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ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4715-0 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4713-6 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7101-8

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CONTENTS Introduction ............................................................. 7 Chapter 1: Early Life—Poverty to Power ................... 13 Chapter 2: El Chapo’s Drug Empire—The Cartels ....... 23 Chapter 3: The First Escape ..................................... 37 Chapter 4: The Second Escape ................................. 45 Chapter 5: Capture—Worldwide News ...................... 51 Chapter 6: Extradition and Prosecution—Life in Jail .. 57 Further Reading/Educational Videos ........................ 60 Bibliography/Citations ............................................ 61 Index ..................................................................... 62 Author’s Biography/Photo Credits ............................ 64

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El Chapo


W hile most individuals probably think of Mexican and U.S. prisons as relatively secure, in actual fact, about three percent of all inmates escape at some point during their incarceration, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Prison breaks form the basis of some of the most exciting fiction and the most thrilling films. Some music artists have even written songs about the greatest of historical escapes. When it comes down to it, true life provides the most exciting of prison escape stories. Daring escape stories go all the way back to the American Civil War, when three Union officers repeatedly snuck into the room known as “Rat Hell” in Libby Prison, so named because rats invaded and overran it. Beginning with nothing but a pen knife, the officers eventually assembled 14 men to regularly dig a tunnel to escape. The Union prisoners, unaware of how near the prison was to the James River, continually experienced tunnel floods. Their first escape tunnel

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka “El Chapo.”



Contrary to popular belief, about three percent of inmates escape from prison at some point during their incarceration.

flooded, the second a furnace collapsed into, the third flooded, and during the digging of the fourth, the prisoners had to work in shifts, because the air in the sewer they were moving through had grown so foul that they could not breathe. A miner would work until he could not hold his breath or until his candle burned out. Two prisoners missed roll call, alerting the guards to something amiss. When one of the same prisoners later missed roll call a second time, the other prisoners forced him to stay in Rat Hell until the escape day, so the guards wouldn’t think he’d already gone. After 17 days of digging, they finished, or so they thought. When they crawled through the tunnel and broke through the ground outside, they needed seven more feet to reach the safety of a shed. Ducking down and pulling dirt over the hole, they continued digging to make the tunnel seven feet longer. It had taken two weeks of work to make the first, failed attempt on January 26, 1864, in the original tunnel that flooded. The aborted


El Chapo

attempt occurred in the beginning of February of the same year. Although the prisoners had to weather numerous hardships, on February 9, 1864, determined Union officers led what law enforcement considers the most daring prison escape ever. The prisoners crawled through a fireplace to slide down a chimney to sneak into Rat Hell, wading through a sea of vermin, to enter the 57 foot tunnel on their stomachs and crawl through it to a tobacco shed, where they then exited without the guards seeing them. Starting with three officers who had formed the plan, they built a massive work crew of more than 100 miners, enabling them to dig 24 hours per day. That night, 109 prisoners slithered through the complex escape route to evade their Confederate captors. Of those who escaped, two perished in the James River, 59 made it to the Union border and safety, and Confederate soldiers recaptured 48 of the Union soldiers. Although many prison escapes have occurred since the Libby Prison break, no other has matched that one for daring, cunning, sheer determination, or the amazing numbers of prisoners who escaped. Other notable prisoner-of-war escapes include the 15 Libby Prison was a Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. It had a reputation for the overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept.



escapes from the World War II Nazi prison castle Colditz and the three-tunnel outbreak of 76 prisoners from the Nazi prison Stalag Luft III, where only three survived the escape, and German soldiers killed 50 and recaptured 23 soldiers. The audacious plot became the basis for the movie The Great Escape . In the category of criminal escapes, an English Jesuit priest named Father John Gerard managed the most unlikely maneuver. Imprisoned in the Tower of London in the 1590s for spreading the beliefs of the Catholic Church, his fellow believers broke him out of prison on October 4, 1597, by rowing a boat across the Tower’s moat and throwing a rope up to him. Gerard nearly plummeted into the moat while sliding down the rope due to damage to his hands from torture, but he made it safely into the boat, which the other Catholics then rowed to safety. Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka “El Chapo,” is a Mexican drug lord who was head of the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking organization.


El Chapo

Today, prison escapes lack the excitement and fervor of a boat in a moat or multiple tunnels filling with water and narrow escapes. Or do they? The noted drug kingpin “El Chapo,” whose real name is Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, escaped custody in 2001 and in 2015, after his re-capture in 2014, using a laundry cart and a helicopter in the first escape, and one of the massive tunnels for which he became known in the second escape. Guzmán is now housed in a U.S. prison, but he grew up in farming country in Mexico, in a family with ten children. You could say he was born to the drug trade, though, since his father cultivated opium. Guzmán took it further, starting out in marijuana and building his business to also include cocaine and other illegal drugs. He once wielded the greatest power in the drug trade as the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which he founded. His second recapture and a life sentence in a U.S. supermax prison ended his regime. Read on to learn how a man who referred to himself as a farmer and son of a cattle rancher and farmer rose to control a billion-dollar business although an illegal one. Joaquín Guzmán Loera is in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum, located in Florence, Colorado.




El Chapo

Chapter One

Early Life— Poverty to Power

J oaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera didn’t start out life known as “El Chapo,” nor did any of his family likely suspect that the fourth child of the ten children of Emilio Guzmán Bustillos and María Consuelo Loera Pérez would become a world-famous criminal mastermind. His extended family had long resided in a rural area in La Tuna, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Mexico, and both sets of his grandparents lived close by. Guzmán frequently spent time with his paternal grandparents, Juan Guzmán and Otilia Bustillos, and his maternal grandparents, Ovidio Loera Cobret and Pomposa Pérez Uriarte. Although Emilio and María Consuelo produced a large family, Joaquín became the first of the children to survive. His three older brothers all died of natural causes. According to multiple sources, the boys were unnamed, or their names went unrecorded. It is unknown whether they were stillborn or died during the birthing process. The scrappy Joaquín, born on April 4, 1957, survived and thrived though. His six younger siblings also survived—two sisters, Bernarda and Armida, and four brothers, Arturo, Aureliano, Emilio, and Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera’s extended family had long resided in a rural area in La Tuna, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Mexico.


Early Life—Poverty to Power


Scan here to watch a video interview with María Consuelo Loera Pérez regarding her son’s early life.

Michelangelo. Because the nearest school to their ranch required a 60-kilometer drive, traveling teachers visited the ranch to homeschool the children. Although a creative and enterprising youth, Joaquín didn’t enjoy school. Some sources say that he quit school after third grade, rendering him functionally illiterate. Other sources say he didn’t leave school until the age of 15, dropping out in high school to start a marijuana farm with his cousins. The Guzmán household, although large and rambunctious, didn’t qualify as happy. The cartel leader’s father, Emilio, often abused alcohol. When drunk, he became excessively agitated and violent. The eldest surviving son would often step in to protect his six younger siblings. That meant he often received beatings from his father, and he would often escape to his grandmother Pomposa’s home for peace afterwards.


El Chapo

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