Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (born April 4, 1957) nicknamed "El Chapo" (Sinaloan Spanish: "Shorty") for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, is a Mexican drug lord who heads Mexico's and the world's largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization referred to as the Sinaloa Cartel, named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was initially formed.
He became Mexico's top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel. Guzmán has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009; ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively. He was also listed by Forbes as the world's 937th richest man in 2010 and 1,140th in 2011.
The Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, and has distribution cells throughout the U.S. His organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin.
After the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, Guzmán became the FBI and Interpol's most wanted person. In addition, Forbes considers Guzmán the "biggest druglord of all time" and the DEA strongly believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him "the godfather of the drug world."
His father was supposedly a cattle rancher, as were most in the area; it is believed, however, that he also grew opium poppy. Guzmán's father had connections to higher-ups in the Sinaloan capital of Culiacán through Pedro Avilés Pérez. Avilés was a key player in the Sinaloa drug business, seen as a pioneer for finding new methods of transporting the rural produce to urban areas for shipment by way of airplanes.
He is reportedly the first to use airplanes to smuggle cocaine to the United States. By the time Guzmán was in his 20s, his connection to Avilés would be his window of opportunity to start in the drug business and make his fortune. In the late 1970s, Héctor "El Güero" Luis Palma Salazar gave Guzmán his first big break. El Güero placed him in charge of transporting drugs from the Sierra to the cities and border and overseeing shipments. He was ambitious and pressed his bosses to increase the quantities of drugs being moved north.
In the early 1980s, Guzmán was introduced to Miguel "El Padrino" Ángel Félix Gallardo. Gallardo put him in charge of logistics – effectively coordinating airplane flights, boat arrivals and trucks coming from Colombia into Mexico. El Güero still controlled deliveries to clients in the United States, but Guzmán would soon work directly for El Padrino himself.
Although early on Guzmán lived in Guadalajara, as did Gallardo, his command and control center was actually located in Agua Prieta, Sonora. After Félix Gallardo's capture, Guzmán took control of the entire Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán is wanted by the governments of Mexico and the United States and by INTERPOL; so far he has evaded operations to capture him.
MethamphetamineAfter the fall of the Amezcua brothers, founders of the Colima Cartel, in 1998 on methamphetamine trafficking charges, there was a need for leadership throughout Mexico to coordinate methamphetamine shipments north. Guzmán saw an opportunity and seized on it. Easily arranging precursor shipments, Guzmán and Ismael Zambada García ("El Mayo") made use of their previous contacts on Mexico's Pacific coast. Importantly, for the first time the Colombians would not have to be paid – they simply joined methamphetamine with cocaine shipments.
This fact meant no additional money needed to go out for planes, pilots, boats, and bribes; they used the existing infrastructure to pipeline the new product. Up until this point, the Sinaloa Cartel had been a joint venture between Guzmán and Ismael Zambada García; the methamphetamine business would be Guzmán's alone. He cultivated his own ties to China, Thailand and India to import the necessary precursor chemicals. Throughout the mountains of the states of Sinaloa, Durango, Jalisco, Michoacán and Nayarit, Guzmán constructed large methamphetamine laboratories and rapidly expanded his organization.
His habit of moving from place to place allowed him to nurture contacts throughout the country. He was now operating in 17 out of 31 Mexican states. With his business expanding, he placed his trusted friend Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel Villarreal in charge of methamphetamine production; this way Guzmán could continue being the boss of bosses. Coronel Villarreal proved so reliable in the Guzmán business, he became known as 'Crystal King'.
Mexican Cartel WarsSince his escape from prison, he had been wanting to take over the Ciudad Juárez crossing points, which are under control of the Carrillo Fuentes family of the Juárez Cartel. Despite high mistrust between the two organizations, the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels had an alliance at the time. He convened a meeting in Monterrey with Ismael Zambada Garcia ("El Mayo"), Juan José Esparragoza Moreno ("El Azul") and one of the Beltrán Leyva brothers and they discussed killing Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, who was in charge of the Juárez Cartel.
On September 11, 2004, Rodolfo, his wife, and two young children were visiting a Culiacán shopping mall. While leaving the mall, escorted by police commander Pedro Pérez López, the family was ambushed by members of Los Negros, assassins for the Sinaloa Cartel. Rodolfo and his wife were killed, the policeman survived.
