HomeNewsBriefEl Chapo Has Been Jailed for Life, But Is Mexico Better Off?

El Chapo Has Been Jailed for Life, But Is Mexico Better Off?


A US federal court has sentenced former Sinaloa Cartel capo Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera to life in prison, but in the drug lord’s absence, any semblance of criminal order in Mexico is gone while brutal violence has stormed back.

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, more commonly known as "El Chapo," will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars after Judge Brian Cogan handed down a sentence of life in federal prison plus an additional 30 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced July 17.

Guzmán Loera's February 2019 conviction on all 10 counts covered in the federal indictment against him, including drug trafficking charges and leading an ongoing criminal enterprise, came with a mandatory minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Over the course of the three-month trial, prosecutors detailed how the drug lord's Sinaloa Cartel relied on pervasive corruption to move more than 1.2 million kilograms of cocaine, among other drugs, into the United States, used ruthless violence to build its drug trafficking empire, and allegedly amassed billions of dollars in profits in the process.

Authorities are demanding the former kingpin forfeit more than $12 billion in assets. However, they have yet to find even a dime of Guzmán Loera's suspected fortune.

SEE ALSO: Profile of Joaquin Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo”

From the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, El Chapo will likely be sent to a maximum security prison in Colorado known as ADX Florence, the United States’ most secure prison, nicknamed the "Alcatraz of the Rockies."

Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman called the proceedings a “show trial” in comments to reporters following the sentencing. The defense plans to appeal the ruling, according to reports from inside the courtroom.

“Since the government will send me to a jail where my name will never be heard again, I take this opportunity to say there was no justice here,” Guzmán Loera reportedly said as part of a 15-minute statement to Cogan.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, told reporters that the "long road that led Chapo Guzmán from the mountains of Sinaloa to the courthouse behind us today was paved by death, drugs and destruction. But it ended today with justice.”

InSight Crime Analysis

This life sentence comes as no surprise. The former Sinaloa Cartel capo was the "ultimate target” for authorities both in the United States and Mexico, who see his conviction as a victory in the war on drugs.

However, even with Guzmán Loera locked away, the elusive drug war wages on and the Sinaloa Cartel continues to share Mexico’s top criminal spot with the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).

This may be “the end of one of the world's most important criminal leaders, but this is not the end of his [criminal] organization,” said Amalia Pulido Gómez, a post-doctoral fellow at the College of Mexico in Mexico City. 

Indeed, another capo from the cartel’s old guard who’s yet to spend even a single day in prison, Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo,” continues to evade authorities while running the organization’s day-to-day operations and managing El Chapo’s sons, known as “Los Chapitos.”

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

But in Guzmán Loera's absence, Mexico is more violent and its criminal landscape more fragmented than ever before. The homicide rate broke records in 2017 and again in 2018, and it's on pace to reach unprecedented levels once more by the end of 2019.

Just last year, a five-day clash over control of oil theft left more than 50 dead in central Mexico. Earlier this year, cartel violence left another 30 dead in a two-day battle over control of trafficking routes along the US-Mexico border.

All of that said, “kingpins [like El Chapo] have to be brought down,” according to security analyst Jaime López.

“El Chapo’s imprisonment in the United States is a net positive for Mexico," López told InSight Crime. "Impunity would have created all the wrong kinds of incentives [for other criminals]."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

MEXICO / 16 NOV 2012

The latest death of a reporter in Mexico, who was gunned down in broad daylight in the state of…


Without the bodies, the exact number of people executed in broad daylight at a funeral in Mexico's western state of…


A hotel security video caught Jalisco police officers assisting in a kidnapping, highlighting the depth of corruption in Mexico’s security…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…