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Cartel boss more powerful than president

November 5, 2011

El Chapo old photo

Diminutive drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman is more powerful than President Felipe Calderon, according to Forbes Magazine’s list of “the world’s most powerful people.”

The billionaire boss of the Sinaloa Cartel was named the 55th most powerful person on earth, while President Calderon failed to make the list. The only other Mexican on the list was the world’s richest man Carlos Slim, ranked at number 23.

The new rankings will surely infuriate Calderon, who has persistently failed to bring Mexico’s most notorious drug lord to justice. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Mexican president “has raised the stakes to demand that Chapo be taken down before he leaves office next year.”

Mexico now operates at least three full-time units – one each in the army, navy and federal police – dedicated solely to capturing or killing Guzman. Working alongside the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these special operations teams are said to have come within hours of capturing their elusive target on several occasions over the past two years.

Yet Calderon remains dogged by suspicions that his administration, especially the military, is turning a blind eye to Guzman’s cartel – or even aiding it – while pursuing his biggest rival, Los Zetas.

“He’s protected by the government,” said Javier Valdez, editor of the Sinaloa-based journal Rio Doce, who is sceptical that any urgent effort is underway to find Guzman.

In its rich list last year Forbes ranked Guzman, whose nickname translates as “Shorty,” as the 937th richest man in the world. The fugitive billionaire became the FBI and Interpol’s most wanted after the death of Osama Bin Laden in May.

U.S. authorities have placed a five-million-dollar bounty on Guzman’s head, alleging that he is responsible for the majority of cocaine and marijuana smuggled into the United States from Mexico and Colombia.

Having famously escaped from Jalisco’s maximum security Puente Grande prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry basket, Guzman is now believed to be hiding with a legion of bodyguards in the remote regions of the Sierra Madre mountain range in northwest Mexico.

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