El Chapo Used Kids as Human Shields and Called 13-Year Old Girls His "Vitamins". What's the Story Behind the Mexican Drug Lord?
The legacy of the former cartel leader of Sinaloa is now in the hands of his sons. Blood continues to be spilled on the streets of Mexico despite his incarceration.
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Only a few have entered the world of drug cartels like the dreaded Joaquín Guzmán a.k.a. El Chapo. In the Mexico there were songs being made about him in which he came across as a hero. In reality he was a cold-blooded criminal and sex offender.
He would rape girls, some of whom were only 13 years old, and tortured members of hostile cartels in the most brutal ways. However, with cameras around, he'd try to act like a gentleman.
El Chapo was once interviewed by actor Sean Penn, claiming he's in no way a cartel leader. Lies and manipulations were very typical of him. In order to keep his freedom, he would do practically anything. Once he even allegedly used a child as a "human shield".
His mother smilingly described him as an ambitious boy
The man had no mercy. He would beat his opponents until their bones would break, iron clothes into their skin, or bury them alive. However, when his daughters came to support him in court, he showed his soft side and couldn't help crying.
He was also known as a king of escapes, with a network of underground tunnels that always brought him to safety. Once in prison, he managed to bribe dozens of guards and even the director of the prisons. He had a faithful wife and cartel gangsters on his side who dug right under his cell to help him escape to freedom.
He's definitely not a robust criminal himself. Only about 164 centimeters tall (hence the nickname El Chapo, which translates as "shorty"), but in contrast to his small figure is his extremely large ego. Joaquín Guzmán's mother said of her son, the eldest of seven siblings, that he had been full of ambition since day one. He grew up in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which became famous for his brutal drug cartel in later years.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, El Chapo said that he entered the world of drugs when he was only 15 years old, growing marijuana with his family. Although he claims to be aware of the devastating effects of drugs, he sees the business as a way to "survive and make a living" in Mexico. In a cynical way, he called it a "part of the culture."
In the 70s, he began to build his position within the hierarchy of the Sinaloa cartel, becoming one of its main leaders together with Héctor Palm Salazar in the following years.
Drug cartels in Mexico initially focused mainly on the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. Later they incorporated heroin, methamphetamine and, most of all, cocaine, supplied by Colombian cartels.
Sinaloa was part of a group of Mexican cartels in the 80s led by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the head of Guadalajare, according to the BBC. During the reign of Felix Gallardo, the cartels worked together effectively, but after his arrest in 1989, everything fell apart and the gangs started to each do their own thing.
That was the time for El Chapo to show what he's got. He came up with a new way of smuggling drugs through underground tunnels and thanks to that he smuggled record volumes of drugs into the U.S.
Cartel conflicts and chopping off heads
So shortly after the fall of Felix Gallardo, the Sinaloa cartel went to war with gangsters of Tijuana, whose drug underworld was ruled by the Arellano-Felix family. The conflict between the cartels had a number of victims on both sides of the barricade, but also in the ranks of innocent civilians, police officers and journalists.
Even the children of Héctor Palma and his wife, whose head was chopped off, fell victims to the conflict. Bullet-pierced bodies and streets filled with blood on the regular. As a result, however, the Sinaloa cartel was winning. By 2006, most of the Arellano-Felix family leaders had been shot or arrested.
Before Tijuana lost its strength, El Chapo got locked up in prison and his story as a master of escapes started to unfold. The Tijuana cartel inadvertently shot Bishop Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampa instead of El Chapo in one of the 1993 shootings, according to CNN.
The Mexican authorities recovered from their long hibernation, put up a multi-million reward for El Chapo, and he ended up behind bars the very same year. Sentenced to 20 years in prison, El Chapo still didn't plead guilty. He insistingly claimed that he had nothing to do with drug cartels and that he made a living as a farmer.
Two years later, Héctor Palma was arrested. Unlike El Chapo, he was taken to the United States, which made him disappear from the scene entirely. El Chapo has managed to bribe almost all of the guards in the mexican prison and even the director, who eventually helped him escape.
He's spent a total of 8 years among convicts in the highest security prison in Puente Grande. One version claims that his accomplices smuggled him outside the prison gates in a laundry trolley, where he was hiding.
The more likely version, however, is that he bribed enough guards and that he simply walked away in a uniform of a police officer or prison employee. "Coincidentally" there is no camera recording of his escape. According to the author of the book The Last Narco, an incredible amount of 78 people were involved in his master plan.
Sex with minors was what he considered his "vitamins"
When he got out in 2001, he began to enjoy life to the fullest. To stay free, he was willing to do virtually anything. For example, during one of the raids, when Chapo noticed a helicopter flying towards him, he allegedly grabbed a child just so they couldn't shoot him, according to The New York Times.
Thanks to his network of informants, corrupt officials and police officers, he has managed to escape justice for 13 years. During that time, he invested his bloody millions in private ZOO or multiple homes in every Mexican state, for example. For obvious reasons, he always made sure they were someone else's on paper.
Allegedly, he also had President Peña Nieto on his payroll. He bribed him with 100 million dollars in 2012, supposedly, but the former President denied it. He also used the money to write a reward for those who searched for him for many years. He estimated the DEA agent Jack Riley's life at 100,000 dollars, which he planned to pay out to the person who'd kill him.
Among other things, he enjoyed sex to a great extent. He craved women like drug addicts crave another hit. The fact that he's father to 19 children, whom he had with at least 6 different women, is a testimony of his appetite, reports The New York Post. Other sources, such as The Sun, estimate the number of his children between 15 and 24.
