Joining the Al Capone on the Chicago Crime Commission’s list of the world’s most dangerous men takes a lot of “evil-doing.” He is considered the best student of Pablo Escobar, but he did some things even Escobar wouldn’t do in the process of achieving his fame and profit. With a trail of bodies rivaling any international war and over 1 trillion dollars spent to hunt him and his allies down while leading Sinaloa, El Chapo is a miracle in the criminal underworld.
Joaquín Guzman aka El Chapo while the Supreme leader of Sinaloa, the largest Narco empire in the world, found himself at the center of world’s largest and bloodiest cartel wars and drug overdose-related deaths in history. Pablo Escobar had many enemies and did a lot of evil things to build his billion-dollar empire. However, with changes in time and tighter rules after his death, his successor had to be smarter, and as expected, more evil and El Chapo achieved that rank by pulling off some moves that superseded all the wonders of Pablo Escobar.
1. Starting a Cartel War Over a Handshake Snub
Proving a point as a leader is an essential thing for any cartel leader, but El Chapo just took it a step too far. The peace treaty between the Juarez Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel would have been achieved in 2004 saving both the cartels and law enforcement a lot in money and lives. El Chapo, however, surprised the world by turning a peace mission into one of the Fiercest cartel wars in Mexican history. The Juarez cartel was gaining ground and Sinaloa was not ready for this.
The first peace discussion was between El Chapo and Rodolfo Carrillo the brother to Vicente Carrillo the Juarez, cartel boss. Walking away snubbing Chapo’s extended arm after concluding talks was just too much to bear. Do not kill the messenger is the rule of the game even in narco empires but stressing the need for respect called for the cruelest punishment for Rodolfo. El Chapo ordered Rodolfo killed alongside his wife while coming from a cinema. Vicente got angry and replied by having Arturo Guzman, El Chapo’s brother, killed. The resulting war ended in 9500 sad deaths in street fights and retaliatory killings.
2. Supplying a Line of Coke for Every American in 4 Shipments
El Chapo is believed to have shipped over 200 million tons of coke to the US as the Sinaloa boss in less than two decades. Moving a ton of cocaine over the Mexican border into the USA is a hard task whether you do it by water, air or on land. Guzman was however so aggressive that he combined the power of every means of transport to ship his product. He practically supplied 328 million lines of coke in 4 shipments as explained by Adam Fels the assistant US attorney that headed the prosecution trying to tell the danger posed by El Chapo to America and the rest of the world.
This is the equal of 40 tons of coke. At an average of 10 tons per shipment, you would have to invest in a very complex set of shipping units to conceal that. This means the speed and quantity of supply by the Sinaloa cartel was so advanced if compared to Pablo Escobar’s methods which could only manage about 0.5 tons per flight. El Chapo is believed to have set up so many companies to act as fronts for his US supply that it was almost impossible to catch his shipments. While disguised as furniture shipment trucks and semi-trucks, El Chapo’s cocaine reached the USA in enormous quantities.
3. Inventing an Aid Agency for Shipping Cocaine
Every trafficker seems to read from the Robin hood book of Charity. Pablo Escobar built his fame in Medellin his home province by paying hospital bills, building churches and paying bills for the poor. For Pablo, this move got him a seat in parliament. El Chapo, however, took this to a whole new level. He decided to create an entire aid agency just for a shipment disguise. He used a fleet of cargo planes to move up to 14 tons of coke per trip from central and South America.
El Chapo had 747 jets with all seats removed to create more room for shipping cocaine. He used the fleet to move aid clothes and food to Colombia, Honduras, and other Central American countries. The return trips were large shipments of cocaine to Mexico. With such an unbreakable network, it became so difficult for law enforcement to bust El Chapo’s shipments giving him two decades of successful sales for the Sinaloa. These efficient logistics saw the expansion of the Sinaloa to becoming the world’s largest criminal empire shipping cocaine to 50 countries around the world.
4. Sinking 20 Tons of Coke to Avoid Authorities
The ability of the Sinaloa under El Chapo to evade the authorities kept him from authorities for 20 years. Shipping dozens of tons of cocaine on every trip and successfully avoiding authorities on multiple occasions calls for some extraordinary measures. While headed for Puerto Vallarta in a crew ship with 20 tons of dope, they received a threat of being intercepted and simply sank the ship. A $600m worth of coke at street value. To be bold enough to drown such a shipment to save the cartel, it was evident that they had way more to protect. El Mayo would later order deep sea divers to retrieve the coke.
The cartel is believed to have set up a $50m fund to bribe a high-profile security official, enough to construct several miles of road for some cities. The bribes gave El Chapo control over hundreds of Mexican police officers, members of the armed forces, and even high-profile politicians. Most Mexicans believe that some of El Chapo’s superman prison breaks were simply walk-outs and with such monies for protection, this may well be true.
5. Using the Police to Assassinate a Rival Cartel Leader Felix Arellano
The head of the Tijuana cartel became one of Guzman’s greatest enemies especially after El Chapo’s closest ally; El Mayo switched sides in 1992. A failed assassination in 1992 left El Chapo and Arellano angrier at each other in one of the deadliest cartel turf wars in Mexico. After trying on far too many occasions to kill Arellano, El Chapo decided to use the cover of extrajudicial killing to take out his rival.
