(Disclaimer: this isn't an article about how El Chapo is a cool guy who I approve of. I do not approve of murderous drug lords.)
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman appeared in court Friday, pleading not guilty to being in charge of a drug operation that has laundered billions of dollars, and been responsible for countless murders and kidnappings. In related news, this is what comes up when you search 'El Chapo' on Google:
Seeing how Google's sidebar lists him as "drug lord," he might not have an easy time getting out of this one, at least in a court of law.
Anyway, El Chapo has been a figure that has been prevalent in international news for a few years now, a man who might be the most famous and dangerous drug lord since Pablo Escobar, and yet, personally I'm not familiar with his history other than that, well, he's a drug lord. He's also managed to escape federal prison multiple times (incredibly difficult, and enough times to where this article needed to be published), has been married to and had affairs with many women including Congresswomen and actresses, doesn't have a verified date of birth, and interviewed with Sean Penn for some reason. So on this another day that some controversial political event will probably (definitely) happen, and the day after the Super Bowl, let's talk about El Chapo.
El Chapo has been a major drug dealer since about 1989, when he first came in charge of the Sinaloa cartel, dealing billions of dollars worth of weed, cocaine, heroin and other things that kids shouldn't do. He first became famous in 1993, when, following tensions between his cartel and the Tijuana cartel, shots were fired at a car believed to be containing El Chapo. It was a minor miscalculation, as it ended up being Juan Jesus Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, one of two Roman Catholic Cardinals in Mexico at the time, murdered in his place.
Following the publicity with the murder of Ocampo, he fled to Guatemala, hoping the government would protect him there. He was arrested shortly afterward yet through bribery basically did whatever he wanted in prison, holding a mistress and maintaining full control over his cartel, which during this time also spread into the dealing of meth.
In 2001, El Chapo escaped from a Mexican prison (and in a laundry cart at that), starting to form his legend as someone who could never be caught. He evaded capture until 2013, at that point only bolstering his reputation as a drug kingpin and someone fixed in the minds of the Mexican people. During this time he was on Forbes's list of most powerful people in the world, and even had songs written about him:
Of course, he escaped again in 2015 after being captured the year before. His escape one that was not only daring, but right in front of our own eyes:
Eventually, he was captured again in 2016, shortly after that aforementioned interview with Sean Penn, which actually assisted authorities in capturing him. He faces charges in 7 U.S. states now as well as in his home country, and due to the complications that come with his extradition, he now enters what might be a long legal process.
So what is El Chapo? Well, after this summary I can certainly say he's someone I wouldn't want to be around. He is a drug lord. He is a danger to society. He is crafty. In some ways, he is a legend (that isn't always a good thing). To summarize, he is many things. To me, with all due respect to BU alum Jonathan Goldstein, he is the real most interesting man in the world.
People have been trying to get this guy for decades now in multiple countries. He has evaded capture for most of that time and has done so in plain sight. There have been countless attempts on his life, both in reality and on twitter, and he survived them all. He escaped maximum security prison twice, something that only happens in the movies, and did so (the laundry basket and digging a tunnel) with methods that are literally from those movies.
Despite being wanted for murder and many other terrible charges, he dated actresses, Congresswomen, and was the focus of songs and pop culture to where you almost forget he was a murderous, terrifying drug lord. And that's just beginning to delve into the interesting facts about him. His entire life is basically summed up by this gif:
To me, whether we like it or not, whether he is someone we'd model our kids after or not, and whether or not he is this proud, charming man, one can't doubt that he is a legend (I promise you not in a good way), and one that'll be talked about for centuries to come.
So on Friday, when El Chapo asked the US court to soften his restrictions in prison, there is no question he'll get turned down (although I respect the cojones to even ask at this point). For most, it would confine him to a life in prison or just until he is sentenced to death. For El Chapo, as interesting and alarming as it is, we'll just have to wait and see.