpothetic to crime?? Is their a attitude that its OK to steal rob, kidnap, attack anybody or anything that is prosperous OCCUPY MONTERAY ????

Anonymous said...

" Its amazing to me to read all the retoric from people who are a part of or complicent with drug dealing in Mexico, CRIME in Mexico appears to be a National sport?? People have their favorite Cartels but there is no attitude that these drug gangs are evil,anti social, destructive, etc --. So whats up, are Mexicans synpothetic to crime?? Is their a attitude that its OK to steal rob, kidnap, attack anybody or anything that is prosperous OCCUPY MONTERAY ????
October 29, 2011 5:44 PM "
===============================================

It has been like that for generations, so much so that recently scientists have done studies and they have been able to isolate a gene that Mexican males are born with. Not tall enough to play basketball and to small for football and when they would ever play baseball someone would always get beat to death with the baseball bat... So what else do they have?

Recently one of the severe symptoms has been the wearing of very, very long pointy boots...

The Mayo clinic in New York has been funded to search for a cure...

Buela said...

I don't buy into the Calderon protection of Chapo, as one commentor states he has incurred some extremely heavy hits under Calderon's watch.

BUT, I do accept the fact he is protected by many that surround Calderon, some say as many as 300 political insiders/political halcones that advise him of agency and other forces logistic plans.

Calderon is not my favorite person in the world, and I think his ego has prevented him from admitting his plan A was ineffective therefore never ventured to a plan B, and I hate his blaming the US for all the ills of Mx. especially since last time I looked we are the only nation supporting their fight against the so called drug war.

and His suggestion that Chapo may be in the US was over the top and looney reminiscent of Chavez...but he is the best Mx has had to offer as a leader that is trying to make a difference and IMO sincerely wants to win this so called drug war, so for that I tip my hat..

Paz, B

Anonymous said...

If you look up chapo read up on wikipedia he's already the leading druglord of all times bigger then Pablo Escobar seriously how much stronger and powerful can he get theres no other single druglord to beat lol

Anonymous said...

@ Buela...I have several questions to ask you.

How can a leader have 300 close political underlings compromising his intelligence and he not be a part of it? Either you or he and more than likely both of you need to study Jahari's Window because someone has a large blind spot.

Why is it that every mission the Federal Police and Military are assigned is directed at the Zetas? A perfect example was sending the military after the Mata Zetas for the atrocities they committed but immediately a sweep of the Zetas occurred in the area.

I question the significance of the big hits Chapo has taken? At least 85% of the arrests that have occurred in Juarez and Chihuahua are CDJ. CDG takes hit constantly. The Zetas are public enemy # 1. There has been no effort to arrest or kill Sinaloans by federal forces, none. Big drug load busts, yes. But does anyone really think they destroy them. I doubt our government destroys huge loads, much less Mexico's'. Go to Juarez and ask the people who Calderon supports. They will convince you very quickly how much Calderon supports Chapo. His federal police have hit squads to support Chapo. The even tried to kill the the Juarez Police Chief and their mayor for not joining the Chapo camp.

In short, Calderon is an elitist that identifies more closely to the Europeans and has no connection to the Mexican people. His agenda has been successful because it was for him and his colleagues to put a vehicle in place to exploit as much wealth as possible for Mexico. The results will be what is left after he is gone. Crime and drug trafficking because nothing has been put int jobs, commerce, tourism, farming business, family or community. JUST WAR.

Anonymous said...

If you had the chance to have a steak dinner with one of the following, which one would it be?

Chapo Guzman
Vicente Carrillo
Lazcano
Felipe Calderon
The Cardinal of Mexico

Anonymous said...

11 08 nacho coronel hands down, cachas de diamante. Straight old school, buisness first cat. I'm from dgo and el chapos people have never bothered anyone were I'm from. People come with nice trucks from the u.s and they never bother or kidnapp them. But in plazas were zetas control people always get kidnapped or extorted. So tell me who do u think the people support all around here? My aunt got a flat tire in a romote area, and the local boss sent sicarios to help her out. U think the zetas would do that?

Anonymous said...

11:50 AM...Me, Viceroy because of my interest in Juarez. He is old school too and I would love to hear about his brother and early years on CDJ. But I respect your choice too as Nacho was old school and he actually did school under Amado.

