I'm going to take a break from looking at Mexican cartel expansion again today because of a thought I had last night as I went to sleep. I was wondering what goes through the minds of Chapo and police chief Genaro Garcia Luna as they doze off each night.
Chapo, it's said, is more paranoid than ever. He doesn't trust anyone except El Mayo. Army helicopters buzzing overhead in the hills of Sinaloa and Durango, he must know that he can't continue this forever. He's nearly 55 years old, and has been on the run for 9 years. It must be taking its toll. (There was a rumor a while back that he had prostate cancer; but the authorities denied any knowledge of this). Former DEA chief of operations Michael Braun thinks he'll be caught or killed by mid-April.
But Chapo can't exactly stop. Due to his self-admitted determination never to return to prison or poverty, he's stuck on the run, running his business. In addition, I don't think he's in a position to really negotiate a deal with the authorities, whereby he would feed more info and stay untouched. The reason: he's already supposedly betrayed the Beltran Leyva brothers, the only people he could now betray are his closest allies, who wouldn't let him get to that point. Amado Carrillo Fuentes, in the days before his death from plastic surgery, tried to cut various deals, but found no buyers for similar reasons. He ended up dead after a botched plastic surgery operation.
What is going through Chapo's head right now? Is he counting the days, or just counting the money as usual? My guess is the latter: a man like him will go to the grave making money, it's his obsession, it's his need for control, it's his life's work. There is absolutely no reason for him to quit now, when he could have quit five years ago with the same amount of money.
And what about Garcia Luna? A year or so ago he told a visiting reporter that he wouldn't give up the drug fight, because it's his "life's work." He's been accused of corruption (unproven) and his consolidation of power has displeased many critics. His aides are said to be as paranoid as Chapo's, in large part because of his controlling, obsessive nature. A handful of his closest men have died in the drug war; although federal police killings have slowed this year and last, they always know they're in danger. I had a conversation with one recently, one of Garcia Luna's men, and all he could keep repeating in his paranoid state was that if you know anything, "they kill you, they fucking kill you."
Tragic but very true.
Garcia Luna is still in his late 40s, I believe. Mexico largely distrusts him; even the DEA has questioned his integrity in public. He must be tired, frustrated. And my thinking is that if he were to quit now, as other top security officials have done before him, the rumours would swirl that he was indeed corrupt. Imagine that being your life's work.
PS - As a reader commented, I omitted Costa Rica from my list of Latin American nations where Mexican cartels have a presence. Good point, thanks; I didn't mean to leave out Costa Rica simply because it's more peaceful and stable than so many other nations in the region – it actually could serve as a perfect hub for drug activity. It has no army, a not-so adept police corps, and large swaths of unpatrolled territory – ie, it's perfect for drug trafficking. There have been several reports of Mexican cartel activity in Costa Rica in the past two years; one even suggested the Sinaloa cartel runs the show down there.