Does Sean Penn Play Sean Penn In The Sean Penn Movie?
Who plays Sean Penn in the El Chapo movie?
Bin Laden, And Now El Chapo
The Tragic Farce Of El Chapo
Bin Laden, And Now El Chapo
The Tragic Farce Of El Chapo
A number of journalists who have spent years covering the border and the drug wars pointed out that whereas the Penn interview is a bit of a stunt—a mutually admiring jungle bro session, replete with tequila, that was written up in a florid, Gonzo fashion—the actual job of covering the cartels in Mexico is fraught with incredible peril. ...... According to people I’ve interviewed who have known Guzmán or done business with him, he is drawn, compulsively, to the deal. When he was in prison the first time, he went right on conducting business from behind bars; I once spoke to an ex-associate who had gone into the prison and presented Guzmán with a formal business plan. In 2008, when he was close to the height of his power and influence, Guzmán would take the risk of getting on the phone himself with a wholesale buyer from Chicago in order to bargain over the price-per-kilo on a single shipment of heroin. .......... The situation makes you wonder why the Mexican marines didn’t just kill Guzmán, like the American Navy SEALs did with Osama bin Laden, thereby obviating the dilemma of what to do with him. ........ “There is no prison in Mexico which can hold him.”The Hunt For El Chapo
Guzmán, who is fifty-seven, typified an older generation. Obsessively secretive, he ran his multibillion-dollar drug enterprise from hiding in Sinaloa, the remote western state where he was born, and from which the cartel takes its name. The Sinaloa cartel exports industrial volumes of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine to America; it is thought to be responsible for as much as half the illegal narcotics that cross the border every year. Guzmán has been characterized by the U.S. Treasury Department as “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker,” and after the killing of Osama bin Laden, three years ago, he became perhaps the most wanted fugitive on the planet. ....... part of Guzmán’s fame stemmed from the perception that he was uncatchable, and he continued to thrive, consolidating control of key smuggling routes and extending his operation into new markets in Europe, Asia, and Australia. According to one study, the Sinaloa cartel is now active in more than fifty countries. .......... Three years later, Guzmán married a teen-age beauty queen named Emma Coronel and invited half the criminal underworld of Mexico to attend the ceremony. The Army mobilized several Bell helicopters to crash the party; the troops arrived, guns drawn, to discover that Guzmán had just departed. ....... A former senior Mexican intelligence official told me that the cartel has “penetrated most Mexican agencies.” Was Guzmán being tipped off by an insider? After a series of near-misses in which Chapo foiled his pursuers by sneaking out of buildings through back doors, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City took to joking, bitterly, that there is no word in Spanish for “surround.” ....... singers portrayed Guzmán as a country boy turned cunning bandit who had grown rich but not soft, his cuerno de chivo, or “goat horn”—Mexican slang for an assault rifle with a curved magazine—never far from his side. ...... One narcocorrido captured the predicament: “Only he knows who he is / So go looking for someone / Who looks just like him / Because the real Chapo / You’ll never see again.” ........ traffickers at the top of the hierarchy maintain operational security by rarely making calls or sending e-mails. Guzmán was known to use sophisticated encryption and to limit the number of people he communicated with, keeping his organization compartmentalized and allowing subordinates a degree of autonomy, as long as the shipments kept running on time. “I never spoke to him directly,” one former Sinaloa lieutenant told me. “But I knew what he wanted us to do.” ....... The Sinaloa cartel is sometimes described as a “cellular” organization. Structurally, its network is distributed, and has more in common with a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda than with the antiquated hierarchies of the Cosa Nostra. When the cartel suffers the loss of a major figure like El Chino Ántrax, it can reconstitute itself—but not without a few phone calls among the leadership. At the D.E.A., which taps hundreds of phone lines and e-mail accounts associated with traffickers, the process of applying pressure to a criminal organization and then