Anonymous said...

I have family that are sicarios(gunmen) in sinaloa..they are all family men who live normal lives..we travel there all the time and we never have issues..but, everywhere we travel it is chapos plaza so there is no concern..that is what he brings PEACE..We all know what happens in zeta plazas..

Anonymous said...

@7:15 Yes he should get the fucking Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe he could go to the middle east. They need someone to negotiate peace.

But what about the killings in the street in Culiacan and Mazatlan and the gun battles?

You're lucky to have cartel killers in the family. Do they send money to help you with expenses?

Anonymous said...

ITS CRAZY HOW THE MAP HAS THE COLORS OF THE FLAG.....THATS MEXICO!!! PERFECT REPRESENTATION!!!

Anonymous said...

PURO PERO PURO SINALOA VIEJON! DESDE BADIRAGUATO HASTA DENVER COLORADO MIS PLEBES!!!

Anonymous said...

Some crazy motherfuckers on here,blame USA,for everything,goin on about European,this that.What the fuck is that all about.No drugs being consumed in Mexico,ye right.You have your own market soon,but keep blaming everyone else,conspiracies,here there and everywhere.Yes there are big problems,but it is Mexicos endemic corruption and lawlessness that is the cause,bottom line.No ifs and buts about it.Its Mexicos problem,and we gotta face it.

Anonymous said...

The cardinal........so I could beat the shit out of him.

Anonymous said...

Nice Article!! And Chapo is a nice guy, just dnt fuck with him or his people! That is why EVERYONE knows were he is at EXCEPT the fuckn government!!... ZETAS are some nasty muthafuckers that dont care about civilians!!

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you something, the mexican war is a religious war, and those behind it are satanist that also control the CIA. This guy had opium plantations in Pakistan in the 1990s controlled by the CIA. Satanist offer to Satan those every day kill plus Obama and Calderon are Masonic they worship santan but the big guy is the first one. In a related story Chapo used cia airplanes to bring cocaine into usa, in other words they are the same illigal drug corporation.

"L"B said...

lazca...and like mikey i would have the gun taped to the toilet...

i am not riding nuts...but to pick between the Sinaloas and los zetaputas

easy

i am just guessing..pero

I THINK ... that the Z is backed by the American gov...DEA ,CIA ..or the devil ..one and the same ?...and the Sinaloas by the PAN

so in light of that ..VIVA MEXICO...VIVA SINALOAS...

just my opinion

Anonymous said...

zetas=terminal cancer,cartel de sinaloa=a hang over,which would you choose to have?guzmans people sell drugs to those who are seeking to buy.in contrast the zetas extort,kidnap,rob & kill innocent & unwilling participants.so all of you with your hooray cheers for doing away with the cure for the zeta cancer(cartel de sinaloa)think again.if you live in mexico you know who the bad guy is.if you live in the U.S & your kid is on dope,well maybe you should be a better parent or not set a bad example.

Anonymous said...

in response to CHIVO..you have lots of hatred in your heart for someone who you only read about,the stories you hear & the stories you probably make up yourself...listen goat,i was a dope dealer & I never,ever had to go looking for someone to buy my product,the U.S. is the land of opportunity,its citizens love to alter their state of mind with illegal substances.mexicos drug problem is that lots of its people want to be the one to supply the U.S.when miguel angel felix gallardo,the real padrino was in charge things werent bad at all.but now we have the U.S. trying to tell mexico how to fight the war on drugs & just like vietnam,they're fucking things up.breaking up the cartels into smaller factions is not ever going to work,youre going to get plenty of rogues who want their shot at being boss.what mexico is going through right now wasnt caused by guzman alone,i dealt with real dope-dealers,true business men.they want no heat,petty crime to them is unprofitable.kidnap,extortion,robberies,its for wannabes.as for corruption,how about that ollie north?how about the nukes that were never found in irak...corruption?how bout those wall street frauds that shake the core of the U.S. economy & the authors end up getting probation?c'mon chivo,oh yeah,as for drug dealers,demand of the product makes them succesful.

Anonymous said...

Kill all these crimminal cockroaches and let satan sort them out. These parasites dont need to continue their gennetics

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