Latin America & Caribbean

No, El Chapo has not escaped from prison a third time

Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, May 2016 Image copyright Reuters

It would have been a great story, except that it wasn't true.

Another escape for El Chapo, Mexico's most famous drug lord, would have made it a hat trick. He has already given two maximum security prisons the slip.

And on Friday his name trended worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of people sharing gifs, memes and jokes about his tricksy ways and supposed third escape.

But no reputable media organisation was reporting that he had got out.

The story wasn't on the front pages of any of Mexico's main newspapers and none of the news agencies were reporting it.

El Chapo is still behind bars in Mexico, his extradition to the US halted for now.

So why has his name been trending?

Spoof stories is why.

Several different websites published stories saying El Chapo had escaped again. One of the websites has since apologised, but others have not.

And people just kept sharing and sharing and sharing.

Sometimes people don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Image copyright @psykiegasm
Image copyright @leyvaosmani
Image copyright @N_McCutcheon13

It wasn't the first time that unsubstantiated rumours of El Chapo's escape circled the internet.

But at least some people do check their sources.

Image copyright @bansky

Amen, Boogie Bousins: here's to finding out the full story.

And in that vein, let me tell you more about El Chapo Guzman.


Who is he and why is he in jail?

  • Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
  • Major drug lord in Mexico in the 1980s

With him at the head, the Sinaloa Cartel quickly grew a reputation as the most powerful drugs cartel in the world. Even today, slightly overtaken by its rival the Zetas, it still smuggles a huge proportion of the US' drugs in to the country. Cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines all are smuggled across borders by organisations with far-reaching tendrils.

Who is El Chapo?

The long arm of the law caught up with El Chapo in the early 1990s and he has been in and out of jail since.

Meanwhile, violence related to drugs has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Mexico as rival cartels fight against each other.

Who is behind Mexico's drug violence?


Escape Number 1, 2001:

El Chapo was smuggled out of Puente Grande maximum security prison inside a laundry basket. He bribed guards to help get him out and some of them served time in jail as a result.

It was 13 years before he was captured again.


Escape Number 2, 2015

Just over a year after he was put in Altiplano prison, El Chapo escaped through a 1.5km (1 mile) tunnel dug in the showers.

It was a massive embarrassment for the Mexican government and caused difficulties between them and the US, who wanted to see him stay banged up.

He was recaptured in January 2016.


Escape Number 3:

Hasn't happened.


What's this about extradition?

Guzman is wanted in the US on charges of smuggling vast amounts of drugs into the country. At first a Mexican judge said he could be sent there, but in June, a judge blocked the extradition while his lawyers filed appeals.

So El Chapo is still in jail in Mexico.