Mexico’s most wanted man – drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera – is one of just 38 people who managed to become new billionaires as much of the rest of the world lost wealth in 2009, according to Forbes magazine.
Guzman, who built a drug empire for eight years from a Mexican prison before escaping in a laundry cart in 2001, has made his Sinaloa cartel into one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the United States. In the process, he has managed to build franchises in dozens of U.S. cities and trigger a drug war now considered more brutal than the war in Iraq.
Not bad for a farm boy and career sociopath who operates without the benefit of a close-knit family. Instead, the man known as “El Chapo,” or Shorty, heads a loose-knit confederation made up off of gangs he hires away from competitors and incorporates into his cartel, according to the magazine.
An estimated 35 million people in the U.S. use narcotics or abuse prescription drugs, spending more than $64 billion annually. The Drug Enforcement Agency and other industry experts believe Guzmán, 54, has controlled anywhere from a third to half of the wholesale Mexican drug market over the past eight years, according to Forbes.
In 2008 alone Guzman’s cartel likely grossed 20 percent of the $39 billion earned by Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers off the wholesale drug shipments to the United States. That’s the calculation that put him on the Forbes list.
"He clearly is a sociopath and willing to engage in high levels of violence, but he is skillful in managing these turbulent waters," Bruce Bagley, chairman of international studies at the University of Miami, told Forbes. "The Sinaloa cartel is kind of a new animal in a way. He offers them (rival gangsters he hires away) a better deal.”
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