El Chapo: His Great Escape from Prison

The tunnel in which El Chapo Escaped | Courtesy of Plugged Entertainment Magazine
The tunnel in which El Chapo Escaped | Courtesy of Plugged Entertainment Magazine

Have you ever imagined being a billionaire? How about being a fugitive? Well, El Chapo was both a billionaire and a fugitive. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman became the leader of the Sinaloa cartel in the late 1980s. He was first captured on June 9, 1993, and was transported to Almoloya maximum security prison in Mexico. El Chapo constantly asked to be relocated, and in November of 1995, he was sent to the Puente Grande prison near Guadalajara. On January 19, 2001, El Chapo escaped by hiding in a dirty-laundry cart which guards led to the gate, and then he proceeded to walk out the building dressed as a policeman. The escape was like something you would see in a movie. Shortly after his escape, El Chapo resumed his leadership in the Sinaloa Cartel, which is one of the most powerful and violent drug trafficking syndicates in the world. The Sinaloa Cartel primarily smuggles and distributes Columbian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, methamphetamine, and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States.1

Photograph of El Chapo being escorted from a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers and marines in Mexico City | January 8th | Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press | Courtesy of The Washington Post

On February 22, 2014, El Chapo, asleep next to his wife and 2-year-old twin daughters, was captured at a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa. He had no time to escape nor grab his weapons. Once he was captured, the United States wanted El Chapo to be handed across the border for drug trafficking charges in U.S. federal court. However, Mexico insisted that they would detain El Chapo, and keep him so secure that he would not see the world in hundreds of years.2 He returned to prison after making a legendary escape 13 years ago through a tunnel he had fabricated. The prison he was placed in went to great lengths to ensure its security — by checking if the walls were hollowed, having a set shower time, and forcing inmates to have their heads shaved every seven to twelve days. Mexico officials felt that El Chapo should do his time in Mexico before being extradited to the United States.3

Photograph of Prison Cell prison wing | Courtesy of Max Pixel

On Saturday, July 11, 2015, word spread that El Chapo had escaped Altiplano Prison again. The next morning Mexican officials confirmed this news. Surprisingly, he had escaped through a 1.5-kilometre tunnel from a small opening in the shower area of his cell.4 Altiplano has a multitude of ground-level security measures such as the prison being covered in CCTV cameras and access control points.5 El Chapo was located in the special treatments area, hallway two, cell 20. The video footage Osorio Chong released from inside El Chapo’s prison cell showed Guzman entering the shower then disappearing at 8:52 p.m.6

One inmate, Flavio Sosa, was in the same unit seven years prior at the prison from which El Chapo escaped. He claims that this prison is not one you can easily escape from, because there are only 20 inmates in the special treatment area and a camera is watching you at all times in your cell. On top of that, there is a special visit program to intimidate inmates and inspect every cell thoroughly. In his words, “They strip you naked and once you are naked you have to do three squats, show them your testicles… Then, they enter your cell with dogs to examine it, with a tool that they use to knock on the wall on the floor… You have a shower time at 5:45 in the morning. Nobody can turn on the shower during the day or night.” This escape really exposed the weaknesses in the Mexican justice and prison system.7

Photograph of escape underway for German prisoners from Camp Papago Park | AP\Lawrence C. Jorgensen collection | Courtesy of AZ central

This isn’t the first time El Chapo has used tunnels to traffic or escape authorities. The tunnel he used to escape Altiplano prison also gave people a glimpse of the tunnels the Sinaloa Cartel likely use to traffic drugs across borders without being detected. Many people blame the Mexican government for the escape of El Chapo, causing them to lose trust in their government. El Chapo’s escape was demoralizing — through it, Mexican citizens lost the trust of the government’s abilities to protect their citizens as well as the trust between both borders. 8

  1. Romero L. Gomez, “El Chapo’ jailbreak is both a Mexican and an American story,” The Conversation (1-4), July 17, 2015.
  2. E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran, “Cartel boss escapes Mexican prison; Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman used elaborate, 1.5-km tunnel in second break from jail,” The Toronto Star, 2015.
  3. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  4. E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran, “Cartel boss escapes Mexican prison; Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman used elaborate, 1.5-km tunnel in second break from jail,” The Toronto Star, 2015.
  5. Helen Regan, “Newly-Released Footage Shows Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Moments Before His Escape,” Time, 2015.
  6. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  7. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  8. Alfredo Corchado, “Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman tunnels out of prison,” Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2015.

