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The escapes of El Chapo: How one man evaded authorities over and over

2023-10-03T13:10:46+00:00
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The escapes of El Chapo (Photo: Photo: Mundo Archive)
  • The infamous El Chapo escapes.
  • Find out more about how he evaded authorities.
  • What led to the drug lord’s final capture.

The mere mention of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán instills fear and awe, primarily because this infamous drug lord has achieved something many deem impossible: multiple escapes from maximum-security prisons.

Born in poverty, Guzmán rose through the ranks to control the Sinaloa Cartel, a criminal empire with immense power.

His status, however, drew significant attention from law enforcement agencies across the globe.

What solidified his notorious reputation were not just his illicit activities but also his incredible knack for eluding incarceration.

The rise of the Sinaloa Cartel

sinoloa cartet, drug cartel, cjng, joaquin guzman, escape, prison
Photo: Shutterstock

From humble beginnings, El Chapo elevated himself to unthinkable heights as a leading figure in the Sinaloa Cartel.

This powerful syndicate had its tendrils in various illegal activities, but drug trafficking was its forte.

Astoundingly, it was responsible for a quarter of all drugs entering the United States from Mexico.

This alarming contribution to the drug trade didn’t just make El Chapo wealthy; it made him a primary target for law enforcement agencies.

El Chapo’s first arrest and incarceration in 1993

El Chapo escapes, Guzman
Photo: Mundo Archive

Guzmán’s first brush with captivity occurred when Guatemalan authorities arrested him in 1993.

He was quickly extradited to Mexico, and many assumed that Puente Grande, the maximum-security prison he was placed in, would be the end of the line for him.

The prison was touted as unbreachable, setting the stage for a belief that El Chapo’s exploits had met their match.

Yet, El Chapo had other plans, and the world would soon be stunned by his audacity.

The first El Chapo escape in 2001

el chapo, jail, escape, drug lord
Photo: Manuel Velasquez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It was in 2001 when the first El Chapo escape was pulled off.

With the aid of bribed guards, he cunningly hid inside a laundry cart, which was then wheeled out of the prison facility by a janitor.

But the audacity didn’t stop there; he walked out dressed in a police uniform, effectively mocking the authorities.

This escape set the stage for a life of running, hiding, and yet still commanding an illegal empire.

The drug lord spent a decade at large

Police patrol, dog, crime
Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

For over a decade following his 2001 escape, El Chapo lived paradoxical life of luxury in the shadows.

Despite being one of the most wanted men in the world, he even made Forbes’ list of the most powerful people in 2009.

Thanks to an intricate network of tunnels, safe houses, and corrupt officials, he managed to elude capture time and time again.

Each escape added a layer to his growing legend, as the world watched in disbelief.

El Chapo was recaptured in 2014

Guzmán, escape, prison, el chapo
Photo: Mezcalent

Authorities finally nabbed Guzmán again in 2014, finding him in a Mazatlán hotel.

Though the arrest was swift, and he was returned to another high-security prison called Altiplano, nobody was willing to let their guard down this time.

Even behind bars, El Chapo seemed to radiate an aura of invincibility.

And as it turned out, this sense of invincibility wasn’t misplaced — another audacious El Chapo escape was on the horizon.

A new level of daring: His 2015 escape

Mexican army, crime
Photo: JUAN CARLOS CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images

In 2015, El Chapo performed another breathtaking escape, this time from the Altiplano prison.

Utilizing a mile-long tunnel that began in his cell’s shower, he slipped away into the night.

The tunnel, astonishingly, had both lighting and ventilation systems, a testimony to the meticulous planning involved.

The escape was so well-executed that it sparked a nationwide manhunt, lasting for many grueling months.

Third time’s the charm: El Chapo’s 2016 capture and extradition

drug cartel, cjng, joaquin guzman escape, prison
Photo: ANTONIO NAVA/AFP via Getty Images

After several months on the run post-2015 escape, El Chapo was finally recaptured in early 2016 during a police raid.

His evasion of the law had become a significant issue for both Mexico and the United States, leading to his extradition to the U.S. in 2017.

This time, both countries were extra cautious; there would be no more miraculous escapes.

He is currently serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison on American soil.

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