monitoring furtive attempts at outreach is known as “tickling the wires.” ......... one reason that Guzmán had remained at large so long was his unparalleled network of informants. One person involved in the operation told me, “As soon as we landed, he knew.” ...... e was the oldest child of a subsistence farmer who dabbled in the drug trade. For generations, Sinaloan ranchers had cultivated cannabis and opium, and children were taken out of elementary school to assist in the harvest. Guzmán left school for good in third grade, and in the seventies, in spite of his illiteracy, he became an apprentice to two drug chieftains ....... Guzmán started as a kind of air-traffic controller, coördinating cocaine flights from Colombia. But he was clever and aggressive, and quickly began to acquire power. One night in November, 1992, Guzmán’s henchmen massacred six people at a crowded discothèque in Puerto Vallarta. They severed the telephone lines so that nobody could call for help, then walked inside and opened fire on the dance floor. The targets were Tijuana-based traffickers whom Guzmán was challenging for control of the lucrative smuggling routes through Baja California. ........ Behind bars, Guzmán consolidated both his empire and his reputation. He bought off the prison staff and enjoyed a life of relative luxury: he conducted business by cell phone, orchestrated regular visits from prostitutes, and threw parties for favored inmates that featured alcohol, lobster bisque, and filet mignon. While he was there, the Mexican attorney general’s office subjected him to psychological interviews. The resulting criminal profile noted that he was “egocentric, narcissistic, shrewd, persistent, tenacious, meticulous, discriminating, and secretive.” ......... He retreated to Sinaloa and expanded his operations, launching violent turf wars with rival cartels over control of prized entry points along the U.S. border. The sociologist Diego Gambetta, in his 1993 book “The Sicilian Mafia,” observes that durable criminal enterprises are often woven into the social and political fabric, and part of their “intrinsic tenacity” is their ability to offer certain services that the state does not. Today on the streets of Culiacán you see night clubs, fortified villas, and an occasional Lamborghini. Chapo and other drug lords have invested and laundered their proceeds by buying hundreds of legitimate businesses: restaurants, soccer stadiums, day-care centers, ostrich farms. ........ Juan Millán, the former state governor of Sinaloa, once estimated that sixty-two per cent of the state’s economy is tied up with drug money. Sinaloa remains poor, however, and Badiraguato, the municipality containing Guzmán’s home village, is one of the most desperate areas in the state. There had always been some sympathy for the drug trade in Sinaloa, but nothing deepens sympathy like charity and bribes. Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico’s Ambassador in Washington, described Guzmán’s largesse in the state: “You are financing everything. Baptisms. Infrastructure. If someone gets sick, you provide a little plane. So you have lots of local support, because you are Santa Claus. And everybody likes Santa Claus.” ....... “In practical terms, organized crime literally privatized the municipal police forces across many parts of the country,” one senior Mexican official told me. Guzmán’s influence over the public sector was not confined to law enforcement. ........ As long as Guzmán remained in the mountains, the inhospitable terrain and the allegiance of locals appeared to guarantee his safety. In 2009, Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, met with Guillermo Galván, who was then Mexico’s Secretary of Defense. Galván told him that everybody knew, roughly, where Guzmán was. ...... There is a saying in the Mexican drug trade that it is better to live one good year than ten bad ones. Many young men enter the industry expecting to enjoy a decadent life for a short time before being incarcerated or killed. Young narcos behave recklessly: they go to night clubs, they race Bentleys, and they post pictures of themselves online with their co-conspirators (and with the occasional dead body). The only traffickers in Sinaloa who beat the odds are those who are content to follow a more austere life in the mountains. ...... But because he was tired, or married to a much younger woman, or overconfident of his ability to escape, Guzmán began spending time in Culiacán and other cities. “Here’s a guy who has made hundreds of millions of dollars in the drug