Early reports are rolling in, saying that one of the world’s most notorious drug kingpins, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera may have been killed in a shootout in Guatemala. El Chapo (also called “Shorty”) started working within the drug cartels in the 1980s and quickly worked his way up in the ranks of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Spanish language news website Azteca Noticias explains that a firefight in the town of San Francisco, in central Petén, Guatemala may have left Guzman among the casualties. The country’s Interior Minister says that officials are investigating whether or not El Chapo was killed in the clash.
Informador.com confirms that at least 4 people were killed in the shootout, and many think El Chapo was one of them. Some journalists, however doubt the reports and say El Chapo is not dead. Obviously, more information is needed, but many questions open up as a result of the rumors.
Forbes.com reported that the Mexican billionaire, who has amassed a fortune selling drugs in the United States, was recently named “Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1”—a title also awarded to Al Cappone in the 1930s.
According to Forbes:
Guzman is accused of trafficking 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms of cocaine through Chicago each month. Although he doesn’t live in Chicago and is never known to have visited the Windy City, he faces federal charges for drug trafficking in collaboration with 35 other defendants. The Northern District of Illinois is seeking the forfeiture of more than $1.8 billion in cash proceeds through its indictment against him. Chicago Crime Commission’s Bilek said Guzman is a greater threat than Capone ever was. “If I was to put those two guys in a ring, El Chapo would eat that guy (Capone) alive,” Bilek said, according to the AP.
In 2001 he bribed his way out of a high security prison in Mexico. He is thought to be hiding in the Mexican Pacific coastal state of Sinaloa or the Sierra Madre mountains in the neighboring state of Durango. He has bought protection from local and federal authorities and has become a popular folk hero among the rural population.
The U.S. State Department also has a $5 million dollar bounty on Guzman, who is considered the most wanted man in the world. According to ABC News, it is assumed someone has been tipping Guzman off as to the FBI and Mexican government’s next move:
Time and again, the U.S. provides Mexican law enforcement with precise intelligence about the safe houses where Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, is hiding. And every time the Mexicans raid a house, the man that the U.S. government calls “the most powerful drug trafficker in the world” manages to escape at the last minute through the back door.
If these reports of Guzman’s death prove to be true, this could be a major coup for drug enforcement in the USA and abroad. However, it is hard to imagine that capturing one man who has been on the run will make much of a dent in the amount of illegal narcotics which make their way into the United States.
What do you think? Would the death or capture of Guzman make a difference in the supply of drugs to the United States?
What does the international uproar over El Chapo’s possible death say about the cult of criminal celebrity?
What do you think the USA should be doing to keep illegal drugs from being smuggled in?
UPDATE: Friday, Feb 22, 2013 11:45am EST:
Fox News Latino reports that mixed reports are coming out of the Guatemalan officials regarding El Chapo, leading some to fear that even if the drug lord were dead, the cartel would find a way to keep that information from the public. From Fox News Latino:
“We have to wait for all the technical information in order to determine if, in fact, one of the dead is of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán,” Cuevas said.
Later, Cuevas told Mexico’s Televisa network that authorities hadn’t yet found a body or the scene where reports said a shootout took place. He never said what led officials to think that one of the dead men might be Guzmán.
But Interior Department spokeswoman Carla Herrera said that one of the victims physically resembled the drug lord. She said officials had asked the Mexican government to send Guzmán’s fingerprints to compare them to the man found inside a vehicle and to send them to investigators.
However, Herrera’s boss, Lopez Bonilla, told the AP that it was residents of the town of San Francisco who had told officials of a gun battle and reported that one of the people killed looked like Guzmán.