The Sinaloan Shorty and his Six Month Sojourn from a Maximum Security Prison

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The escape was planned / With no chance of failure / Because that’s how the big guys roll, / Like El Chapo Guzman.

He spent his millions [in bribes] / And now is free / You can hear echoes of a band playing / And the firing of [AK-47s]

So go looking for someone / Who looks just like him. / Because the real Chapo, / You’ll never see again.

These lyrics of a narcocorrido, a genre of upbeat folk music which describes the drug lords in Mexico, written by the musical group Los Tucanes de Tijuana glorify the legend of the most wanted man in Mexico, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. This song describes El Chapo, meaning ‘shorty’ in Spanish, and his escape from the Altiplano maximum security prison in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico in July 2015 and illustrates the narcoculture in Mexico that romanticizes drug trafficking while portraying the drug lords as heroes.

While this idea may seem bizarre to Americans, many citizens of Sinaloa view El Chapo as Robin Hood, who gives the impoverished citizens in the state the money, services, jobs and protection that the government fails to provide. One citizen in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, said to the New York Times that “El Chapo is more of a president than Peña Nieto.”

However, not all Mexican citizens have such a fond opinion about the drug lord. Following the capture of this infamous criminal, President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted, “Mission accomplished: We have him.”

A Mexican senior law enforcement official told CNN  that the Mexican navy entered the home where Guzman had been in hiding for the last six month in Los Mochis, Sinaloa at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 8. The navy encountered gunfire from inside and ultimately five suspects died and six were arrested. However, during the shoot out between the navy and the other members of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Guzman and one of his aides escaped through a manhole, which led to the sewer tunnels. After making it out of the sewer tunnel, Guzman stole a car and the Mexican authorities caught him on a highway outside the city.

This is a big win for the Mexican government, not just because this stopped one of their biggest criminals but because the capture of Guzman proves the legitimacy of the government and law enforcement.

Guzman’s escape from maximum security prison in July highlighted the corruption in the government. Hollywood romanticizes prison escapes by showing the criminal individually laboring over his intricate plan to tunnel his way out with power tools and stolen maps. Guzman practically rode his motorcycle out of prison while waving good-bye to his prison guards. (Okay, that is an exaggeration but it is not truly that far off from what actually happened.)

Guzman climbed down through a two-by-two foot hole in his shower which led to a mile long tunnel elaborately designed with lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle on rails. The tunnel led to a construction site in Santa Juanita where two small planes waited to fly him away to San Juan del Rio.

This all occurred while the two officers assigned to watch Guzman played solitaire on their computers as sounds of hammering reverberated through the prison. The guards initially claimed their computers froze but video clearly showed the guards just sitting there playing games on the computer. After Guzman had left his cell, it took the guards 18 minutes to finally reach the cell and investigate, which they did calmly and without much care as illustrated in the video footage.

Guzman did not accomplish this massive stunt alone. Twenty people were arrested for their involvement in the crime including the two pilots, the person who built the tunnel, Guzman’s lawyer, and other prison officials.

A July poll in the newspaper Reforma showed that 88 percent of Mexicans believed that this escape was an inside job and 65 percent of citizens believed it was the fault of the authorities’ incompetence rather than Guzman’s cunning and intelligence.

Now I imagine you can understand why this was such a blow to President Nieto’s authority and legitimacy as a leader.

However, even though they caught the drug lord, the search for Guzman only further echoed the incompetence and corruption of the law enforcement officials. Several sightings of him occurred during the six months he remained out of prison and Guzman even tweeted, “It could be that something that has only happened once will never be repeated. But anything that happens twice, will certainly occur a third time.”

In October, the Mexican navy and other forces spotted Guzman in the city of Cosala but since he was with a girl, the authorities didn’t want to pursue him. Later, when spotted with a child, they did chase him until he fell off a small cliff and broke his leg. His bodyguards raced down the cliff and carried him off.

I find it humorous that the Mexican navy in coordination with other forces could not capture the 200 lb. criminal with a broken leg or his bodyguards who carried him away. Really? How fast could those bodyguards run away with him?

To be honest, I do not buy it.

The icing on the cake of this story was that the only reason Guzman was captured was that United States officials intercepted Guzman’s calls with filmmakers and actors about producing a biopic about himself.

It is clear now why the narcocorrido bands do not believe the Mexican government could ever capture this man: he can buy them all off. With an estimated net worth of over a billion dollars, Guzman can persuade any law enforcement official to look the other way and he has won the favor of the impoverished citizens in his community by providing them social services that Nieto cannot.

Although Guzman said anything that happens twice could happen a third time, his extradition to the United States will hopefully ensure that he does not escape a third time (the first time happened in 2001 when he escaped through a laundry basket). But, if the extradition fails as his lawyers will attempt to do, there is a great likelihood that once again Guzman will make a laughing stock out of the Mexican police and Nieto.

If anything, a third escape from prison will just add to his cult fame and will give the narcocorrido bands much more material to write their songs about.

Commentaries are the expressed opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of The Fourcast staff, its adviser or any member of the Hockaday community.

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Mary Orsak

Mary Orsak

Mary is an avid bibliophile, politico and a lover of law and crime TV shows.

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