El Chapo's bloody rein ends at last
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
El Chapo’s murderous Sinaloa drug cartel was based in Mexico, but for years its American nerve center was Chicago. His henchmen from the Little Village neighborhood, twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, turned the city into a conduit for as much as 1,500 kilos of cocaine and heroin each month that would be distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada. Often, drugs sent to American cities were stashed behind fake walls or in crates of frozen fish or avocados shipped in boxcars and tractor-trailers.
The twins from Chicago were business partners with the notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but they also were his undoing. They flipped on him, secretly recording him and other cartel members. “Amigo!” Guzman said to one of the Flores brothers in Chicago in a recording of an intercepted phone call. “Here at your service.”
Once atop a drug smuggling operation that spanned four continents, Guzman, 61, now faces spending the rest of his life in prison after his conviction Tuesday in a Brooklyn federal courtroom. The 5 1/2-foot kingpin’s “bloody reign,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, “has come to an end, and the myth that he could not be brought to justice has been laid to rest.”
A declaration universally welcomed, but particularly in this city. A share of those drug shipments that came through Chicago stayed in Chicago. El Chapo’s evil stoked street violence and ruined the lives of countless youths here.
In 2013, the Chicago Crime Commission branded Guzman “Public Enemy No. 1,” a designation the commission had used just once before — for Al Capone. His fate sealed, Guzman now can don a different number, the inmate kind, that comes with an orange jumpsuit.