El Chapo was declared public enemy number one in Chicago--something that has not been done since the days of Al Capone.
By TIFANI ROBERTS
They blare them from cars at high volume. People repeat them, showing that they know them from memory. They are the corridos (ballads) that tell of the adventures of the most-wanted drug baron: Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Despite speaking of crimes, escapes, and death, the themes are familiar ones, played by northern bands like the Orejones de la Sierra at celebrations and birthday parties.
The songs glorify a man who escaped extreme poverty to become the richest and most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fame is such that it has extended beyond borders—and not just those of Sinaloa, where he was born and built his empire—but those of Mexico.
This recognition has reached the heart of the United States, to Chicago, Illinois. There, the Commission against Crime has declared him public enemy number one, something that had not happened since the era of the mythic Al Capone in 1930.
In the windy city, the dangerous Sinaloa cartel has built a network of more than 500 gangs to distribute its drugs—a logistical advantage of the geographical location, and one of the largest Hispanic communities in the country.
“El Chapo Guzman is the Osama Bin Laden of drug trafficking,” says DEA agent Ramona Sanchez. She recognizes the tactics of El Chapo because she has followed closely, for years, the activities of the Sinaloa cartel.
According to this country’s authorities, members of the cartel have transported up to 4,400 pounds of cocaine to Chicago per month, distributing it to central and northeastern U.S. and Canada.
“They manage their business with great efficiency in order to supply the extremely lucrative North American markets,” says Professor Bruce Bagley of the University of Miami. According to him, the ability of the Sinaloa cartel to sell drugs has surpassed the competition.
Illegal business is clearly at its apogee. Jack Riley, regional chief of the DEA, affirms he’d never seen such pure heroin in the neighborhoods of Chicago. “Heroin is our main problem in the city. Being the cheapest, it’s the preferred drug of the gangs,” he says.
A small bag can be bought for only $10. According to the DEA, El Chapo uses members of the Gangster Disciples and the Latin Kings to distribute his drugs.
These activities are evident in the Mexican neighborhood known as La Villita (the Little Villa). Gustavo Arellano, who had two brothers killed by the Latin Kings, claims there is “distribution of drugs in the schools, in the parks.”
The ingenious El Chapo Guzman seems to have no limits when it comes to strengthening his empire and inundating the American market. Manuel Padilla, border patrol chief in Tucson, Arizona, says tunnels are discovered where one would least expect.
An Univision investigation revealed that at least 62 of the more than 120 tunnels detected are the work of El Chapo Guzman, who does not mind spending up to a million dollars in their construction, using Sinaloan miners to carry out the task (see map).
El Chapo loves technology and doesn’t weigh expenses. That explains his interest in ultra-light planes, says Padilla. Also in “cloning” vehicles, “making vehicles that resemble those of the border patrol.”
AT LEAST 62 OF THE 120 TUNNELS DETECTED AT THE BORDER ARE THE WORK OF EL CHAPO GUZMAN’S MEN.
But if the latest technology fails, El Chapo turns to such medieval instruments as the catapult, or as simple as tossing a football filled with drug from one side to the other. Or, simply, using the customs port of entry to sneak methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin between people and vehicles.
Joe Angottini, a customs and border patrol agent, says El Chapo keeps good accounts, “They can send ten loaded vehicles and understand there will be a certain amount of loss.”
Since the 1980s, Guzman has had a driver’s license with another name but with his photograph.
In mid-2011, El Chapo sent his wife to give birth in California. Beauty queen Emma Coronel gave birth to twin girls in a hospital in Lancaster, some 60 miles from Los Angeles. Authorities attest that she is an American citizen and that there was no arrest order filed against her.
The tentacles of El Chapo, however, reach much farther than drugs. Chicago’s number-one enemy knows how to use and abuse the law. Since the 1980s, Guzman has had a driver’s license, according to a document obtained exclusively by Univision, that carries someone else’s name but his photograph.
But Phil Jordan, a retired federal agent, says El Chapo that did it for only one reason: “another way to thumb his nose at the American government is to send his wife to have children who are born American citizens and who can run for President.”