Central Asia / Foreign Policy / National Security

With Bin Laden Dead, Who is the Most Wanted Man?


Mexican Billionaire, the most powerful drug trafficker in the world, and recently announced Chicago’s public enemy no. 1 – “El Chapo” – is the world’s most wanted man.

Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) was born into a poor family in Mexico and sold organs as a child. El Chapo’s education ended in the third grade and he has since struggled to read and write. His father, probably a rancher, might have grown opium, but beyond that little else is known about his youth.

In the early 1980s, El Chapo was introduced to the Mexican godfather of the drug world, Miguel Felix, and put in charge of drug trafficking logistics. He rose in prominence within the organization and upon the capture of Felix he gained control and became the kingpin for the Sinaloa Cartel – Mexico’s largest drug cartel.

At 58 years old, he has achieved a comparably long tenure. The flashy, glamorous drug business leads to a very short life expectancy, because you are a target not only for police and rival drug lords, but also your own men.

Capturing El Chapo was not enough to stop him either. In 2001, after five years of imprisonment, he escaped from a Mexican maximum security prison by hiding in the bottom of a laundry basket. His master escape plan involved bribing almost everyone in the prison and could have cost him upwards of two and a half million dollars. It is rumored he tipped off local police forces just to give him an hour head start.

His escape and ability to survive has turned him into a local legend where myth, ballads, music and truth get mingled. He is often portrayed as a local hero, and not as a murderous drug dealer.

His work is nothing short of extraordinary. He starts by buying a kilo of cocaine in Peru or Columbia for $2,000 dollars, watches its value rise to $10,000 in Mexico and then sees it explode in value in the U.S.to $30,000. And when divided up, that kilo on the streets could sell upwards of $100,000.

And that is just cocaine. El Chapo, like any good businessman, has a diverse portfolio and knows not to rely on any single commodity. He produces and transports marijuana, meth and heroin, taking advantage of their differences to maximize profits.

The Sinaloa Cartel’s transportation quantity is comparable to that of FedEx or UPS; the main difference is that no one can know about Sinaloa’s cargo.

El Chapo uses any means possible to get his precious cargo to his highly dependent consumers: tunnels, airplanes, car parts, cans, rivers, catapults, marijuana fields in the U.S. mountains – whatever it takes.

With a diverse investment portfolio, and countless transportation methods, it is not surprising that he has even dabbled in marketing. It is believed that he sent two kilos of meth to Chicago to give out to his costumers for free. Meth’s highly addictive qualities probably made the small upfront cost pay millions in dividends.

However, El Chapo’s ability to do what he does comes mostly from a larger, overshadowing drug problem facing the U.S. and Mexico

The U.S. blames Mexican officials for not cracking down on drug control while Mexican sentiments can be best understood by former general and president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz’s words: “Poor Mexico; so far from God, so close to the United States.”

Killing El Chapo will only be a slight hiccup to the drug cartels. The huge U.S. drug demand will maintain the willingness for many to keep the drugs coming.

El Chapo is merely the face of a much deeper problem, while he might be the most wanted man, the true culprit might just be “we the people.”