This now meant the plaza would no longer be controlled only by the Carrillo Fuentes family. Instead, the city found itself the front line in a country-wide drug war and would see homicides skyrocket as rival cartels fought for control. With this act, Guzmán was the first to break the nonaggression 'pact' the major cartels had agreed to, setting in motion the fighting between cartels for drug routes that has claimed more than 35,000 lives since December 2006.
Arrest and escape
Guzmán was captured in Guatemala on June 9, 1993 and extradited to Mexico and sentenced to 20 years, 9 months in prison for drug trafficking, criminal association and bribery charges. He was jailed in the maximum security La Palma (now Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1 or 'Altiplano') prison.
On November 22, 1995, he was transferred to the Puente Grande maximum security prison in Jalisco, Mexico, after being convicted of three crimes: possession of firearms, drug trafficking, and the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo (the charge would later be dismissed by another judge). He had been tried and sentenced inside the federal prison on the outskirts of Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico State.
The police say Guzmán carefully masterminded his escape plan, wielding influence over almost everyone in the prison, including the facility's director. He allegedly had the prison guards on his payroll, smuggled contraband into the prison and received preferential treatment from the staff.
In addition to the prison-employee accomplices, police in Jalisco were paid off to ensure he had at least 24 hours to get out of the state and stay ahead of the military manhunt. The story told to the guards being bribed was that Joaquín Guzmán was smuggling gold out of the prison, ostensibly extracted from rock at the inmate workshop. The escape allegedly cost Joaquín $2.5 million.
After a ruling by the Supreme Court of Mexico made it easier for extradition to occur between Mexico and the United States, Guzmán bribed several guards to aid his escape. On January 19, 2001, Francisco "El Chito" Camberos Rivera, a prison guard, opened Guzman's electronically operated cell door, where Guzmán got in a laundry cart that Camberos rolled through several doors and eventually out the front door. Guzmán was then transported in the trunk of a car driven by Camberos out of the town. At a gas station Camberos went inside, but when he came back Guzmán was gone on foot into the night. According to officials, seventy-eight people have been implicated in his escape plan.
In the ensuing manhunt, authorities arrested many of Guzmán's associates in the cities of Reynosa, Puebla, Toluca, and Mexico City. The states of Sinaloa and Nayarit would also see a wave of arrests. In the summer of that year, Esteban Quintero Mariscal, a hired killer and cousin of Guzmán's, was arrested and imprisoned in Cefereso No. 1, Mexico's highest-security prison.
The following day, El Chito, the prison guard most responsible for helping Guzmán escape, was captured and incarcerated in Mexico City's Reclusorio Preventivo Oriente. On September 7, 2001, authorities raided a stash house in the eastern Mexico City neighborhood of Iztapalapa. Federal agents chased three people fleeing the house all the way to Taxquena in the southern part of the city. Among those arrested was Arturo "El Pollo" Guzman Loera, Guzmán's younger brother. Guzmán reportedly considered suicide following his arrest. Authorities were led to Arturo by information from Quintero Mariscal.
In November 2001, military intelligence pinpointed Guzmán's location to somewhere between the cities of Puebla and Cuernavaca, where they captured Miguel Angel Trillo Hernandez. Trillo had helped Guzmán in the aftermath of his escape from Puente Grande, renting houses so Guzmán could hide in them. They next discovered Guzmán was hiding out on a ranch outside Sante Fe, Nayarit. Mexican military deployed helicopters to close in, but Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada provided his own helicopter to Guzmán to escape in to the Sierra.
Despite the progress made in detaining others in the aftermath of Guzmán's escape, arresting a handful of his top logistics and security men, the huge military and federal police manhunt failed to capture Guzmán himself. Since his escape, he has been Mexico's most wanted man.
On December 20, 2005 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced a US $5 million reward for information leading to Guzmán's arrest and prosecution.
In March 2008, the Guatemalan government reported that Guzmán's organization may have been tied to a gun battle in their country that left ten gunmen dead. Three days later, the Honduran government reported that they were investigating whether he was hiding out in Honduras.
