Brief thought exercise: is it really reasonable to think El Chapo will stay in prison this time?

The longest article written on the capture of El Chapo Guzman (at least in an American publication) ran in The New Yorker in early May, and pointedly addressed the fact there’s concern/mistrust among the Americans with regard to whether he’ll actually stay in prison this time. After all, he was in prison in 2001 (high-security then as well) and escaped:

Consider how El Chapo escaped in 2001 and see if you’d have faith in the current situation:

Mexico’s official story of Mr. Guzman’s escape goes like this: He befriended a prison maintenance worker named Javier Camberos. Mr. Guzman then told the guards who were on his payroll that Mr. Camberos was going to be smuggling some gold out of the prison in a laundry cart, and to not search the cart. But on the night of Jan. 19, 2001, Mr. Guzman hid in the cart as Mr. Camberos wheeled him out of the prison. Mr. Camberos is now in prison for helping the escape.

Many Mexicans believe prison officials essentially let Mr. Guzman walk out. It is difficult to know what really happened, partly because the prison’s camera surveillance tapes of that night were erased by prison officials. Jorge Tello, one of Mexico’s top security officials at the time, visited the prison on the day of the escape, after having heard rumors the capo might flee. Despite the visit, Mr. Guzman still managed to escape.

Mr. Tello, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, is now President Felipe Calderon’s top adviser in the war on drugs.

At one point a few years ago, you could make a case that El Chapo was among the 10 or so most powerful people in the world, and Mexico’s corruption is seemingly endemic, so this seems like an issue to monitor. (Sidebar: you could also argue that El Chapo is essentially a figurehead, since he’s been captured since February and I would doubt there’s any significant reduction in drug flow into the United States; maybe the real ‘most powerful person’ is ‘America’s demand for illegal drugs.’)

On the 2001 escape, El Chapo had been in prison for eight years; at this point it’s been a few months. It might be a “long play,” but would you reasonably think he’s going to stay in a Mexican prison for the entire remainder of his natural life?

Final note: if Sinoloa Cartel members were truly on Instagram and that led to some arrests, that’s both incredible and incredibly stupid all at once.



Ted Bauer