'El Chapo' heads the largest drug cartel in the world -- and practically ran the prisons that held him

El chapo guzmanYuri Cortez/AFP/Getty ImagesA poster with the face of Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, reading ‘Wanted, Again’, is displayed at a newsstand.

Sinaloa cartel kingpinJoaquín “El Chapo” or “Shorty” Guzmán Loera is leader of one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking empires. And his status didn’t diminish during his two stints in prison: he has been described as “el dueño” or “the owner” of both of the prisons from which he eventually escaped.

Earlier this month, Guzmán staged a brazen
escape from Altiplano Federal Penitentiary, Mexico’s highest-security prison located on the outskirts of Mexico City. Since Guzmán’s extraordinary escape, seven prison workers have been arrested in connection with aiding the world’s most notorious drug lord.

Guzmán has bribed and co-opted prison officials and government workers before. It’s little surprise that he had amassed so much power and influence behind bars, since he had succeeded in taking over the last Mexican prison that had failed to house him.

El chapo prison 1993Mexico National Security CommissionSinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ or ‘Shorty’ Guzmán Loera before he is incarcerated at the Puente Grande Federal Prison in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In 1993, Guzmán, who was wanted on charges of drug trafficking, murder, and kidnapping, was arrested in Guatemala, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Guzmán was linked to the death of Cardinal
Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, who was shot 14 times at the Guadalajara airport, in southwestern Mexico. It was rumoured that Cardinal Ocampo had information regarding the Mexican government’s involvement with Mexico’s drug cartels.

Guzmán was sentenced to 20 years at the Puente Grande Federal Prison in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In 2000, Jose Antonio Ortega, a lawyer for the Catholic Church in Guadalajara, went to Puente Grande to interrogate Guzmán.

“The interrogation wasn’t held in the usual room. We were taken into a private office and given VIP service,” Ortega said in an interview for the PBS Frontline documentary Druglord: The Legend of Shorty.

Ortega arrived at the prison for his scheduled 10 AM visit with Guzmán.

He then spent the next 13 hours waiting around for Guzmán to allow the visit.

Jose antonio ortega el chapo lawyerPBS FrontlineJose Antonio Ortega.

Ortega continued, “El Chapo calmly explained to me, Today I had a conjugal visit, and afterwards I needed to take a bath, with hot steam, to relax myself and wind down. After that I took a little nap to receive you properly.”

“In that moment I realised that the man in charge of that place was El Chapo Guzmán. He was the boss of the prison. I felt afraid that my questions would make El Chapo think that I was his enemy,” Ortega said.

Chapo’s free reign in prison was a symptom of a much larger problem. Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández blames government corruption and the closeness between drug traffickers and the Mexican state for Guzmán’s rise. “Mexico exists in a stew of corruption. That’s what produced El Chapo Guzmán,” Hernández said in the documentary.

“He became so powerful in Puente Grande that one Christmas, he invited his whole family for a vacation at the ‘resort’ he had created in the maximum-security prison. His family spent an entire week there.”

While the “family vacation” was a one-off event, Guzmán developed a relationship with a woman brought to the prison for him.

“The government is so corrupt that in a maximum-security prison, only for men — there are no facilities for women in Puente Grande — they introduced three female prisoners,” Hernández said.

Guzmán carried on a relationship with Zulema, one of the three women, who was serving a prison sentence for robbing a security van. After some time, Guzmán became bored with her and “passed her around to his friends in the prison.”

The assistant warden of the jail said Zulema was traumatized and had “lost her mind,” according to Hernández. The woman was horribly maltreated by Chapo and his cronies: Zulema was forced into having two abortions while in prison, an nearly bled to death during one of them.

When Zulema was released from jail, her naked corpse was found in the trunk of a car with the letter “Z” (the symbol of Los Zetas, Guzmán’s main rivals
) carved into her buttocks, breasts, and back, The Guardian reports. Zulema’s connection to El Chapo had made her a target of rival groups, while the Sinaloa proved unwilling to protect her once she was out of prison.

“Such is the romantic face of El Chapo Guzmán,” Hernández said.

NOW WATCH: Here’s the actual security footage of ‘El Chapo’ escaping from his prison cell

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