Meet "El Chapo" Guzman, the Mexican Drug Lord in Donald Trump's Crosshairs


If you haven't heard of the name yet, get used to it: You'll probably be seeing it as the title for an upcoming blockbuster film. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a Mexican drug kingpin who escaped from a maximum security prison and was recaptured last year, has slipped out once again, adding to a storyline with all the makings for a classic Hollywood prison break.

Who is he? To be sure, El Chapo is a force to be reckoned with: The 58-year-old is the head of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, an international drug trafficking and organized crime syndicate. The United States' intelligence community largely regards the cartel as the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. The organization has had a heavy hand in the bloody drug war that has ripped through Mexico, which has accounted for at least 100,000 lives and 22,000 disappearances in the last eight years, reports the Guardian.

Forbes reports that under Guzman's leadership, the Sinaloa cartel surpassed an annual revenue of over $3 billion, and was responsible for a quarter of all illegal drug trafficking through the Mexico-U.S border.

Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Trump's big target: Some people are using Guzman's second successful escape from prison as a symbol for much-needed action against the violent and widely networked international drug cartels based in Mexico. Some, such as Donald Trump, are using the moment as a chance at political gain, claiming that no other presidential candidate could possibly handle taking down such a slippery criminal. 

How he did it: On Saturday night, Guzman slipped away from the Altiplano prison, located 55 miles west of Mexico City, using a small opening to climb out from under the prison's shower cell and through a mile-long tunnel that leads away from the prison to a construction building.

The Associated Press reports the manhunt for Guzman began immediately after the drug lord slipped away from his nightly shower. Roadways were under heavy surveillance by the federal police and flights at the nearby Toluca airport were suspended. 

Photos have already surfaced allegedly showing Guzman post-escape, sent to El Blog del Narco by one of Guzman's sons. The images depict Guzman in the cockpit of a small plane and enjoying a beverage with a group of people. 

Marco Ugarte/AP

An experienced escape artist: The escape is perfectly fitting for the drug lord, whose cartel is notorious for using underground tunnels to smuggle drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. This isn't Guzman's first time at the rodeo, however: In 1993, he was arrested in Guatemala on charges of drug smuggling and extradited to Mexico for sentencing. 


Experts say Guzman is easily one of the most powerful leaders on the other side of the drug war. Michael S. Vigil, a former chief of international operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Associated Press, "We may never find him again. All the accolades that Mexico has received in their counter-drug efforts will be erased by this one event."

Guzman's escape from one of the most secure penitentiaries for a second time is a smack in the face to the Mexican government and its efforts in the country's ongoing drug war. Still, President Enrique Pena Nieto remains hopeful. He told the AP, "This represents without a doubt an affront to the Mexican state. But I also have confidence in the institutions of the Mexican state ... that they have the strength and determination to recapture this criminal."