Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has a grass to grace tale although it does not have a happy ending.
Joaquin Guzman has recounted that he had humble beginnings, selling oranges and candy when he was a child in his hometown in Mexico‘s northwestern mountains.
The man nicknamed "El Chapo," or Shorty for his small stature, eventually graduated to the more lucrative fields of marijuana and opium poppies, growing into the world’s most wanted drug lord.
During Guzman’s reign, his Sinaloa drug cartel’s empire expanded across the globe, its tentacles stretching from the Americas to Europe and Asia.
After two legendary prison breaks, Guzman was finally corralled by Mexican marines in January 2016 and extradited to the United States on Thursday, ending his decades-long cat-and-mouse game with the authorities.
While his cartel is synonymous with violence and drug addictions, Guzman became a legend of Mexico’s underworld, with musicians singing his praises in folk ballads known as "narcocorridos," tributes to drug capos.
He fooled the government with his cartel’s engineering feats, building tunnels to ship drugs under the US-Mexico border and help him escape the authorities.
While he has nurtured a Robin Hood image back home, his cartel fought bloody turf wars with rivals, contributing to the drug conflicts plaguing Mexico.
Guzman grew so rich that he was on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, but he dropped out in 2013 after spending much of his wealth on protection.
"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats," Guzman boasted to Sean Penn in a clandestine meeting that they had and that the US actor wrote about for Rolling Stone magazine last year.
Guzman said in a video message to Penn that his family was "very humble, very poor" and that his mom made bread in the village of La Tuna.
"I sold oranges, I sold soft drinks, I sold candy," he said, claiming he entered the drug business at age 15 because there were "no job opportunities."
"The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age, I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it," he said.
Guzman was born on April 4, 1957, in Badiraguato, a municipality known as the cradle of several drug lords.
He was recruited by Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as "The Godfather" of Mexico’s modern drug cartels.
After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise. But he had enemies.
A gunfight in May 1993 at the airport of Guadalajara killed the western city’s archbishop, Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, allegedly because he was mistaken for Guzman.
He was arrested in Guatemala in June 1993. Eight years later, he pulled off his first prison break, sneaking out inside a laundry cart in 2001.
It took 13 years for the authorities to grab him again, in February 2014, in a condo in the Sinaloa resort of Mazatlan, where he was hiding with his wife, Emma Coronel, and their US-born twin daughters.
But 17 months later, Guzman fled again, humiliating President Enrique Pena Nieto‘s administration.
This time, his henchmen had built a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel that opened in his cell’s shower. He zoomed out by hopping on a modified motorcycle mounted on rails.
But it only took six months for the marines to catch him again in Los Mochis, a coastal town in Sinaloa.
Officials say his soft spot for Mexican-American actress Kate del Castillo led to his downfall.
Mexican officials leaked to the media phone intercepts of his flirtatious text messages to the star, who brokered Guzman’s meeting with Penn in October 2015.
Guzman married at least three times. He has several children, including two sons accused by the US authorities of having "significant" roles in the Sinaloa cartel. Another son, Edgar, was shot dead in 2008.
Despite Guzman’s extradition, his cartel could remain a powerful force, led by his top associate, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who has never spent a day behind bars.
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