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In Mexico, escaped ‘El Chapo’ is folk hero no. 1

A protester holds a sign reading, 'We want Chapo free' during a march in Culiacan, Mexico in February 2014.

A protester holds a sign reading, 'We want Chapo free' during a march in Culiacan, Mexico in February 2014.   | Photo Credit: DANIEL BECERRIL

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The drug trafficker’s escape through a hidden tunnel has enhanced his status as a hero

When Jose Antonio Sevilla and his three brothers learned that the notorious drug trafficker known as ‘El Chapo’ had escaped from prison, they jumped out of their chairs and shouted with glee.

“'El Chapo got out! He’s the greatest of them all,'” said Mr. Sevilla (19), a self-professed fan of the drug kingpin, whose full name is Joaquin Guzman Loera. “He was famous before, but now he’s even more famous.”

Mr. Sevilla, an auto mechanic, was so excited that he attended a march through the streets of Culiacan, the capital of Guzman’s home state, this week to celebrate. He carried a sign a woman gave him, which read, “El Chapo is more of a President than Pena Nieto,” a reference to Mexico’s President, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Here in Sinaloa State, where Guzman was born, and even throughout other parts of Mexico, the drug trafficker’s stunning escape through a hidden tunnel under what was supposed to be the country’s most secure prison has enhanced his status as an outlaw folk hero.

For many Mexicans, he is an unusual combination of Robin Hood and billionaire.

He fought the law, and he won. He beat what many Mexicans see as a corrupt and feckless governing class.

In the cultural centre in Badiraguato, the main town in the municipality where Guzman grew up, there is a list of the “notable people” born in the area, including a general in the Mexican Revolution, a journalist, a lawyer and a congressman.

There is no mention of its most famous son, Guzman, but the centre’s director of events argues that El Chapo deserves to be on the list, too.

Guzman was born in the 1950s in a remote hamlet in the lumpy green mountains that are the backdrop to the State capital, in an area known as the Golden Triangle, which today is Mexico’s prime marijuana growing region.

Over the years, he rose through the ranks of Mexican drug gangs until he came to head the largest of them all, the Sinaloa cartel, named for the State where he continued to spend a good deal of time even as a wanted man. When he was arrested last year, the authorities found him at the Sinaloan beach resort of Mazatlan.

Guzman operates a vast international organisation. Forbes magazine has included him in its list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of more than $1 billion.

He escaped from prison once before, by some accounts hiding in a laundry cart, and his most recent breakout was highly elaborate: He passed through a sophisticated tunnel about a mile long, one equipped with lights, ventilation and even a motorcycle on rails to excavate the dirt. — New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 3:03:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/in-mexico-escaped-el-chapo-is-folk-hero-no-1/article7438974.ece

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