He has been dubbed “Public Enemy No.1” which is a title that hasn’t been used since the reign of popular Chicago gangster Al Capone, and in some eyes Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is this generation’s very own Al Capone.
Recognized as the head of one of Mexico’s largest drug rings called the Sinaloa cartel, Guzman is believed to have trafficked cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine throughout at least 54 countries.
Since the explosive start of the ongoing drug war started some 7 years ago, while under the presidency of the 43rd President of the United States of America George W. Bush and Mexico’s then President Felipe Calderon there is another dent in the armor of the drug war with the latest capture of a drug cartel’s kingpin.
Arrested last week at a Mexican beach resort, Guzman is considered the Mexican drug kingpin. For years, authorities have spent decades trying to find and capture Guzman who managed to elude them at every turn since he escaped a maximum-security prison back in 2001.
Back in 1993, Guzman was originally captured in Guatemala and extradited to Mexico where he was supposed to serve a 20 year sentence. While in custody El Chapo was transferred through various maximum-security prisons. But being imprisoned didn’t stop him.
Drug kingpins of these cartels are so powerful and so feared they have unbelievable control of the people who work for them. While imprisoned, Guzman was powerful enough to manage his drug cartel through his associates from behind bars. It was his powerful hold over people that also enabled him to earn his early “freedom”.
On January 19, 2001 after a ruling by the Supreme Court of Mexico an extradition agreement between Mexico and the United States was struck, because of this Guzman paid off prison guards to help him escape. Using a laundry cart, Guzman was rolled out the prison’s front door, into a truck that drove him far away, and allowed him to flee into the night.
And now while imprisoned again in Mexico, Federal prosecutors across the United States are racing over who will get to prosecute the Mexican drug kingpin. While facing a series of charges in Mexico, Guzman faces a numbers of charges in Chicago, New York, San Diego, and Texas.
And with seven federal district courts holding pending indictments against Guzman on a variety of drug charges, several are already pressing for his extradition into the country to face said charges. But the very process of that extradition could take years.
“You want No. 1 to be the best shot that you have,” said David Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Florida’s Southern District in Miami. During his 11 years in office, Weinstein aided in the prosecution of several high-profiled suspected drug traffickers from Colombia and Haiti. “What do they say? If you shoot at the king, you make sure you hit him in the head.”
But Guzman’s lawyers are trying to prevent just that.
As he sits in a Mexican prison, Guzman’s lawyers filed an appeal on Monday that wants to halt any extradition that would take Guzman out of the country. The prospect of Guzman ever being extradited and prosecuted in America is skeptical to Robert Feitel.
A former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s narcotics and dangerous drugs section, Feitel doesn’t think Guzman will ever be prosecuted in the United States. Feitel believes that since Mexico has insisted on holding affidavits which admits to having first-hand knowledge of Guzman’s criminal conduct it will make it harder for the US to extradite him.
While Guzman escaped a Mexican prison and has evaded authorities for a good 13 years, Feitel believes that the Mexican authorities would not have to worry about Guzman again. Since Guzman is such a prominent figure in the country’s drug war, which has seen numerous deaths amongst both in law enforcement and civilians, Feitel believes Mexican authorities would do anything to keep him in the country and brought to justice for his crimes.
“He’s a terrorist in their nation,” said Feitel. “Could you imagine if we were to send someone like him to Mexico if the situation was reversed?”
Currently, Guzman is imprisoned in Mexico where a judge will soon decide whether to release him or start the process of bringing him to trial. However, with evidence continuing to come out against him it is possible freedom will not be likely.
The arrest of Guzman is just another in the long history of the drug war. Back in 2013, another of Mexico’s largest—yet not as feared as Guzman—Miguel Angel Trevino, also known as Z-40, and the alleged leaders of the Los Zetas cartel was captured.
Since the drug cartel war began in 2007 there has been criticism on its handling, even our current president Barack Obama has been criticized for the US and Mexican handling of it.
The drug war have caused a great deal of lives being lost, and in its years have seen numerous officials who try to combat the drug cartels fear for their lives and the lives of their family. While Guzman‘s arrest shows some leeway from the war only time will tell whether it will cripple the cartels and see an end to this war.