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THE LAST KINGPIN

EL CHAPO IS GOING DOWN. HOW MANY DRUG LORDS, POLITICIANS AND POLICEMEN WILL HE TAKE WITH HIM?
Photograph by MICHAEL KRAUS

EL CHAPO

ONCE MEXICO’S MOST POWERFUL drug lord, El Chapo now spends his days alone, in a wing of the Manhattan Metropolitan Cor - rectional Center. The lights are on at least 23 hours a day, and 60-year-old Joaquin Archivaldo Guzmán Loera is allowed out of his cell for just one hour of every 24. Plexiglass separates him from his lawyers every time they meet. And the authorities permitted just one visit—from his wife and their 5-yearold twins (his sister was barred from attending on that occasion because of fears she might pass on information to his cartel). In his court appearances, Guzmán has said little more than “Yes, sir,” in response to the judge’s questions.

If he takes the stand at his trial next April and decides to say anything more than that, some powerful people will be worried. And even if he remains silent, the evidence presented will likely inflame tensions between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies and the two governments. Guzmán may know more about the endemic, crippling and murderous corruption in Mexico than anyone else.

How much Chapo will reveal and what will become of his cartel are two outstanding questions now that his fate—life behind bars—is all but guaranteed. Already convicted in Mexico of drug trafficking, homicide and illegal possession and use of firearms, Guzmán now faces U.S. prosecution on similar charges. When he was imprisoned in Mexico, Chapo ran his drug enterprise from inside his cell, and escaped. Twice. That’s why U.S. officials are taking extraordinary precautions to make certain he won’t break out again. Judge Brian Cogan, presiding over the case, has rejected attempts to grant Guzmán more flexible living conditions, to prevent him “from running the Sinaloa cartel from prison, coordinating any escape from prison or directing any attack on individuals that he may believe are cooperating with the government.”

It’s possible that this is all wasted effort, that Guzmán can no longer target enemies from his cell. The Sinaloa cartel—which just a few years ago spanned every continent—is collapsing. Two of Guzmán’s sons, Ivan Archivaldo and Jesus Alfredo, are struggling to keep the organization under the family name, fighting off constant threats from rivals and law enforcement.

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The Last Kingpin - Capturing El Chapo was supposed to hobble the cartels waging the bloody drug war. Why are the bodies still piling up?
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