Authorities cornered Felix Arellano in 2002, and a shootout led to nearly a dozen deaths on both sides. The fatal shot on the trafficker was, however, an intentional shot by a police officer that would later be uncovered as El Chapo’s police hitman by Jesus Zambada in his testimony against his former boss in Brooklyn. It was El Chapo’s greatest turf war victory since he crippled the Tijuana cartel to take almost full control over the US drug supply.
6. Turning a Maximum-security Prison Into the Base of Narco Operations
The Sinaloa cartel is the world’s largest empire ever built by a convict. Pablo Escobar astonished the world by designing and building his prison and later escaping, but El Chapo simply moved his office from the streets to jail. The first eight years of his imprisonment coincide with the early glory days of his cartel. While his brother Arturo is believed to have been in charge of the ground operations, El Chapo created alliances and made the top decisions including cartel war maneuvers right from his prison cell.
While in prison, he worked with Zulema Hernandez his partner and mistress and his brother to gain more root in Mexico in Plazas closer to the US border for operational efficiency. He received money in briefcases to pay off prison officials. After being arrested the second time in 2014, the cartel did not take any hit either. He is believed to have established a strong hierarchy all the way to ground operations for the giant empire; he still retained principal decision-making authority communicating through corrupt prison officers and using coded messages.
7. Causing Over 120,000 Drug-related Deaths in His Reign
El Chapo’s reign over Sinaloa was filled with the most violent cartel wars of all time. It may be seen as a coincidence for him to be the CEO of the largest cartel just as the events unfolded but he was no bystander. Since he took the top seat in cartel operations in the 80s, El Chapo personally instigated violent attacks against rival cartels and law enforcement. The Sinaloa is directly linked to 70,000 documented deaths between 2006 and 2016 in Mexico, but El Chapo’s full 20-year reign is associated with the worst drug war bloodbath in history.
Journalists, police officers, students, political leaders, and church officials are all members of El Chapo’s crime list in the court of public opinion. These deaths are the size of 6 gulf wars, and this may be more than enough to put anyone on the world’s most wanted men list. The financial implication of the drug war on Sinaloa cost billions of dollars as well not mentioning the thousands of drug overdose deaths.
8. He Was Responsible for the Death of a Cardinal
Cardinal Posadas Ocampo was the Catholic church’s highest ranking official to be assassinated after the attempt on Pope John Paul II. Mexico Being one of the world’s most Catholic nations, everyone respects the church leaders, even Narco kings. Cardinal Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara was killed by a stream of bullets while waiting for a Vatican City representative at the airport.
He was just the wrong man at the wrong place paying for El Chapo’s many crimes on his fellow cartel bosses. El Chapo did not personally kill the cardinal, but Felix Arellano mistook him for El Chapo while trying to avenge the 1992 assassination attempt. A judge in Mexico later acquitted El Chapo of the murder, but the fault still lays with him from an onlooker’s point of view.
9. Escaping a Maximum-security Prison in a Laundry Cart
El Chapo’s first arrest was merely an embarrassment to law enforcement and the war on drugs. Not only did he find a safe location for running the cartel in prison, but he also escaped in a laundry cart in one of Mexico’s most controversial prison breaks. El Chapo’s January 2001 escape was most probably the world’s most expensive prison breaks costing the cartel up to $3m. The subsequent 13-year long search by Mexican and US authorities would, however, be the most costly and shaming manhunts in drug war history.
Investigations pointed at El Chapo having walked out of a cell into a laundry cart and then to a waiting Chevy. All these instances were the result of a well-coordinated prison break that saw 78 officials prosecuted for their role in the crime. Jesus Zambada in his testimony even claimed to have used the local police to move El Chapo to Mexico City after his escape from prison. However, after living like a king in the Puente Grande maximum prison for the eight years, El Chapo seems to have just decided to reduce his sentence to time served.
10. Escaping a Maximum-security Prison in a 1-mile Long Tunnel
El Chapo’s second prison escape from Altiplano maximum prison, Mexico’s most secure correctional facility, was a total abomination to both the US and Mexican governments. Spending over $2 billion in aid and losing over 10,000 law enforcement personnel hunting down one man only to lose him after months of arrest is just disgusting. After His first escape, the help of the DEA to help in his recapture became essential after a decade of hunting. However, after the second, the DEA also came under scrutiny especially with reports of compromised DEA officers.
It was the world’s most major prison breaks of all time. The famous mile-long tunnel that led to a shower in prison allowed Chapo to march out of jail. The tunnel was connected to a house the cartel had constructed outside the prison just for that purpose. Many people did not believe the tunnel story by president Pena Nieto though; they believed he simply walked out of prison again. Either way, El Chapo had made his way to the top of the crime ladder living his complete life in a career as a criminal. Most people do not get to build and run a globally reaching cartel until they are 60 before happily retiring in prison.