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This Post Has 140 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ana Jimenez

    When I first saw this on the news a couple years ago, I could not believe my eyes and I thought it was ‘fake news’. However, once I kept digging at the news, I saw that it was true. This goes to show how truly unprepared and corrupt the Mexican government was. When he should have had cameras on him he did not, allowing for him to make an escape. Overall great article.

  2. Avatar
    Juliana Montoya

    El Chapo was always very entertaining to read about because of his control of the Sinaloa plaza in the plaza and also his stories about his many escapes from both Mexican and American prisons. What I found very interesting was the fact that several citizens of Mexico stopped trusting the government after his escape.

  3. Avatar
    Savannah Alcazar

    I think El Chapo is fascinating. I was actually thinking about writing my second article on him because my class involves International Law. This article is well written and kept my attention. It’s hard to believe people can dig tunnels as extensive as El Chapo and his crew. He needed to be handed over to American authorities before he was able to escape. His power is insane.

  4. Avatar
    Samantha Zamorano

    It is hard to feel any sympathy for a man who leads the most notorious cartel in Mexico that is responsible for the killings and terrorizing for many across Mexico. I remember when El Chapo had escaped for the last time, many in Mexico revered him because they claimed that he had helped their communities by giving back. Regardless of how many people distrust the Mexican government, or how much El Chapo helped them out financially, I would never want a man who has a blatant disregard for human life to roam around free, or be in hiding for that matter.

  5. Lesley Martinez
    Lesley Martinez

    I cannot believe that he was able to escape prison, not once but multiple times. The first time he escaped is almost comical because he escaped so easily and with the help of the guards at the prison. And the second time is just shocking. To know that he found a way to have a tunnel created that was 1.5 kilometers in the special treatment unit does resonate some suspicion about the surveillance in Mexican prisons. It seems that El Chapo needs to be kept in a prison that will require him to be watched 24/7.

  6. Avatar
    Yuliana Vasquez

    His multiple attempts for escaping jail was such a shocker for me, I have only known about his famous tunnel. It was interesting knowing more about his past events especially that hes escaped in a laundry cart. I bet a lot of people were bought to help him escape. After reading this , it makes me want to watch the series they made of him.

  7. Avatar
    Malik Heard

    hearing about how he escaped was from a friend was unreal the way he escaped sounded really fake to me util I looked it up myself and even then I was like how was this possible.After this I looked up EL chapo and saw that he has already escaped a few times before.His escape plan was crazy and took a lot of time and man power but it worked even though they had him under surveillance pretty much 24/7 he still escaped only to be caught like a month or two later. This article was very informative and fun to read he was like a modern day pablo escobar.

  8. Avatar
    Roberto Rodriguez

    It is just crazy how many times El Chapo has escaped, there is no doubt that these crazy stories of his escapes will eventually make their way to television when we get more information about his life. It is really crazy to think how many times he escaped prison, you would think after the first or second time, eventually they would just have him completely on lock down.

  9. Avatar
    Jose Maria Llano Aranalde

    Seeing it on the news I could not believe that he had escaped. He is the one person that you had to have under surveillance and not let out of your sight. The way that he was able to escape from the prison is even crazier. It honestly sounds made up. It could have been straight out of a movie. I thought the police would be more careful knowing that he used tunnels before to escape from authorities.

  10. Avatar
    Marco Montes de Oca

    When I first heard of how El Chapo escaped prison in 2001, I thought they were joking. Escaping a prison by hiding in a laundry cart is shocking. The way the article explained it as something you would only see in a movie is absolutely true. It’s shocking how El Chapo continued to escape from prison over and over. This shows a lot about how prisons are monitored, people can not continue to escape. All of this must be put to an end.

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