Guzmán Loera 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 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011, with a net worth of roughly US$5 billion. Forbes also calls him one of the "biggest drug lords of all time", and the DEA strongly believes he has matched the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him "the godfather of the drug world."
Guzman Loera's Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, and has distribution cells throughout the U.S. The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin. The U.S. offers a $5 million USD reward for information leading to his capture. The Mexican government offers a reward of 30 million pesos for such information. Sources disagree on the date of birth of Guzmán Loera, with some stating he was born on December 25, 1954, while others report he was born on April 4, 1957. He was born to a poor family in the rancho of La Tuna near Badiraguato, Sinaloa, where he sold oranges as a child. He had two sisters, Armida and Bernarda; and four brothers: Miguel Ángel, Aureliano, Arturo and Emilio. Little is known about Guzmán's early years. 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 U.S. By the time Guzmán was in his twenties, his connection to Avilés would be his window of opportunity to start in the drug business and make his fortune. In the late 1970s, Hector 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, who 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 U.S., 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.
After 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 it. Easily arranging precursor shipments, Guzmán and Ismael Zambarda Garcia ("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 was needed for planes, pilots, boats and bribes; they used the existing infrastructure to pipeline the new product.
Until this point, The Sinaloa Cartel had been a joint venture between Guzmán and Ismael Zambarda Garcia; 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 of 31 Mexican states. With his business expanding, he placed his trusted friend Ignacio Coronel Villareal in charge of methamphetamine production; this way Guzmán could continue being the boss of bosses. Coronel Villarreal proved so reliable in the Guzmán business that he became known as "Crystal King".
Arrest and escapeEdit
Guzmán was captured in Guatemala on June 9, 1993, and extradited to Mexico and sentenced to 20 years and 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, 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.
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. He 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, 78 people have been implicated in his escape plan.
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.
Mexican Cartel WarsEdit
Since his escape from prison, Guzmán had been wanting to take over the Ciudad Juárez crossing points, which were under the control of the Carrillo Fuentes family of The Juarez Cartel. Despite a high degree of mistrust between the two organizations, the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels had an alliance at the time. Guzman convened a meeting in Monterrey with Ismael Zambarda Garcia ("El Mayo"), Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno ("El Azul") and one of the Beltrán Leyva brothers and they discussed killing Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, who was in charge of the Juarez 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 countrywide 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 50,000 lives since December 2006.
Break with the Beltrán Leyva CartelEditSeveral factors influenced the break between The Sinaloa Cartel and The Beltrán-Leyva Cartel. The arrest of Guzmán's lieutenant, Alfredo Beltrán Leyva (aka: El Mochomo) in January 2008 was one incident, as Guzmán was believed to have given up El Mochomo for various reasons. In addition to this, Guzmán had been 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 an action that brought 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 claims 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 Zambada Niebla's life was made just hours after the declaration. Dozens of killings followed in retaliation for that attempt. On May 8, 2008, with the killing of Guzmán's son Edgar, violence increased. From May 8th through the end of the month there were over 116 people murdered in Culiacán, 26 of them policemen. In June 2008 over 128 were killed; in July, 143 were slain. Gen. 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 Leyva and Alfredo Beltrán Leyva had met with top members of The Los Zetas Organization 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 Leyvas 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 George W. Bush designated Marcos Arturo Beltrán Leyva and the Beltrán Leyva Organization as subject to sanction under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act ("Kingpin Act").
- Nuevo Laredo appearance
In 2005 on a Saturday evening, Guzmán reportedly strolled into a restaurant in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, with several of his bodyguards. After he took his seat, his henchmen locked the doors of the restaurant, collected the cell phones of approximately 30 diners and instructed them to not be alarmed. The gangsters then ate their meal and left – paying for everyone else in the restaurant.
