Here’s a look at the life of Joaquín Guzmán, otherwise known as “El Chapo,” a Mexican drug lord who has repeatedly broken out of prison. He was recaptured in January 2016 and later extradited to the United States to stand trial on federal charges. He was convicted on 10 counts related to federal drug offenses in February 2019.
Birth place: La Tuna, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Mexico
Birth name: Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera
Father: Emilio Guzmán Bustillos, subsistence farmer
Mother: María Consuelo Loera Pérez
Marriages: Believed to have been married at least three times, the most recent being to Emma Coronel Aispuro (2007-present)
Children: Is purported to have fathered between 12 and 13 children
The nickname, “El Chapo,” means “Shorty.” Guzmán stands 5’6” tall.
Guzmán is the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which the US Justice Department describes as “one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels,” moving billions upon billions of dollars in marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. The cartel controls roughly 40% to 60% of Mexico’s drug trade, with earnings at around $3 billion annually.
For a time, he was able to continue running the Sinaloa Cartel in prison through bribes.
Claimed in 2014 that he has killed 2,000-3,000 people.
Is said to be semi-illiterate, receiving no formal education beyond third grade.
Is known for using intricate tunnel systems for both evading authorities and moving massive quantities of drugs.
Guzmán is perceived by some as a hero, with many narcocorridos, “drug ballads,” that glorify kingpins, written in his honor.
There have been charges brought against Guzmán in Mexico, as well as federal charges in Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Florida and New Hampshire. He was convicted on 10 counts related to federal drug offenses in February 2019 after a trial in Brooklyn, New York.
1960s - Begins planting marijuana with his cousins.
1970s - Begins running drugs to major Mexican cities and the US border and working with major drug traffickers such as Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, leader of the Guadalajara Cartel.
1980s - Member of the Guadalajara Cartel. After the arrest of Felix Gallardo, the cartel splits into factions. Guzmán becomes leader of the Sinaloa Cartel Pacific coast faction.
February 1992 - Police find the bodies of six of Guzmán’s top lieutenants dumped along Tijuana highways; the six men had been tortured and shot.
November 1992 - Six people are gunned down at a discotheque in Puerto Vallarta by gunmen working for Guzmán, whose targets are traffickers in the Tijuana Cartel.
May 1993 - Gunmen with the Tijuana Cartel attempt to assassinate Guzmán in retribution, firing upon a vehicle at an airport. Guzmán escapes unharmed, but Cardinal Archbishop of Guadalajara Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampa is killed accidentally, along with six others.
June 9, 1993 - Wanted on charges of drug trafficking, murder and kidnapping, he is arrested in Guatemala and extradited to Mexico. Guzmán is subsequently sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in a maximum security prison.
Early 2000s - Violence across Mexico escalates as the Sinaloa Cartel attempts to encroach upon Tijuana and Gulf Cartel territory.
January 19, 2001 - Guzmán escapes the maximum-security Puente Grande prison in Jalisco, Mexico, in a laundry cart. The planned escape required bribes and cooperation allegedly costing him $2.5 million, according to Malcolm Beith’s book, “The Last Narco.”
2004 - The US government announces a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzmán’s arrest and conviction.
May 2008 - Guzmán’s son, Edgar, is murdered in a parking lot shootout near Culican, Mexico.
2009 - Guzmán and other cartel leaders are indicted on charges of conspiring to import more than 264,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States between 1990 and 2005.
August 2011 - Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who has dual US-Mexican citizenship, gives birth to twin girls in a hospital outside of Los Angeles.
2012 - The US Treasury Department uses the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to freeze the US assets of his relatives.
February 22, 2014 - Guzmán is apprehended at a beach resort in Mazatlán, Mexico.
July 11, 2015 - Guzmán escapes the maximum-security Altiplano Federal Prison near Toluca, Mexico, by crawling through an opening in the shower area of his cell block leading to a nearly mile-long tunnel.
October 2015 - While on the run, he meets with movie star Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. Penn’s interview with Guzmán subsequently runs in Rolling Stone magazine. “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world,” Guzmán is quoted in the interview.
January 8, 2016 - Guzmán is recaptured by Mexican authorities in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, after a raid leads to a shootout in which five people connected to Guzmán are killed.
May 9, 2016 - A judge in Mexico approves the United States’ request to extradite Guzmán, who faces charges in seven states. Once extradited, he will be sent to Brooklyn, New York, to stand trial on federal charges.
January 19, 2017 - Mexico’s Foreign Ministry turns Guzmán over to US authorities.
January 20, 2017 - Enters a plea of not guilty at his arraignment in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
November 13, 2018 - Guzmán’s long-awaited criminal trial begins in a New York federal district court amid unprecedented security measures, including armed escorts for the anonymous and partly sequestered jurors, as well as heavily armed federal marshals and officers with bomb-sniffing dogs standing guard outside the courthouse.
February 12, 2019 - Guzmán is convicted of all 10 federal criminal counts against him, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds, international distribution of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other drugs, and use of firearms.
February 21, 2019 - The US Justice Department announces Joaquin Guzmán Lopez and Ovidio Guzmán Lopez, sons of “El Chapo,” have been charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs to be imported into the US.
July 17, 2019 - Guzmán is sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. He is also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.
February 22, 2021 - Guzmán’s wife is arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Coronel is facing charges of conspiracy to distribute 1 kilogram or more of heroin, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana and 500 grams or more of methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the country, according to a news release from the Justice Department.
June 10, 2021 - Coronel pleads guilty to three counts: conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine for importation into the United States; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; and violating the Kingpin Act by engaging in transactions and dealings in property of Guzmán.
November 30, 2021 - Coronel is sentenced to three years in prison and four years of supervised release. She must forfeit $1.5 million and pay a $300 special assessment fine for each of the three counts to which she pleaded guilty.
January 25, 2022 - A panel of appellate judges upholds the 2019 conviction of Guzmán, rejecting his assertions that he was treated unfairly. In their decision, the three judges rule that US District Judge Brian Cogan, who oversaw Guzmán’s federal case in Brooklyn, conducted the three-month trial “with diligence and fairness, after issuing a series of meticulously crafted pretrial rulings.”