trade, and he’s living like a pauper up in the mountains” ....... “He likes the fiestas. He likes the music. He likes to dance.” Another law-enforcement official speculated that, though Guzmán was accustomed to a rustic life, Emma Coronel was not. “She’s not much of a mountain person,” he said, adding that they had twin daughters, and, even though Guzmán was a fugitive, his wife was adamant that he be present in the girls’ lives: “She would go out of her way to maintain that family life.” ....... The choreography was always the same. Diners would be startled by a team of gunmen, who would politely but firmly demand their telephones, promising that they would be returned at the end of the evening. Chapo and his entourage would come in and feast on shrimp and steak, then thank the other diners for their forbearance, return the telephones, pick up the tab for everyone, and head off into the night. .............. But the BlackBerry is made by a Canadian company, and Guzmán felt more comfortable using one. This trust was misplaced: by early 2012, the D.E.A. had homed in on Guzmán’s BlackBerry, and could not only monitor his communications but also use geolocation technology to triangulate his signal. .......... The D.E.A. agents who monitored his e-mails and texts marvelled at the extent to which his communications seemed focussed not on managing his multinational empire but on juggling the competing demands of his wife, his ex-wives (with whom he remained cordial), his girlfriends, and his paid consorts. ....... The authorities, unaware of the handoff, chased the signal around Los Cabos, until they finally pounced on the sacrificial subordinate. While they were occupied with arresting him, Chapo made it into the desert, where a private plane picked him up and flew him back to the safety of the Sierra Madre. ........ “He’s an illiterate son of a bitch, but he’s a street-smart motherfucker.” Rather than switch BlackBerrys, as he had done in the past, Guzmán now appeared to have stopped communicating altogether. ....... Like bin Laden, he might have chosen to rely on couriers. But a courier system is too inefficient for the fast pace of the narcotics trade, and so, as U.S. and Mexican authorities eventually discovered, Chapo devised an elaborate solution. In the past, he had occasionally restricted his contact with others in the cartel by relaying his commands through a proxy. For a time, a woman known as La Voz (the Voice) served as his gatekeeper, sending and receiving messages on his behalf. After Los Cabos, Guzmán reinstated this arrangement, but with additional precautions. If you needed to communicate with the boss, you could reach him via B.B.M., BlackBerry’s instant-messaging application. (Guzmán had apparently learned to read and write well enough to communicate in the shorthand of instant messages.) Your message would go not directly to Guzmán, however, but to a trusted lieutenant, who spent his days in Starbucks coffee shops and other locations with public wireless networks. Upon receiving the message, the lieutenant would transcribe it onto an iPad, so that he could forward the text using WiFi—avoiding the cellular networks that the cartel knew the authorities were trolling. The transcribed message would be sent not to Guzmán but to a second intermediary, who, also using a tablet and public WiFi, would transcribe the words onto his BlackBerry and relay them to Guzmán. .......... In American debates over the National Security Agency’s warrantless collection of “metadata,” this is one reason that many authorities have been quick to defend these techniques; a constellation of dialled phone numbers can be used to build a “link chart” exposing the hierarchy of an organization. ........ Now that Guzmán was spending more time in urban areas, his entourage had become very small. Nariz was part of this privileged circle, serving as Guzmán’s personal assistant and errand boy. ...... In Culiacán, Guzmán rarely spent consecutive nights in the same bed. He rotated from house to house and seldom told those around him—even Nariz—where his next destination was, until they were en route. Guzmán had a personal chef, an attractive young woman who accompanied him everywhere he travelled. He is said to have feared poisoning, and sometimes made his underlings taste food before he would eat it. ........ The marines readied their weapons and produced a battering ram, but when they moved to breach the front door it didn’t budge. A wooden door would have splintered off its hinges, but this door was a marvel of reinforced steel—some of the marines later likened it to an airlock on a submarine. For all the noise that their efforts made, the door seemed indestructible. Normally, the friction of a battering ram would heat the steel, rendering it more pliable. But the door was custom-made: inside the steel skin, it was filled with water, so that if anyone tried to break it down the heat from the impact would not spread. The marines hammered the door again and again, until the ram buckled and had to be replaced. It took ten minutes to gain entry to the house. ......... In the early days of Guzmán’s career, before his time at Puente Grande, he distinguished himself as a trafficker who brought an unusual sense of imagination and play to the trade. Today, tunnels that traverse the U.S.-Mexico border are a mainstay of drug smuggling: up to a mile long, they often feature air-conditioning, electricity, sophisticated drainage systems, and tracks, so that heavy loads of contraband can be transported on carts.Cocaine Incorporated
Guzmán invented the border tunnel........ Since then, U.S. intelligence has attributed no fewer than ninety border tunnels to the Sinaloa cartel. ........ Meanwhile, Chapo ran through the sewers, like Harry Lime in “The Third Man.” ...... Guzmán’s genius was always architectural, and the infrastructure that he created will almost certainly survive him. ..... Some believe that, even before Guzmán’s capture, his role in the organization had become largely symbolic. “He was a non-executive chairman,” Ambassador Mora told me. “An emblematic figure.” ....... The opposition to extradition, however, could be driven by less noble concerns: flipping Guzmán might provide the American government with evidence against top Mexican officials. ........ His victims were overwhelmingly Mexican; one reason that the drug war has been so easy for most Americans to ignore is that very little of the violence visited upon Mexico has spilled into the U.S. During the years when Juárez was the most dangerous city on the planet—and a resident there had a greater statistical likelihood of being murdered than someone living in the war zones of Afghanistan or Iraq—El Paso, just across the border, was one of the safest cities in America. ........ Shortly after the arrest in Mazatlán, Guzmán’s son Alfredo lashed out on Twitter. “The Government is going to pay for this betrayal—it shouldn’t have bitten the hand that feeds it,” he wrote. “I just want to say that we are not beaten. The cartel is my father’s and will always be my father’s. GUZMÁN LOERA FOREVER.” His brother, Iván, vowed revenge: “Those dogs that dared to lay a hand on my father are going to pay.” ....... Guzmán’s sons would appear to be candidates, but, as the coddled children of a wealthy trafficker, they may be more enamored of the narco life style than of the business itself.
“The drug trade is one of the few really meritocratic sectors in the Mexican economy,” Alejandro Hope said. “Being the son of Chapo Guzmán doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be his successor.”...... Whereas Sinaloa is a traditional drug cartel, focussing chiefly on the manufacture and export of narcotics, newer groups, such as the Zetas and the Knights Templar, have diversified their money-making activities to include extortion, human trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom. With cocaine consumption declining in the U.S., and marijuana on a path toward widespread legalization, a Darwinian logic is driving the cartels’ expansion into more parasitic varieties of crime. Organizations that once concentrated exclusively on drugs now extract rents from Mexico’s oil industry and export stolen iron ore to China; the price of limes in U.S. grocery stores has doubled in the past few years because the cartels are taxing Mexico’s citrus farmers. “We don’t have a drug problem—we have a crime problem” ....... In a poll of Mexicans conducted after the arrest, half the respondents said that Guzmán was more powerful than the government of Mexico; in Culiacán, in the days after his capture, hundreds of protesters took to the streets, holding signs demanding his release. ....... “They don’t know what they’ve done, and what kind of trouble they’ve got themselves in, the people who ordered my arrest,” the band sings, assuming the voice of the kingpin. “It won’t be long before I return to La Tuna and become a fugitive again. That’s what the people want.”
Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. ....... Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. ...... It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors.
“Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”........ The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well. ........ Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook. ....... very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. ...... “Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be
the most successful criminal enterprise in history. ........ Sinaloa is the Sicily of Mexico, both cradle and refuge of violent men, and the ancestral land of many of the country’s most notorious traffickers ......... His formal education ended in third grade, and as an adult, he has reportedly struggled to read and write, prevailing upon a ghostwriter, at one point, to compose letters to his mistress. Little is known about Chapo’s early years, but by the 1980s, he joined the Guadalajara cartel, which was run by a former policeman known as El Padrino — the Godfather. ...... Martínez knew U.S. agents were monitoring his radio communications, so rather than say a word, he would whistle — a signal to the pilots that they were cleared for takeoff. ..... Now it was the Colombians who went hat in hand to Chapo, looking not to hire him to move their product but to sell it to him outright. They would tip Martínez $25,000 just to get an audience with the man. ...... the stout Martínez was known in the cartel as El Gordo. He and Chapo — Fatty and Shorty — made quite a pair. ..... Chapo owned a fleet of Learjets, and together, they saw “the whole world.” They both used cocaine as well, a habit that Chapo would eventually give up.
When a lawyer inquired, years later, whether he had been Chapo’s right-hand man, Martínez replied that he might have been, but that Guzmán had five left hands and five right hands. “He’s an octopus, Chapo Guzmán,” he said.For his efforts, Martínez was paid a million dollars a year, in a single annual installment: “In cash, in a suitcase, each December.” When Martínez’s son was born, Chapo asked to serve as godfather. ........... “Drug cartel,” it turns out, is a whopper of a misnomer; neither the Mexicans nor the Colombians ever colluded to fix prices or supply. “I wish they were cartels,” Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington, told me. “If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting and driving up the violence.” ....... their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. .......
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business.......... Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. ...... a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second.
“A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”.......... Improvisation is a trafficker’s greatest asset ..... a hunter was trekking through the remote North Woods of Wisconsin when he stumbled upon a vast irrigated grow site, tended by a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s. According to the D.E.A., it was
a Sinaloa pot farm, established on U.S. National Forest land to supply the market in Chicago. ........ it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine.
“Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”....... Container ships from India and China unloaded precursor chemicals — largely ephedrine — in the Pacific ports Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. ...... But Chapo’s greatest contribution to the evolving tradecraft of drug trafficking was one of those innovations that seem so logical in hindsight it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before: a tunnel. ......
When this new route was complete, Chapo instructed Martínez to call the Colombians. “Tell them to send all the drugs they can,” he said.As the deliveries multiplied, Sinaloa acquired a reputation for the miraculous speed with which it could push inventory across the border. “Before the planes were arriving back in Colombia on the return, the cocaine was already in Los Angeles,” Martínez marveled. ......... Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long). He sent drugs across the border on freight trains, to cartel warehouses in Los Angeles and Chicago, where rail spurs let the cars roll directly inside to unload. He sent drugs via FedEx. ....... more than a hundred tunnels have been discovered in the years since Chapo’s first. They are often ventilated and air-conditioned, and some feature trolley lines stretching up to a half-mile to accommodate the tonnage in transit. ...... blue-chip traffickers tend to fixate, with neurotic intensity, on the concept of risk. “The goal of these folks is not to sell drugs,” Tony Placido, who was the top intelligence official at the D.E.A. until he retired last year, told me. “It’s to earn a spendable profit and live to enjoy it.” ........ “the marginal imprisonment risk.” ...... Now in his 60s and a grandfather, El Mayo has been in the drug business for nearly half a century and
has amassed a fortune. But you can’t buy peace of mind.“I’m terrified they’ll incarcerate me,” he acknowledged. “I’m full of fear. Always.” ........ Smugglers often negotiate, in actuarial detail, about who will be held liable in the event of lost inventory.
After a bust, arrested traffickers have been known to demand a receipt from authorities, so that they can prove the loss was not because of their own negligence(which would mean they might have to pay for it) or their own thievery (which would mean they might have to die). Some Colombian cartels have actually offered insurance policies on narcotics, as a safeguard against loss or seizure. .......... The Sinaloa is occasionally called the Federation because senior figures and their subsidiaries operate semiautonomously while still employing a common smuggling apparatus............
