Latin America & Caribbean

'El Chapo' Guzman: Profile of notorious drugs boss

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is paraded before the media after his arrest Image copyright Reuters
Image caption For a second time, Mexico has recaptured Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after a prison break

Mexican drugs kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is back behind bars after an audacious escape that embarrassed the Mexican authorities and frayed relations with the US.

It was the second time he managed to flee jail and evade police. Here is the story of the poor farmer's son who became one of the world's wealthiest drugs lords.

Who is he?

Born in 1957 to a family of farmers, Guzman's first exposure to drug trafficking came while working in marijuana and opium poppy fields.

An apprenticeship of sorts followed under Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, also known as the Godfather. Guzman was tasked with contacting Colombian traffickers.

His rise was swift, setting up his own cartel, the Sinaloa, in the late 1980s, thought to be responsible for a quarter of all drugs entering the US via Mexico.

After narrowly escaping assassination by a rival gang in 1993, he was arrested by Mexican authorities and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

A profile from the Mexican attorney general's office described him as "egocentric, narcissistic, shrewd, persistent, tenacious, meticulous, discriminating, and secretive", according to the New Yorker.

How did he break out of jail twice?

Guzman's first escape came in 2001, from the Puente Grande maximum security prison, reportedly hidden in a laundry basket.

He used his 13 years at large to consolidate his empire before being arrested in Sinaloa state.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Guzman's most recent escape was through a tunnel in his prison cell

But in July 2015, after less than two years at the Altiplano prison in central Mexico he fled again, this time through a 1.5km-long (one mile-long) tunnel.

The escape was elaborate, and carefully planned. A hole was dug inside his cell which led to a tunnel with lighting, ventilation and stairs. A construction site outside the jail hid the exit.

What is his reputation?

Even for a country that produced numerous drugs lords, Guzman has a fearsome reputation for violence, with his gang's rivalries with others leaving thousands dead in Mexico's drugs war.

But among some in his home state, Guzman is a folk hero, a popular subject of "narcocorridos" - musical tributes to drugs barons.

Image caption Sinoloa souvenir sellers have been selling El Chapo merchandise

He is said to be a gourmand, walking into a restaurant with his bodyguards while still at large, asking other diners to give up their mobile phones, then paying everyone's bill as he left.

Forbes magazine has estimated Guzman's fortune at about $1bn (£0.6bn).

"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world," he is quoted as telling Rolling Stone magazine in an interview published on 9 January 2016.

"I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats," he says in the interview conducted by Hollywood actor Sean Penn at a hideout while he was on the run in October 2015.

Guzman defends his entry into the narcotics trade, saying there "was no other way to work in our economy, to be able to make a living".

As for the prevalence of drug addiction, he denies responsibility.

"The day I don't exist, it's not going to decrease in any way at all."

Why is he such a problem for the Mexican authorities?

That one of the world's most wanted men could escape from his own cell in what was supposed to be a maximum-security prison was hugely embarrassing for the Mexican authorities.

His escape came after explicit promises he would not be allowed to flee again.

Questions were raised whether he had help from the inside, with several prison officials arrested.

His success in evading capture during his two escapes points to continuing problems of collusion and corruption as Mexico attempts to wrestle power back from drugs gangs.

Why is the US interested in him?

The US filed requests in 2014 for his extradition so he could face charges of smuggling vast amounts of drugs into the country before he last escaped from prison.

Guzman, who was named Public Enemy Number One by the Chicago Crime Commission in 2013, has been indicted by at least seven US federal district courts.

At the time Mexico would not grant the request until Guzman served the remainder of his prison sentence.

But Mexico announced on 9 January that it would begin proceedings to have him sent to the US, though that decision is likely to be strongly contested by his legal team. Guzman's lawyers have already filed six motions against extradition.

If he does end up in the US, he could face racketeering, drug-trafficking, money-laundering and murder charges, according to the Department of Justice.

Media caption''El Chapo'' was shown to the media following his recapture, six months after he broke out of a maximum security prison

Mexican authorities may now have concluded that the only way to guarantee Guzman does not escape again would be to send him to the US.

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