Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, better known as “El Chapo,” has been in the headlines across the globe since he recently managed to escape a maximum security prison in Mexico. His extraordinary escape could have been plucked from a Hollywood script, in which, according to the government version of events, he fled through a tunnel leading from his cell to the outside world.
The “feat” has been applauded by many and has led to all kinds of jokes and comments on social networks, with reports of El Chapo himself gloating on Twitter about his escape, taunting authorities and threatening U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
However, the perception that some people have of this drug lord has concerned Mexican authorities, as a group of lawmakers have called on citizens to not create a “hero” of someone that has to be seen as “the enemy.”
Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, who arguably knows more about drug trafficking in Mexico than anyone thanks to her years of research into that world, can easily profile the a drug lord. Her analysis of the almost mythical man will halt any misperceptions the world may have about El Chapo Guzman.
Read the Full Interview: Anabel Hernandez Talks About the Escape of El Chapo Guzman
“El Chapo Guzman can barely read and write,” said Anabel. “We are not talking about someone that can create because of his knowledge ... he is not Steve Jobs ... we are talking about a primitive guy!”
A piñata depicting the drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is seen outside a workshop in Reynosa, July 21, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
Perhaps El Chapo’s image has been softened by the Latin American soap operas teleSUR asked Hernandez. After all, the most successful are often about drug trafficking, in which the lead characters are usually related with crime start as antagonists and usually become heroes.
While this kind of storytelling has happened since medieval times, with troubadours and jugglers recounting the great deeds of those who may have simply been murderers, Hernandez says this is a serious thing and has nothing to do with pop culture.
“Television distorts the image of these guys, hiding how terrible they are, they are violent ... They are people that can be very irrational ... they are very despicable people who have caused a lot of damage.”
The “Narcoland” author said the only reason El Chapo has been able to make a lot of money is that he lives in a country with systemic corruption.
Anabel does not believe in the official version given by the government. “He is not a guy that had the idea of making a tunnel with a spoon” she said, adding that his second escape was possible because he and his organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, have, for decades, paid millions of dollars in bribes to top officials.
And Hernandez is backed by her fellow Mexicans. A recent poll by newspaper El Universal showed 80 percent do not believe the government's version and that Mexicans think the drug lord's escape only highlights the existing corruption levels at the top of Mexico’s government.
But while Hernandez shares the same opinion as the majority, hers is based on her research: she began monitoring El Chapo when he was recaptured in February 2014.
At that time he was taken to the Altiplano maximum security prison, where the journalist says he was organizing hunger strikes over alleged bad treatment, despite the fact he was suposedly being kept in isolation. It is not the issue of how he was treated, but that he was making alliances with other imprisoned drug kingpins when he was supposed to be kept alone, not even using the dining room.
“In April 2015, El Chapo already had entire control of the prison, because people with fake IDs were visiting him. That means that by then he had already violated all the security barriers in the prison and that's why he was able to go out in the moment that he decided it,” Hernandez told teleSUR.
Mexico’s outlawed “heroes,” who make history with their exploits and the things they do to evade justice, should not be celebrated as such, for in reality they do not exist, at least not in the drug-trafficking world.
It is undeniable that the so-called narcoculture has a great impact on the idiosyncrasies of Mexicans, who have lived with this problem for decades, but superficial analyses of characters like El Chapo should not be tolerated: Hernandez says journalists “are not here to create myths, or to create fantastic stories of criminals without honor or without merit. The only merit they have is to live in a very corrupt country and that there are very corrupt economies that take advantage of that money.”
Violence generated by drug trafficking has devastated Mexico in so many ways there is now a whole generation that believes joining the ranks of organized crime is the only way to get out of poverty, in a country where more than 60 million people live below poverty line.