Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was busted recently by Mexican Marines in the Pacific Ocean resort town of Mazatlán, Mexico.
El Chapo, also known as “Shorty,” was ranked as one of the richest men in the world by Forbes magazine, because of a fortune resulting from myriad illegal narcotics manufacture, growing, distributing and selling throughout the United States of America, Europe and the United States of Mexico. (This was true at least until 2013, when the magazine determined that while Chapo and his family were likely worth more than a billion dollars, “proving it is simply impossible.”)
Using his base in the Pacific state of Sinaloa—one of the world’s finest agricultural areas—and its capital of Culiacán, an ancient settlement founded in the seventh century, El Chapo grew his gang of narcotraficantes from a handful of farmers into a sophisticated army of murderers, brilliant logistical thinkers and a gaggle of financial experts that have contributed to his personal fortune.
Every American junkie put money into El Chapo’s pocket with, almost, every marijuana cigarette they smoked, every snort of cocaine up their noses, every dose of crystal methamphetamine and even some of the heroin they shot into their veins.
American, Mexican, Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts belonging to El Chapo are awash with his money as well as U.S Treasury notes and bonds that his drug money regularly bought. His revenues were unprecedented in criminal history. The Sicilian Mafia never equaled the money or murders attributable to El Chapo; the Sicilians are amateurs in comparison, in distribution of contraband, in its quantity and quality and availability to every drug user in the U.S.
Without the benefit of a Harvard business degree, El Chapo built a multi-national drug enterprise that sprawls throughout the 450 million people of North America and millions in Europe; in fact, when it comes to formal education, El Chapo only reached the third grade.
Drug trafficking expert Patrick Radden O’Keefe of the Century Foundation and the New Yorker magazine estimates that El Chapo’s cartel supplies up to 40 percent of all illicit narcotics in the U.S. No other Mexican or Asian cartels come close to that level.
How has he done it? In part, through innovation.
The traditional method of cross-border drug trafficking of passenger cars, one kilo per car of some of the 50,000 cars-a-day and 650,000 commercial trucks through the busiest port of entry in the world between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California ended mostly when the US deployed hundreds of trained drug sniffing dogs.
Chapo pioneered the construction of drug tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border, the use of submarines to our shores and single file processions of Mexican men carrying his merchandise across the desert and mountains in duffel bags and backpacks. And he did this two decades ago.
The Mexican economy has benefited because of the drug habits of millions of Americans who shell out billions for illicit drugs. From the grower of cannabis plants in the mountains of Sinaloa, Sonora and Chihuahua to the drug mules who ferry drugs across the border in backpacks under the noses of the Border Patrol to the drivers who pick up the “merchandise” on this side of the border and drive it all over the country, thousands of people are beneficiaries of the drug trade.
One recalls a San Fernando Valley warehouse bust that occurred some years back that found tons, repeat, tons of cocaine awaiting processing into tons more of retail merchandise for the Los Angeles/Orange County/San Diego/Las Vegas market, the largest and richest cocaine market in the world. That bust occurred because honest Mexican and American drug cops joined forces.
The same occurred in the arrest of El Chapo. American drug enforcement agents and U.S. Marshals joined Mexican federales to track Chapo and watched as Mexican Marines made the bust without firing a shot.
The marines were used because they are most effective in arresting drug kingpins. Why? Mexican Army officers are garrisoned in static “camps” and are well known at the local level, which makes them easy to bribe.
In comparison, the marines are stationed in Veracruz and are loaded up in planes and flown to target areas without anyone knowing the destination or target except for maybe the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, and a handful of others including the Navy Admiral who commands the marines.
Chapo has been indicted by several American state and federal grand juries, and extradition is a possibility. That is mainly due to the fact that El Chapo was in a Mexican prison a decade ago and escaped by bribing a gaggle of prison officers so he could be rolled out in a laundry cart.
If the U.S. State Department is smart, they will arrange a special cell at the Florence, Colo., “Supermax” prison from which no one will ever escape. All participating in El Chapo’s bust deserve “attaboys,” including the President of Mexico whom everyone thought would ease up on the war on cartels started by former President Felipe Calderón eight years ago.
Of course, the bodies will pile up even higher now that Chapo is out of the picture. His competitors and his own people will fight it out for control of the billion-dollar business.
Supply and demand is the irrefutable law involved – that is, all American junkies know or care about is that they have the demand so someone must have the supply.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant. He was formerly with the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate. Contreras's books are available at Amazon.com