×

The End of the Big Cartels

Why There Won’t Be Another El Chapo

El Chapo arrives in New York after his extradition from Mexico, January 2017 Reuters

Earlier this month, a federal jury in New York convicted Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the former kingpin of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel, on ten charges related to drug trafficking. El Chapo was stunned, his wife cried, and U.S. authorities crowed.

For some, the verdict offered finality: “The reign of Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s crime and violence has come to an end,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

For others, vindication: “There are those who say the war on drugs is not worth fighting,” said Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Those people are wrong.”

Some spoke of heroism: “Today’s verdict,” said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, “sends an unmistakable message to transnational criminals: You cannot hide, you are not beyond our reach, and we will find you and bring you to face justice.”

Others expressed a sense of relief: “As was clear to the jury, Guzmán Loera’s massive, multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise was responsible for flooding the streets of the United States with hundreds of tons of cocaine as well as enormous quantities of other dangerous drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine,” according to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

These officials all offered variations on a popular drug war narrative: an all-controlling kingpin builds a criminal empire, leaving death and destruction in his wake. Law enforcement tracks, arrests, and incarcerates him—and, in the case of El Chapo, rearrests and reincarcerates him after he escapes—and then convicts him. The public embraces this story, watching it over and over, first as news on CNN and then as fiction on Netflix. It is simple and understandable, and it helps us sleep at night. It is also false.

The obsession with El Chapo and his exploits, as well as those of his associates and his cartel, reflects an outdated view of the drug trade. The idea that this trade is dominated by vertically integrated

Loading, please wait...

To read the full article

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue