Daily Meme: El Chapo and Our War on Drugs

  • Splashed all over this weekend's news was the capture of Joaquín Guzmán Loera aka, El Chapo, the Mexican drug kingpin ranked #67 on Forbes's "Powerful People" list who got his billions from the being the man in at the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, responsible for an estimated 25 percent of the illegal drugs that make their way across the U.S.-Mexico border. The capture was surprisingly undramatic—he was found in bed—especially for a man who created a network of tunnels connecting six safe houses (one which emptied into a bathroom of his ex-wife's house ... cheeky of him).
  • Now is as good a time as any to review the facts of the U.S. War on Drugs. Spoiler alert: It ain't pretty, and the capture of one guy probably won't change much about the current state of affairs.  
  • Last February, The Chicago Crime Commission named El Chapo Public Enemy No. 1 (a title once held by the irrepressible Al Capone). "While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border," said Jack Riley, head of the DEA's Chicago office.
  • Chicago, which the Sinaloa Cartel made its Midwest distribution center, saw a spike in gang turf-wars over the past decade, though its murder rate fell in 2013. The cartel pushed heroin, meth, and marijuana. The facts on the ground, as reported in a Bloomberg investigative piece, are bleak: "Since the start of 2012, an average of one heroin user has died every eight-and-a-half days in the county [DuPage]... many of them in their teens and twenties and snorting Sinaloa’s product."
  • The Midwest isn't the only place where heroin use is spiking. 64 people in the Boston area overdosed in the past month, and yesterday, Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey announced a plan to outfit emergency response teams across the country with the heroin antidote known as Narcan. 
  • While the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman by a heroin overdose brought attention to the problem, the use of the opiate has been spiking for the past couple of years. As the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month, "In 2011, at least 178,000 Americans used heroin for the first time, according to the latest available estimate from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, almost doubling from five years earlier. And early indicators suggest that those numbers will continue to rise." 
  • And while El Chapo's capture is a major PR coup, experts warn that it also creates a power vaccum in Mexican cartels. And that situation could turn violent fast and could migrate over the border into the U.S. 
  • And what about the trial of the kingpin himself? Well, both the U.S. and Mexico have claims on him in the court of law. Grand juries in several locations around the United States, including Chicago, San Diego, Texas, and New York are pushing for El Chapo's trial and extradition. Only time will tell where his final jail cell will be. Let's hope he doesn't escape in the meantime.