Where is ‘El Chapo’ Guzman? His history holds clues


Where in the world is Chapo Guzman?

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman probably had several hours before authorities began chasing him after his brazen escape from a maximum-security prison over the weekend.

He apparently fled through a mile-long tunnel from his prison-cell shower to an abandoned house in the middle of a grassy field. And then what?

Guzman, as master of the all-powerful Sinaloa cartel, clearly has the resources -- the money and the people -- to go just about anywhere. Authorities have not commented on whether there were reports of helicopter takeoffs or other means of flight in the hours after his breakout.


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Guzman’s wealth and tentacles extend all over the world, and many places would gladly welcome him, keeping him out of the reach of Mexican, and U.S., authorities.

When he was captured in 1993, Guzman was found in Guatemala, then extradited to Mexico and imprisoned until his other escape, in 2001, reputedly by hiding in a laundry cart.

Flight in small airplanes is not heavily regulated in this part of the world, and Guzman could easily travel to the wild lands of other nearby countries. His cartel has extensive networks in Guatemala and other parts of Central and South America, not to mention Europe and Australia.

It seems less likely he would try to enter the United States, at least for now, because of the intense scrutiny that would be in place. When his young wife traveled to Los Angeles in 2011 to give birth to their twins, U.S. federal agents monitored her every move.

And although he has innumerable destination options, Guzman has usually seemed most comfortable at home.


Through much of his last decade on the lam, it is thought that Guzman largely stayed in the so-called Golden Triangle, the mountainous section of central Mexico where his native state, Sinaloa, abuts the sparsely populated states of Durango and Sonora.

He was frequently spotted going to restaurants in the region, attending parties or strolling through local plazas, or so the lore goes.

“This is his sanctuary, his little house,” said one resident of Culiacan, the Sinaloan capital, who, like most, did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Authorities have stepped up security, roadblocks and other measures in Sinaloa and Durango.

Jose Reveles, author of several books about Mexican drug trafficking, said the Golden Triangle is the most likely refuge for the kingpin.

“They used to say, once El Chapo went into the mountains, it would be like trying to find Osama bin Laden,” Reveles said. “If a marine, a police officer, a soldier goes into that area, they are seen. [Guzman] has his spies, his spotters, his killers.”


The consensus in Mexico seemed to be that it was unlikely Guzman will ever be recaptured. His escape was so elaborate, the tunnel so sophisticated, the thinking goes, that if he had the influence to pull that off, he must be gone for good.

Follow @TracyKWilkinson on Twitter for more news from Latin America.

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