The organizational structure of the cartel also seems fashioned to protect the leadership.No one knows how many people work for Sinaloa, and the range of estimates is comically broad. Malcolm Beith, the author of a recent book about Chapo, posits that at any given moment, the drug lord may have 150,000 people working for him. John Bailey, a Georgetown professor who has studied the cartel, says that the number of actual employees could be as low as 150. ....... working “for the cartel but outside it.” ...... On one occasion, he attended a meeting outside Culiacán with many of the cartel’s top leaders. But there was no sign of Chapo. Once the discussion concluded, an emissary left the group and approached a Hummer that was parked in the distance and surrounded by men with bulletproof vests and machine guns, to report on the proceedings. Chapo never stepped out of the vehicle. ....... The brutal opportunism of the underworld economy means that most partnerships are temporary, and treachery abounds. ...... Chapo’s organization is occasionally referred to as an alianza de sangre (“alliance of blood”), because so many of its prominent members are cousins by marriage or brothers-in-law. Emma Coronel, who gave birth to Chapo’s twins, is the niece of Nacho Coronel, the Steve Jobs of meth (who died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in 2010). ......
The surest way to stay out of trouble in the drug business is to dole out bribes, and promiscuously. Drug cartels don’t pay corporate taxes, but a colossus like Sinaloa makes regular payments to the federal, state and municipal authorities that may well rival the effective tax rate in Mexico......... The cartel bribes mayors and prosecutors and governors, state police and federal police, the army, the navy and a host of senior officials at the national level. ....... a fortified prison in Jalisco that was Mexico’s answer to a supermax. But during the five years he spent there, Chapo enjoyed prerogatives that make the prison sequence in “Goodfellas” look positively austere. With most of the facility on his payroll, he is said to have ordered his meals from a menu, conducted business by cellphone and orchestrated periodic visits by prostitutes, who would arrive aboard a prison truck driven by a guard. ....... When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. .......
When you tally it all up, bribery may be the single largest line item on a cartel’s balance sheet. In 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month........ the cartels spend more than a billion dollars each year just to bribe the municipal police. ..... the “falcons,” an army of civilian lookouts who might receive $100 a month just to keep their eyes open and make a phone call if they notice an uptick in border inspections or a convoy of police. “There are cities in Mexico where virtually every cabdriver is on the payroll,” Michael Braun, formerly of the D.E.A., said. “They have eyes and ears everywhere.” ........ the Americans. Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars ...... When corruption fails, there is always violence. .... Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” ........ in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable. ....... “It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.” ........ a Sinaloa subsidiary allied with a Tijuana farmer known as the Stewmaker, who dissolved hundreds of bodies in barrels of lye, the Zetas have pioneered a multimedia approach to violence, touting their killings on YouTube. One strategic choice facing any cartel is deciding when to intimidate the civilian population and when to cultivate it. Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal, but the cartel is more pragmatic than the Zetas in its deployment of violence. It may simply be, as one Obama administration official suggested, that the Sinaloa leadership is “more conscious of their brand.” ........ The Zetas have diversified beyond drugs to extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, blossoming into what officials call a “polycriminal organization.” Sinaloa, by contrast, has mostly tended to stick to its core competence of trafficking. According to one captured cartel member, Chapo specifically instructed his subordinates not to dabble in protection rackets and insisted that Sinaloa territory remain “calm” and “controlled.” ........
