Mexican Drug Lord Makes Forbes 'Most Powerful' List; Mexican President Doesn't

It seems reputed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán has gotten the best of Felipe Calderón again – this time, cracking the list of the world's most powerful people while the Mexican president missed the cut.

The billionaire leader of the Sinaloa cartel was named the 55th most powerful on the planet by Forbes magazine, which annually compiles the list. Calderón was on the outside looking in – even though his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, and the world's richest man and his countryman, Carlos Slim, made the list.

The drug trafficker dropped 14 places from two years ago when he sat 41st, right behind Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Guzmán and the Sinaloa cartel, along with the rival Zetas cartel, have been blamed for much of the violence in Mexico, which ramped up when Calderón declared a war on organized crime shortly after taking office in 2006.

Since then around 40,000 people have been killed in the ensuing violence.

The Sinaloa cartel leader has remained a shadowy figure, despite being ranked as the 937th richest man in the world  by Forbes in 2010. Since his 1993 escape from prison, Guzmán has eluded Mexican authorities by hiding deep in the mountains near Mexico’s Pacific coast and surrounding himself with a large retinue of bodyguards.

The United States has placed a $5 million bounty on Guzmán’s head and allege that the “world’s most wanted man” is responsible for the majority of cocaine and marijuana entering the U.S. from Mexico and Colombia.

President Calderón has been roundly criticized for his government’s actions in the drug war, the war’s enormous body count and the fact that Guzmán is still not in custody. With the next year’s presidential elections fast approaching, there is concern within Calderón’s conservative National Action Party (PAN by its Spanish-language acronym) that his legacy could hurt the party’s chances of victory against the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ruled the country for seven decades prior to 2000.

The other two Latin Americans on the list posted much higher than Guzmán; Rousseff ranked 22nd, and Slim was one spot behind her.

Rousseff’s star has risen since her inauguration as the BRIC-country leader back in January. In September she became the first woman to open the United Nations General Assembly and she has become a major player in the debate over the global financial crisis, warning Europe against harsh austerity plans.

Two notable Latin American leaders who had been on the list last time but failed to make the cut this year were Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both of whom are currently being treated for cancer.

Based on reporting by Forbes. 

Andrew O'Reilly can be reached at andrew.o' or follow him on Twitter: @aoreilly84

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