El Chapo: A new challenge for Mexico's government

MONTERREY, Mexico – Wanted by the FBI, Interpol and the governments of Mexico and the United States, the most notorious Mexican drug kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, escaped from a maximum-security prison for the second time.

 Guzmán was first captured in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for drug trafficking but later escaped from a maximum-security prison after bribing penitentiary guards. In Feb. 2014, the drug kingpin was captured in his apartment in Mazatlán, Sinaloa and confined to spend over 30 years in prison. This event was highlighted as one of the most important achievements of current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and his administration.

Right after Guzmán was captured a second time, President Peña Nieto declared that a new possible escape, “would be something terrible and inexcusable for the Mexican State and the government not to take the proper precautions to assure that the events occurred a few years ago won’t happen again. It would be unforgivable if ‘El Chapo’ escapes.” 

Henchmen working for El Chapo spent a year digging the escape tunnel. photo credit: dailymail.com

Henchmen working for El Chapo spent a year digging the escape tunnel. photo credit: dailymail.com

However, on July 11, shortly before 9 p.m., Guzmán stepped into the shower area in the Federal Social Readaptation Center no. 1“Altiplano,” the most secure prison in Mexico, but never came out. Later, the guards entered the cell and found a hole, which according to Mexican government’s official statements, lead to “a mile-long (1.5 km) tunnel equipped with lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle on rails.” This tunnel was large enough for the drug lord to walk standing upright to freedom. 

photo credit: dailymail.com

photo credit: dailymail.com

While President Peña Nieto was touring in France, Miguel Osorio Chong, Mexican Secretary of the Interior, stated in a press conference that Guzmán’s escape succeeded with the “complicity of personal and employees of the maximum-security prison,” and offered a $3.8 million ($60 million Mexican pesos) reward for any information leading to the drug lord’s recapture.  

This security crisis is a major setback for the Mexican administration and its timing couldn’t be any worse. During his first three years in office, President Peña Nieto’s approval rating was at a record low, with almost 61% of Mexicans saying they disapproved of his government, according to Reforma. On the other hand, the economic reforms stated by the President appear to not have a clear impact on growth. Mexico’s GDP has expanded an average of 2.5% in the last three years, according to the World Bank, far from the annual 5% targeted by the presidential administration.

The second escape of “El Chapo” Guzmán represents a challenge for Mexico’s government. It has been affecting its presidential legitimacy and international reputation. It has added to the increasing tension in a national scenario of structural deficiencies of Mexico’s law enforcement and the rule-of-law system. Corruption, ineptitude and impunity are basic factors for the wide social discontent among Mexican society. Guzmán’s escape only increases the lack of credibility in the government.

Regardless of when the Mexican authorities recapture the drug kingpin, this crisis should serve as a wakeup call for President Peña Nieto and his administration in order to target government actions via innovative anti-crime policies and significant reduction of high-level corruption and impunity. The remaining three years are crucial and decisive for the success, or failure, of Peña Nieto administration. Guzmán’s escape could, and should be a starting point for the Presidency to focus on crime, public safety and the rule of law. 

It never rains but it pours for Mexico’s administration and “El Chapo” is one of the biggest storms President Peña Nieto has to endure in his six-year term.    

Follow Karen López on Twitter: @karenlopezb17
cartoon credit: yournewswire.com


Karen López

International Affairs major at at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey former Guest Speaker and Mexican Representative at the United Nations HQ for the High-Level Event of the General Assembly, former Columbia University Student as part of the International Program of Excellence, former Research Assistant in International Affairs and Political Science, Host of Cristal Alterno a radio program broadcasting international and political issues. "I like to write because it is the best way to be heard beyond frontiers. GYV allows us to understand the world by sharing our ideas and perspectives as students and world citizens."