by 2009, Mexican-based criminal organizations were operating in “more than a thousand U.S. cities.”When you consider the huge jump in the price of narcotics between bulk importation and retail sales, it might seem that Chapo would want to expand into street-level distribution. ....... “It was like watching a virus in a Petri dish,” he said. “It was constantly growing.” ....... When The Associated Press tracked down Otis Rich, a Baltimore dealer who was ensnared in one of the operations, he answered the obvious question with a telling reply: “Sina-who?” ........ A big reason for the markup at the retail level is that the sales force is so exposed — out on the corner, a magnet for undercover cops, obliged to negotiate with a needy, unpredictable clientele. When you adjust for all that added risk, the windfall starts to seem less alluring. Like a liquor wholesaler who opts not to open a bar, Chapo appears to have decided that the profits associated with retail sales just aren’t worth the hassle. ......... Chicago, home of the Mercantile Exchange, has always been a hub from which legitimate goods fan out across the country, and it’s no different for black-market commodities. Chapo has used the city as a clearinghouse since the early 1990s; he once described it as his “home port.” ........ Chapo tends to dominate a conversation, asking a lot of questions ....... “They have to offer lines of credit,” Wardrop told me, “no different from Walmart or Sears.” ....... “fronting,” rests on an ironclad assumption that in the American marketplace, even an idiot salesman should have no trouble selling drugs. One convicted Sinaloa trafficker told me that it often took him more time to count the money he collected from his customers than it did to actually move the product. ....... “That price is fine,” Chapo agreed, without argument. Then he added something significant: “Do you have a way to bring that money over here?” ........ For the Sinaloa cartel, pushing product north into the United States is only half the logistical equation. The drug trade is a cash business ....... These bills are counted, hidden in the same vehicle compartments that were used to smuggle drugs in the opposite direction and then sent to stash houses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. From there, they move across the border into Mexico. ......... the fee for fully scrubbing and banking illicit proceeds may run Sinaloa more than 15 cents on the dollar. But a great deal of the cartel’s money remains in cash. ........ some is sent to Colombia to purchase more product, because drugs offer a strong return on investment. “Where would you put your money?” the former Cisen officer Alejandro Hope asked me with a chuckle. “T-bills? Real estate? I would put a large portion of my portfolio in cocaine.” ........ money can start to pile up around the house. The most that Martínez ever saw at one time was $30 million, which just sat there, having accumulated in his living room. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. ......... It might be impossible to eradicate all the cartels in Mexico, this theory goes, so the government has picked a favorite in the conflict in the hope that when the smoke clears, a Sinaloa monopoly might usher in a sort of pax narcotica. ....... a system in which junior traffickers would walk into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and announce their willingness to become informers — then feed the Americans intelligence about rival cartels, thereby using law enforcement to eliminate their competitors. ........ Sinaloa guards its secrets ruthlessly. After Chapo’s friend Miguel Angel Martínez was arrested in 1998, four men came to kill him in prison, stabbing him repeatedly ...... This time, an assassin managed to get as far as the gate outside Martínez’s cell and chucked two grenades at the bars. Locked in with nowhere to run, Martínez could only cower by the toilet to shield himself from the blast. The roof caved in, and he barely survived. Asked later who it was that tried to have him killed, Martínez said that it was his compadre, Chapo Guzmán. “Because of what I knew,” he explained. ........ In 2008, Chapo’s lover, Zulema Hernández, was discovered dead in the trunk of a car, her body carved with the letter “Z.” “It’s like the evolution of the dinosaurs, and the coming of the T. Rex,” Antonio Mazzitelli told me. “The T. Rex is the Zetas.” ....... In March, the cartel dumped a collection of dismembered bodies in Zeta territory and posted a series of open letters on the walls around them, deriding the Zetas as “a bunch of drunks and car-washers.” Each message was signed, “Sincerely, El Chapo.” ........ One thing Chapo has always done is innovate. Even as he engages in violent brinkmanship along the border, the cartel is expanding to new markets in Europe, where a kilo of cocaine can sell for three times what it does in the U.S., and in Australia, where authorities believe that Chapo is now a major cocaine supplier. There are also indications that the cartel is exploring opportunities in Southeast Asia, China and Japan — places Chapo and Martínez first visited as younger men. And Chapo’s great comparative advantage still lies along that fraught boundary between Mexico and the United States. Even if the kingpin is killed or captured, one of his associates will quite likely take his place, and the smuggling infrastructure that Chapo created will endure, channeling the product, reaping the profits and feeding, with barely a blip in service, the enduring demand on this side of the border — what the historian Héctor Aguilar Camín once referred to as “the insatiable North American nose.”