AC: "This man makes a living mockery of America's war on drugs."
August 06, 2009
Tonight's "War Next Door" report is a prepared piece that profiles the head of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquin Guzman Leora, AKA "El Chapo."
ERICA HILL: To Mexico and the "War Next Door" that has left thousands dead or kidnapped. The search is on in earnest for Mexico's public enemy No. 1 in the drug trade.
He's part CEO and, frankly, part "Scarface." A billionaire gangster with a booming business right here in America. His face is everywhere. But finding him has been just about impossible.
Once again, here's Michael Ware on the search for the man known as El Chapo.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This man makes a living mockery of America's war on drugs. He is Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, one of the world's richest men and Mexico's Most Wanted with a $5 million U.S. government bounty on his head.
RALPH REYES, DEA MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA CHIEF: Chapo is the face. He is the guy who is currently at war against the government of Mexico, against law enforcement and military forces.
WARE: At war because El Chapo heads the ultra-violent, ultra-lucrative Sinaloa drug cartel, his exploits legendary.
"El Chapo Guzman is like a God in Mexico," says Antonio Ortega. "Nobody sees him, but he's everywhere. He's a myth."
Criminal lawyer Antonio Ortega is one of the very few Mexicans daring enough to speak of El Chapo on camera, having met the man himself while El Chapo was here in Puente Grande Prison before El Chapo escaped in 2001.
"When you sit with him," says Ortega, "you see a human contradiction.
"You see a strong man, intelligent and sensitive at the same time," Ortega told me in this Mexico City park. "You don't see a narco trafficker. You don't see a killer or assassin. He doesn't have scars. He doesn't have that funny face. He doesn't have it. He looks at you deeply, at the eyes, like an x-ray machine. He can look right inside."
And El Chapo's prison life, says the lawyer, was the stuff of legend. Nineteen days before his escape, El Chapo hosted a New Year's Eve party with another cartel boss. "There was a band playing. There were ladies. There was alcohol, all the best brands," Ortega told me. "It was like a party in one of the best clubs in Manhattan."
REYES: He has that Robin Hood persona, in that he's constantly attending to the poor, the needs of the poor and the people that surround him.
WARE: On the run, El Chapo's business continued to flourish, and investigators say, his orders followed.
Ten months ago, this mutilated body appeared outside a Mexican police station, the message hanging over his corpse signed in El Chapo's name.
Many Mexicans believe El Chapo's whereabouts are no mystery. In April, this Catholic archbishop, Hector Gonzalez Martinez, pronounced everybody knows his whereabouts except the authorities, claiming El Chapo is in these mountains in the country's north, not far from the U.S. border.
El Chapo's exploits continue to undermine Mexican President Felipe Calderon, especially when "Forbes" magazine named El Chapo 701st on the world's rich list, with a net worth of $1 billion.
"We deeply regret what seems like a campaign against Mexico, which has escalated," said President Calderon. "First from public opinion and now even magazines which are not only attacking and lying about the situation, but are also praising criminals."
This from a president who upped the ante in the drug war, sending over 40,000 Mexican Army soldiers into the streets of his own cities in a bid to crush the cartels, a bid backed by U.S. President Barack Obama.
OBAMA: It's important that the United States steps up and cooperates effectively in battling the adverse effects of drug trafficking.
WARE: That was back in June. Since then, the slaughter in Mexico has continued, and El Chapo's drugs have continued to pour into America. All the while with El Chapo Guzman remaining the face of an unwinnable drug war on America's border.
Michael Ware, CNN, Mexico City.