On April 18, 2009 in the state of Durango, Roman Catholic Archbishop Héctor Gonzalez announced that the fugitive drug trafficker was "living nearby and everyone knows it except the authorities, who just don't happen to see him for some reason." A few days afterwards, two military officers were found dead near a bullet-riddled car in the same area the archbishop claimed Guzmán lived. It is believed that the officers, who were dressed in civilian clothes, were working undercover in the area when they were abducted and executed in the remote village of Cienega de Escobar. A message was left near them: “You'll never get 'El Chapo', not the priests, not the government."
In 1977 he married Alejandrina María Salazar Hernández, in a small ceremony in the town of Jesús María, Sinaloa. With Alejandrina Guzmán he had three children: César, Iván Archivaldo, and Jesús Alfredo. He set them up in a ranch home in Jesús María. In the mid-1980s Guzmán remarried; this time to Griselda López Pérez, with whom he had four more children: Édgar, Joaquín, Ovidio, and Griselda Guadalupe. Guzmán's sons would follow him into the drug business.
On February 15, 2005, Guzmán's son, Iván Archivaldo, was arrested in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. He was sentenced to 5 years in a federal prison, but was released in April 2008 after a Mexican federal judge declared the case was lacking evidence. In June 2005, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested his brother, two nephews and a niece. They also seized nine houses and six vehicles. Some of the arrests took place in the U.S. in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland.
Guzmán reportedly strolled into a restaurant called "Barrokas" in Piedras Negras, with several of his bodyguards. After taking his seat, his men collected the cell phones of approximately thirty diners and instructed them to not be alarmed. The gangsters then ate their meal and left – paying for everyone else in the restaurant. That same month, Guzmán was reportedly seen in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, repeating his exploit at the "Los Platos" restaurant.
In November 2007, Guzmán was married to 18 year-old beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro in Canelas, Durango, Mexico. In August 2011, Coronel Aispuro, a citizen of the United States, gave birth to twin girls in a L.A. County Hospital.
Break with the Beltrán Leyva Cartel
Several factors influenced the break between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltrán Leyva brothers. The arrest of Guzmán's lieutenant, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva (a.k.a.: El Mochomo) was one incident, as he was believed to have given up El Mochomo for various reasons. In addition to this, Guzmán was voicing concerns with Alfredo Beltrán's lifestyle and high-profile actions for some time before his arrest.
The Beltrán Leyva brothers ordered the assassination of Guzmán's son, Édgar Guzmán Lopez, on May 8, 2008 in Culiacán; causing massive retaliation from Guzmán. They were also fighting over the allegiance of the Flores brothers, Margarito and Pedro, leaders of a major, highly lucrative cell in Chicago that distributed over two tons of cocaine every month. The Mexican military claim that Guzmán and the Beltrán Leyva brothers were at odds over Guzmán's relationship with the Valencia brothers in Michoacán.
Upon Alfredo Beltrán's arrest – purportedly with Guzmán's help – a formal "war" was declared. An attempt on Vicente "El Vincentillo" Zambada Niebla's life was made just hours after the declaration. Dozens of killings followed in retaliation for the attempt on his life.
On May 8, 2008, with the killing of Guzmán's son Edgar, it all erupted. For the rest of May 2008 alone, there were over 116 people murdered in Culiacán, 26 of which were policemen. In June 2008, over 128 were killed; in July, 143 were slain. General Sandoval ordered another 2,000 troops to the area, but it failed to stop the war. The wave of violence spread to other cities like Guamúchil, Guasave and Mazatlán.
Whether Guzmán was responsible for Alfredo Beltrán's arrest is not known. However, the Beltrán Leyva brothers were doing some double-dealing of their own. Arturo Beltrán and Alfredo Beltrán had met with top members of Los Zetas in Cuernavaca.
There they agreed to form an alliance to fill the power vacuum. They wouldn't necessarily go after the main strongholds, such as the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartel; instead they sought control of southern states like Guerrero (where the Beltrán Leyva's already had a big stake), Oaxaca, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo. They also worked their way into the center of the country, where no single group had control.
The split was officially recognized by the U.S. government on May 30, 2008. On that day they recognized the Beltrán Leyva brothers as leaders of their own 'cartel'. President Bush designated Marcos Arturo Beltrán Leyva and the Beltrán Leyva Organization as subject to sanction under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act ("Kingpin Act").