Today marks ten years since Chapo Guzman escaped from Puente Grande penitentiary in Jalisco. Ten years, he's been Mexico's most-wanted man, on the run from the law.
They've almost caught him a few times, but it's always been close but no cigar.
In 2007, when I moved to Mexico and started reporting on the drug war, everyone had written Chapo off. He was 50 at the time, and everyone from the attorney general to reporters told me that he was finished, just a symbolic figure now.
Perhaps. But when I looked at his past, I saw how time and time again he had escaped capture, rebounded, struck alliances and waged war at the right time. He couldn't be dismissed, I thought. He'll be the last one standing (hence the title of my book, The Last Narco – no, he's not the last of all narcos, or capos, but he's the last of a certain breed, thanks in large part to mexican law enforcement efforts to decapitate and disrupt the cartels and also thanks to the internal reorganization of the cartels themselves)
Who has survived this phase of the military-led drug war? Chapo. Who has managed to outwit DEA intelligence thus far? Chapo. Who controls the majority of drug trafficking in Mexico today? Chapo. Whose organization is the strongest drug trafficking syndicate in the world today? Chapo's.
The Associated Press this week has a story headlined "Mexico's 'El Chapo' thrives 10 years after escape." (Link in title of post.)
Mexican officials insist that Chapo will be caught, soon. They are on his tail, they say. He is a priority, once again, they insist.
They really have to catch him, US officials say, otherwise their efforts against other cartels in recent years will appear somewhat futile. If they don't catch Chapo and his crew, said former DEA adminstrator Robert Bonner in a recent AP story, the Sinaloa cartel "would end up being the only criminal organization in Mexico, intolerably powerful and corruptive... You have to bring them all down... Sinaloa can be last, but you have to destroy the organization. You have to.”