On has not truly known joy until one discovers that he or she shares a last name with a Mexican drug lord. Such has been the plight of yours truly – Richard Chapo – with the infamous Mexican kingpin – El Chapo. In truth, El Chapo was just a nickname meaning “shorty” given to Joaquin Guzman Loera given his 5’6″ stature. My family name originates out of Eastern Europe, although most confuse it with the French word for a hat – Chapeau. Thus, if I ever follow my lifelong dream of becoming a major Mexican drug dealer, I’m likely not to get far given my name would translate roughly to the very intimidating “shorty hat.” Tony Soprano is likely unimpressed.
The story of El Chapo is, of course, an interesting one. Raised as an abused kid in a poor family in Sinaloa, Joaquin Guzman was introduced to the marijuana business by his father. By the 1970s, he was a high ranking associate of Miguel Gallardo, the number one kingpin in the drug trade in Mexico.
For those who are unaware, the drug war and violence in Mexico did not always exist. It was only when Gallardo was taken down by the DEA that his generals started fighting over turf. El Chapo was one of these individuals, and ultimately triumphant…for a bit.
Guzman was captured twice in Mexico only to escape from prison both times. He was finally caught in 2016 for the third time and extradited to the United States in 2017.
On February 12, 2019, El Chapo became a bit shorter when he was found guilty on a host of drug-related charges in the United States that should have led to a sentence of life in prison. However, the case now appears to be suffering from an episode of juror misconduct, so there is a possibility the judge will order a new trial. The misconduct? Nothing Hollywood. Jurors were watching news reports of the case despite being ordered not to, stories which could create a bias on the jury. Regardless, it is difficult to see how the outcome will be any different in a subsequent trial.
So, what does all this mean?
1. Hopefully, I won’t have to explain I’m not a Mexican drug kingpin or related to one anymore.
2. No more free meals and drinks in Tijuana.
3. A search on Google for “Chapo” will produce results for my practice instead of DEA and FBI warrants…but probably not for another decade or so.
4. Much like with Hitler, the entertainment industry is going to make a small killing making El Chapo-related films, documentaries, cartoons, and who knows what.
What will not change? Sadly, the capture of El Chapo will have almost no impact on the drug war. There were drug kingpins before El Chapo. There will be drug kingpins after him. The drug trade is capitalism at its finest…if also its rawist. Demand drives high prices that drive supply. We already know who the new number one bad guy is – El Mencho. And his empire has already bypassed El Chapo’s operation in terms of product moved and revenue generated.
The “drug war” run by the United States started in the early 1980s. The concepts of supply and demand paint an ugly picture as to whether the war has been a success.
- In 1980, the price for a gram of cocaine was roughly $750.
- In 2012 – $190.
- In 2018 – $80.
The drop in prices suggests plenty of supply.
I’m not sure what the solution to the drug problem is, but the current effort is a failed one. From Pablo Escobar to El Chapo to El Mencho, the hard cold facts suggest wiping out major drug kingpins may make for great headlines, but it has no measurable effect on the actual drug trade. Although unlikely to occur, it is time for a rethink on the drug war.
Still, good riddance to El Chapo. Give me my name back!
Richard Chapo, Esq.