- Culiacán appearance
Later that year, Guzmán was reportedly seen in Culiacán, Sinaloa, repeating the same exploit at a restaurant. According to a witness, in November 2005 Guzmán entered the restaurant in Culiacán with 15 of his bodyguards, all of them carrying AK-47s. The restaurant was known as "Las Palmas", a lime-green eatery with an ersatz tile roof on a busy street. A man in the restaurant told those present the following: "Gentlemen, please. Give me a moment of your time. A man is going to come in, the boss. We will ask you to remain in your seats; the doors will be closed and nobody is allowed to leave. You will also not be allowed to use your cellulars. Do not worry; if you do everything that is asked of you, nothing will happen. Continue eating and don't ask for your check. The boss will pay. Thank you." The diners reportedly sat still and frightened, as El Chapo walked in through the front door of the restaurant. He walked among the tables, greeting each person there. "Hello, nice to meet you. How are you? I'm Joaquín Guzmán Loera. A pleasure. At your service," he said to all of the diners, as he shook their hands.
El Chapo then walked to a private salon inside the restaurant, where he ate the house specialties of "beef and fist-size shrimp." After a couple of hours, the meal ended and Guzmán departed; his gunmen left moments later. Los Angeles Times reported on this same incident in an article published on November 3, 2008. The newspaper, however, noted that whether any of these reported exploits actually happened is irrelevant, because these stories of Guzmán's elusiveness have created a mythology around his image, where he's claimed to be "everywhere, and nowhere" at the same time.
- Other appearances
According to Milenio news, witnesses have claimed to have seen Guzmán Loera in a restaurant in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo; visiting a beach in San Blas, Nayarit; visiting a house he allegedly owns in San Pancho, Guanajuato; hiding in the mountains of Durango; eating at a restaurant and paying for customers in Ciudad Juárez; in his hideout in Michoacán; traveling through Monterrey; and attending the party of a famous businessman in Torreón.
In the ensuing manhunt, authorities arrested many of Guzmán's associates in 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" Guzmán 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 as 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 Zambarda Garcia provided his own helicopter to Guzmán to escape to the Sierra.
Despite the progress made in arresting others in the aftermath of Guzmán's escape, including 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 US 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 González 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 after that 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."
Reports by Milenio Television state that Guzmán Loera is protected at all times by a personal mercenary army composed of over 30 armed men, all of them in military uniform, whose only objective is to prevent his capture and/or killing by Mexican authorities.
Mexican lawmen "nearly nabbed" Guzmán Loera in a coastal mansion in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, on February 19, 2012, just a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with foreign ministers in the same peninsula resort town. The details of how the authorities knew he was there and why El Chapo was not caught have not been released.
On February 22, 2013, it was reported that Guzmán Loera was killed in a gun fight near the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Police stated that a body was found inside a truck and that it resembled El Chapo. The authorities later dismissed the rumors after the body was not found. The Guatemalan government issued an apology for the misleading information.
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-'80s 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, his son Iván Archivaldo was arrested in Guadalajara. He was sentenced to five years in a federal prison, but released in April 2008 after a Mexican federal judge ruled that the case was lacking in 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 U.S. cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Oakland.
In November 2007, Guzmán married 18-year-old beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro in Canelas, Durango. In August 2011, Coronel Aispuro, a citizen of the United States, gave birth to twin girls in a Los Angeles (California) County Hospital. In May 2012 the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Guzman's sons Iván Guzmán Salazar and Ovidio Guzmán López under the Kingpin Act, which prohibits people in the U.S. from conducting businesses with them and freezes their U.S. assets. Guzmán's son, Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, and ex-wife, María Alejandrina Salazar Hernández, were added to the sanction list on June 7, 2012 as well.
On the night of June 17, 2012, Obied Cano Zepeda, a nephew of Guzmán, was gunned down by unknown assailants at his home in the state capital of Culiacán while hosting a Father's Day celebration. The gunmen, who were reportedly carrying AK-47 rifles, also killed two other guests and left one seriously injured. Obied was brother of Luis Alberto Cano Zepeda (aka El Blanco), a nephew of Guzmán who worked as a pilot drug transporter for the Sinaloa cartel. Nonetheless, he was arrested by the Mexican military in August 2006. InSight Crime notes that the murder of Obied may be a retaliation attack by The Los Zetas Organization for Guzmán's incursions in their territory or a brutal campaign heralding Los Zetas' presence in Sinaloa.
On May 1, 2013, Guzmán's father-in-law Inés Coronel Barreras was captured by Mexican authorities in Agua Prieta, Sonora. He is the father of the drug lord's third wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro. US authorities believe that Coronel Barreras was a "key operative" of the Sinaloa Cartel who smuggled narcotics through the Arizona border area.