Reading Sean Penn‘s interview with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, you may have gotten the impression he’s just a courteous, peaceful family man who only ran the Sinaloa Cartel to support his loved ones — kind of a Mexican Tony Soprano.
“Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more,” he told Penn. “But do I start trouble? Never.”
Prosecutors in the U.S. and other countries beg to disagree. They contend that Guzmán is an international crime lord whose drug business has cost the Mexican government billions of dollars in resources, and contributed to the deaths of thousands.
Here are four reasons that Guzmán was, until his capture on Jan. 8, one of the most-wanted fugitives in the world.
1. He Is Accused of Killing 12 People
As is common in the drug trade, Guzmán’s empire was built in part through extreme violence. As many as 100,000 have died in the last decade in Mexico’s drug wars, though it is impossible to estimate exactly how many have died because of the Sinaloa Cartel. The cartel, however, is notorious for its brutality. The group is said to behead rivals and dissolve the bodies in vats of acid, often posting images and video online as a warning.
As the Daily News reported in 2014, a U.S. indictment says charged Guzmán and his successor “employed ‘sicarios,’ or hit men, who carried out hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings, assassinations and acts of torture.” Guzmán was charged with 12 murders.
2. He Was the Biggest Drug Trafficker Since Pablo Escobar
According to several drug enforcement agencies — and Guzmán himself – he supplied half of all of the cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin that comes into the United States. That would mean his drug empire surpassed that of even the infamous Pablo Escobar, who was killed by Colombian and U.S. authorities in 1993.
3. He Escaped from Prison. Twice
Guzmán has become an almost mythical figure in Mexico for escaping from maximum security prison on two separate occasions. He was first locked up for drug trafficking and murder in 1993. However, Guzmán was living the high life in his prison cell, thanks to bribes paid out to various prison officials, including the prison’s warden. He escaped after being released from his cell and hiding in a laundry cart in 2001.
Guzmán was re-captured in 2014, but achieved his second escape in 2015 with an even more elaborate escape. After he disappeared, officials found a tunnel measuring almost one mile in length beneath his cell, which was fitted with a track made to accommodate a motorcycle that he used to flee.
4. He Made Forbes List of the World’s Most Powerful People
He has influence and reach. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, Guzmán was included on the Forbes list of the most powerful people in the world. The business publication estimated that his narco-empire was worth upwards of $3 billion. Forbes decided not to include Guzmán on later lists, because his money comes from illicit sources.