Joaquin Guzman is a Mexican drug kingpin rumored to be worth a billion dollars or so. He’s in the news frequently, but almost nobody knows his name because his nickname has become an international brand.
That would be “El Chapo.” Friends and business associates likely call him Joaquin, for the same reason mobster Benjamin Siegel’s friends never uttered “Bugsy” when he was around. Chapo is the Spanish word for dwarf.
The public chooses the nicknames of folk heroes, and this one apparently stems from El Chapo’s height, a quite average 5 feet 6. (Like the NBA is overrun with 6-foot-9 Mexicans, right?)
El Chapo is back in prison west of Mexico City. He was recaptured after giving an interview to Sean Penn for a story in Rolling Stone magazine. Given that he’s 2-for-2 in jailbreaks from this particular prison, rumors are flying he’ll try again, perhaps soon. Construction work outside the gates has ramped up speculation.
Teresa Lopez, who runs a hardware store beside the prison, told the Daily Mail of London that El Chapo “is a hero to many ordinary Mexicans for defying the government.” She promised to sell anybody plotting an escape the supplies they might need.
U.S. authorities want to extradite, but that’s a drawn-out process. El Chapo is generous with bribes. (Nobody ever called him El Cheapo.)
Of course, even folk heroes have detractors. One of them Santo Esquivel Sanchez, who runs a convenience store near the prison.
“El Chapo seriously embarrassed the country’s government, and this time around they’re going to make him pay for it,” he told the Daily Mail. “Even if that means sucking up their pride and handing him over to the gringos.”
Which corrupt government will prevail? In an odd twist, Mr. Penn finds himself siding with America for the first time.