Who needs luck when you have a billion-dollar criminal enterprise and a nationwide network of informants at your disposal? That seems to be the lifelong motto of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, who on Saturday escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico – the second time he’s pulled off such a feat. His history of close calls extends far beyond his two prison breaks, and have become an integral element of his notoriety and legend as the head of the Sinaloa cartel, one of the most powerful illicit drug organizations in Mexico.
Here’s a timeline of some of his nearest misses and narrowest escapes.
1993: Rival gang members made an attempt on Guzmán’s life at the Guadalajara airport. The shootout resulted in the death of Mexican cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. “Prosecutors say the Tijuana drug cartel, another offshoot of the Guadalajara Cartel, mistook him for Guzmán in a bungled assassination attempt,” according to the AP. Guzmán was arrested later that year and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
2001: Guzmán escaped from a maximum-security prison for the first time, after bribing prison officials who turned a blind eye while a janitor wheeled him out in a laundry cart. That escape allegedly cost Guzmán $2.5 million and resulted in charges being brought against 71 prison officials.
2004: Following the 2001 break, Guzmán would evade the authorities for 13 years. There were two close calls in 2004, however. “In 2004, the Mexican army received a tip that Chapo and one of his associates had thrown a party in La Tuna, the drug lord’s hometown,” Malcolm Beith and Jan-Albert Hootsen report for Vocativ. “They were on their way to the neighboring state of Durango, when helicopters swooped in on a nearby ranch where Chapo was thought to be resting. The narcos managed to escape on foot through the hills.”
The other attempt that year, Beith and Hootsen write, involved 200 soldiers who raided a ranch near La Tuna; Guzmán reportedly got away with ten minutes to spare.
2007: Guzmán threw a massive wedding party for himself and his 18-year-old bride, Emma Coronel, that was reportedly attended by “many officials and local police.” The Mexican Army dispatched helicopters and troops in a raid, but Guzmán had fled hours earlier.
2012: DEA officials tracked Guzmán’s Blackberry and alerted Mexican troops to his whereabouts in the city of Los Cabos, according to an account by Patrick Radden Keefe in The New Yorker. But again Guzmán was able to elude capture, this time through the back door of a mansion. At some point Guzmán realized his mobile device had been targeted, and passed it off to a subordinate to take the fall. “The authorities, unaware of the handoff, chased the signal around Los Cabos, until they finally pounced on the sacrificial subordinate,” writes Radden Keefe. “While they were occupied with arresting him, Guzmán made it into the desert, where a private plane picked him up and flew him back to the safety of the Sierra Madre.”