Among his mistresses were not only adult prostitutes, but also underage girls, whom he allegedly called "vitamins". Because they gave him life. The youngest of them were said to be only 13 years old. The Guardian writes that in some cases, he gave the girls drugs to make them loosen up and sexually abused them. One underage girl ended up costing him about 5,000 dollars.
Tunnel right under the prison cell
Sinaloa wasn't only fighting Tijuana, but also the cartel in Juárez. One of the leaders was Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, who, according to a gang-affiliated witness, El Chapo had killed in 2014 because he refused to shake his hand, as stated on ABC Net.
Chapo also came into conflict with the Beltrán Leyva cartel, led by five brothers. Their struggles took off in a major way, especially after they killed Chapo's son Edgar in 2008.
Sinaloa cartel's boss managed his operations as a free man all the way until 2014, when he got locked up again. This time, however, he refused to spend 8 long years in prison. Thanks to his accomplices, he managed to get out through an approximately 1,500-meter-long tunnel, which lead from the construction site, undermined directly under his cell.
He himself claims that God, whom he asked for help, helped him at that time. The footage from his cell shows that God didn't have anything to do with it at all, but his cartel friends did. El Chapo's wife and sons allegedly also took part in the mission.
One evening in early July 2015, prison staff saw him on a security camera entering the shower area where he spent good dozens of minutes. When they came to check on him, they realized that he was gone.
Networks of tunnels were El Chapo's specialty. One of his mistresses later said in court that he had managed to escape from the police in 2014 through a tunnel under his bathroom, as stated on Insider. The cartel boss was in such a hurry that he didn't even have the time to get dressed and ran completely naked through the long tunnel under the bathroom.
I'm not violent, I'm just defending myself
After his escape from prison, his ego got the best of him. Instead of keeping his mouth shut and staying on the down low, he appeared on camera. In October 2015, he was interviewed by the well-known Hollywood actor Sean Penn. They've met because the actress Kate del Castillo came up to El Chapo in order to make a biographical documentary about him. The drug baron was very fond of her, so he agreed.
In the interview with Sean Penn, El Chapo absolutely downplayed his criminal activities. He alibistically denied any responsibility for the growth of drug addiction, arguing that if it wasn't for him, his job would surely be done by someone else. In addition, he stated that he did not consider himself a violent person.
Chapo's former bodyguard Isaias Valdez Rios, would certainly disagree with this statement. For The Rolling Stone, he described how his boss singlehandedly beat up and shot two men from a rival gang.
"They were like rag dolls, they ground up the bones. They couldn't move. And Joaquín still beat them with a stick and a weapon," he described the brutal torture of the men. The bodies of the murdered gangsters were subsequently burned by his boss's people.
According to the witness, he also tortured a member of the Arellano-Felix cartel by attaching an iron to his body, burning his T-shirt to his skin. In the end, he decided to cause him even more suffering and buried him alive.
So El Chapo was definitely not the angel he pretended to be. "Look, all I do is defend myself. Nothing more. But to look for problems? Never," he said. Chapo even denied running a cartel in Sinaloe because the people who "dedicated their lives to this activity do not depend on him" and that his activities "have no effect on Mexico."
Tears in the eyes of a heartless criminal
He only got a bit of fresh air after the July 2015 escape, since he got caught again in early 2016. Allegedly, his hiding place was revealed because of the meeting of Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn.
The actor clearly denied this in an interview for 60 minutes and complained that he could be threatened with retaliation by the Sinaloa cartel due to such false statements by the Mexican authorities. However, he did say with certainty in his voice that he was not afraid and that he was not aware that anyone was following them on the way to El Chapo.
The drug lord was eventually transferred from Mexico to the USA, where he's serving life sentence. Once he reached the States, he understood that they won't take it easy on him.
He could no longer rely on help from his accomplicess and corrupt Mexican officials. The Sun has published a video of his arrest with tears in his eyes. According to NBC News, he couldn't help but cry when his 7-year-old daughters came to support him in court.
His partner at the time, Emma Coronel Aispur, also participated in the trials. She met El Chapo at a party organized by her father when she was only 17, according to the New York Post. One year later, the 18-year-old Emma married the 52-year-old El Chapo.
The accusations against her husband allegedly didn't affect her at all. She turned off comments on her Instagram profile so that no one could publicly remind her of El Chapo's life. In her bio she stated that she won't react to any DM's.
In February 2021, she was arrested by the police on suspicion of helping El Chapo in his last escape from prison and allegedly being involved in the cartel's activities. A few months later, she confessed and began cooperating.
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Sinaloa without the old leader
El Chapo claimed that the drug business would continue with or without him, and he was right. Once you cut off a Hydra head, a new one grows out. In the case of Mexican drug cartels, this is a common rule that will most likely never change. Despite the imprisonment of many drug lords, the business in the industry keeps going regardless.
Chapo's sons Ovidio Guzman, Ivan Archivaldo and Jesus Alfredo (also called Los Chapitos by their father's nickname), are currently involved in the Sinaloa cartel, informs The Sun with a link to the Mexican portal Infobae. Boss of the Sinaloa cartel is currently Ismael Zambada alias El Mayo, who belongs to the old school, but has disputes with the young generation of Los Chapitos.
The new cartel is no less brutal than El Chapo's times. Still down to to torture, murder and hang the opponents bodies in public places as a warning. However, the opposing cartel The Jalisco New Generation is in the same lane. They are known, to rip hearts out of their enemies chests, amongst other things.
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