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‘El Chapo’ Guzman: I’ve killed two or three thousand people

February 27, 2014

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Following his dramatic arrest on Saturday, legendary drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman apparently told Mexican officials that he was responsible for 2,000 to 3,000 deaths.

Citing sources who accompanied the detained kingpin as he was flown from Mazatlan to Mexico City, respected Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola claimed that Guzman spoke openly with his captors.

Asked why he had fled from Culiacan to Mazatlan instead of hiding in the mountains where he grew up, Guzman said that he had planned to head for the mountains, but first he “had to see my girls” – a reference to his beauty queen wife Emma Coronel and their twin daughters.

Guzman also revealed that last year he met up briefly with another notorious fugitive, Rafael Caro Quintero, who was controversially released from prison in August but is still wanted in the United States for his role in the torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. The pair had lunch together for about an hour in the mountains of Sinaloa, where Caro Quintero is hiding out, Guzman said. He reportedly claimed that the former Guadalajara Cartel kingpin has no interest in returning to the drug trade, as he is old, ill and feels he has paid for his sins.

Of his partners in the Sinaloa Federation, Guzman reportedly said that Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is also living in the Sierra Madre, while Juan Jose Esparragoza, alias “El Azul,” is most likely in Guadalajara.

Asked about rival cartel Los Zetas, Guzman described his late nemesis Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano as “my enemy, but a gentleman” and expressed his hatred of Lazcano’s successor Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40,” who was arrested last July. Guzman is also said to have slammed Servando “La Tuta” Gomez and the Knights Templar cartel as “dirty crooks,” claiming the difference between them and him was that “I’m a drug trafficker. I don’t kidnap, I don’t steal, I don’t extort – none of that.”

Loret de Mola also claims Guzman gave his version of the murder of Cardinal Posado Ocampos at Guadalajara airport in 1993, for which he was arrested and imprisoned. The Archbishop of Guadalajara was shot dead in his Grand Marquis amidst a feud between Guzman and the Arellano Felix brothers who ran the Tijuana Cartel.

“I thought the Arellanos were riding in the Grand Marquis, that’s what my bodyguards told me,” Guzman said, implying that he was inadvertently behind the killing of the cardinal. In total, he apparently claimed “I killed two or three thousand,” although he did not clarify if that meant directly or by ordering others to carry out the killings.

Finally, Guzman is said to have claimed that tales of his wealth were exaggerated – “an invention of Forbes” – which regularly included him in its rich list. Loret de Mola published Guzman’s comments in his column in El Universal on Tuesday. Without knowing his source it is practically impossible to confirm their veracity, but a separate report published by La Jornada on Friday corroborated several of Guzman’s declarations.

I spoke to Carlos’ father, award-winning journalist Rafael Loret de Mola, the next day as I was researching another story on Guzman. As many Mexicans view the official account of Guzman’s arrest with some skepticism, Loret de Mola senior shared his theory with me.

“I think ‘El Chapo’ gave himself up because he had lost of control of the situation and feared being killed; that’s why he asked for help via a satellite phone (the authorities are said to have tracked him down by tracing the call),” Loret de Mola said.

In Mexico each presidential administration tends to “favor a certain cartel and dismantle another,” he added. President Vicente Fox and his successor Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) “undoubtedly” protected “El Chapo” and aided his escape from prison in 2001, Loret de Mola argued, but Guzman appeared to have lost the support of the government following the election of Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2012.

“It’s important to emphasize that this operation to capture him was carried out during the week that the North American summit took place with Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Toluca,” Loret de Mola added. “It’s obvious that the operation and the surrender were arranged.”

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