Chronology of "Chapo" Guzmán's criminal life: a true drug trafficking soap opera

Married to a former beauty queen, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped from prison twice and his fascination for an actress contributed to his final capture. This is his bizarre criminal trajectory.

Chronology of "Chapo" Guzmán's criminal life: a true drug trafficking soap opera
El Chapo Guzman.

After rising through the ranks of the powerful Guadalajara cartel, before it was disbanded in 1989, "El Chapo" participated in the creation of the Sinaloa cartel. On May 24, 1993, he escapes an assassination attempt by other traffickers at the Guadalajara airport, which cost the life of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo. Arrested on June 9, 1993, at the Mexico-Guatemala border, he is sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder and drug trafficking.

He managed to escape on January 19, 2001, from the high-security prison of Puente Grande, in Jalisco, hiding in a cart with dirty clothes, thanks to the collaboration of numerous accomplices, including the director of the center and several guards. Thirteen years of clandestine life began during which the fugitive, whose fortune exceeded 1 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine, built a drug empire, controlling 25% of drug trafficking in the United States.

Chicago designates him "public enemy number one" of the city, a terminology not used since the times of Al Capone. He was captured on February 22, 2014, by the Mexican Navy in Mazatlan (northwest).

He escapes for the second time on July 11, 2015, from the high-security Altiplano prison, 90 km from Mexico, by riding a motorcycle through a 1.5 km tunnel, dug under the shower of his cell, ventilated and illuminated, leading to a building under construction. Nicknamed "El Chapo" because of his height (1.65 m), the "lord of the tunnels" had dozens built under the U.S.-Mexico border to supply drugs.

In October, he gives a secret interview with the American actor Sean Penn, in the presence of the Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, whom he venerates. The latter, famous in Mexico for her role as the head of a drug cartel in the soap opera "La Reina del Sur", acted as an intermediary. This clandestine interview, of which the authorities were aware, led to his downfall. He was detected in the jungle and was tracked by the army until his capture, announced on January 8, 2016, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Los Mochis, in his Sinaloa stronghold, after six months on the run.

El Chapo
Some older adults who have to go out and sell their products are also given anti-bacterial gel or cloth mouthpieces with the image of the capo who is serving a life sentence in the United States for drug trafficking. Image: Agencies

Back in the Altiplano prison, he is regularly moved from one cell to another. Video surveillance has been reinforced so as not to leave any blind spots in his cell. Furthermore, metal barriers are installed on the floor to prevent him from digging another tunnel. On January 19, 2017, he is extradited to the United States and detained in a high-security prison in Manhattan, New York, the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), in a 5×3 meter cell, without a window and artificially lit permanently. He requests, in vain, that his conditions of incarceration be modified, and is even denied earplugs.

His trial begins in New York, amid high-security measures, on November 5, 2018. He is accused of co-running the Sinaloa cartel for 25 years and importing at least 1,200 tons of cocaine, more than 49 tons of marijuana, more than 200 kilos of heroin and methamphetamines. He is found guilty on February 12, 2019, of ten counts of the indictment after three months of hearings, which brought to light the extreme violence and corruption of the cartels.

Alejandrina Guzmán, daughter of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
Alejandrina Guzmán, daughter of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, gave away pantries with the drug trafficker's name and image to elderly people who are isolated in their homes in recent days to avoid contagion from COVID-19 in the Mexican city of Guadalajara. Source: EFE | Photographer: Francisco Guasco

On Wednesday morning, July 17, 2019, Judge Brian Cogan sentenced Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera to life in prison plus 30 years, so the Mexican drug trafficker must serve his sentence in the feared ADX Florence prison, known as the "Alcatraz of the Rocky Mountains" or "Super Max" and considered the most secure prison in the United States, as it is designed to be escape-proof.

It was in courtroom 8D of the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse where the Sinaloan heard the most terrible words of his life: to be condemned to live until the last of his days in prison. Far from his family and the mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico, where he built a criminal empire.