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  • Renowned Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez

    Renowned Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez | Photo: Anabel Hernandez

Published 29 July 2015
Renowned Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, author of “Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers,” talks with teleSUR about the escape of "El Chapo" Guzman.

LA: Welcome to teleSUR English Anabel.

AH: Thanks a lot, my pleasure.

I want to start talking about the "El Chapo" escape, which has been covered by international media as a spectacle, like something out of Hollywood ... However, it holds a lot of implications for the government, which has played the fool with this issue.

First we have to understand that this alleged escape through an alleged tunnel, has nothing to do with Hollywood and is not a brilliant action conducted by this drug trafficker. His escape only highlights the corruption levels within the top of the Mexican government.

We are not talking about a guy that has the idea of making a tunnel with a spoon, we are talking about a guy who, for decades, has paid millions of dollars in bribes to top officials of the PGR (attorney general's office) , the army, federal police, Interior Ministry, the navy ... top officials from the governments of the states of Mexico, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Durango ... So we are talking about a guy that his main talent is not to dig tunnels, his main talent is to bribe ... and if we understand this you will understand the real history behind the escape of El Chapo Guzman.

Maybe for the government of Mexico, or the governments that don't understand how it works in Mexico, it is very simple to think that he made a tunnel and make fun of the government, because the Mexican government prefers people making jokes of it because they are fools or incompetents, rather that being accused of corruption.

So we are talking about an issue that only has to do with corruption.

I have said that the official version of the tunnel is improbable, in the first place because the federal government and the government of Enrique Peña Nieto already knew that El Chapo had the Altiplano maximum security prison under his control, they knew about this a year ago.

And there were a lot of clear signs of this, for example in July 2014 I published in the magazine Proceso a story about the hunger strike led by El Chapo Guzman along with Edgar Valdez Villarreal also known as La Barbie, for alleged bad treatment inside prison. But, for me, the backstory was not the good or bad treatment received by the inmates, but how El Chapo Guzman organized a hunger strike, if according to the government he was totally isolated and he was not able to speak with other inmates, when we was not even allowed to eat in the dinner and he was in in his three-by-four meters square cell.

“he is not Steve Jobs ... we are talking about a primitive guy! Someone who is a result of the corruption.”

What I knew is that he organized this strike because he had under his control all the guards, but El Chapo was seeing his lawyers everyday, and through his lawyers he was controlling from jail his organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, so he never lost not even a piece of his power when he was arrested and imprisoned in the Altiplano jail. There was never a break, that's why there was never a war inside the criminal organization, because it was always under El Chapo's control.

In February I published another story saying that El Chapo was organizing another revolt inside the jail, but now with his alleged enemies, so he was able to make agreements with the Zetas, the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, members of the Gulf Cartel to protest again for the alleged bad treatment, but that was only a smokescreen of what El Chapo was actually doing, which was to make new ties with his enemies and so prevent them boycotting his escape, but he was not preventing the government from doing that.

These steps I'm mentioning are the same steps he followed when he escaped from the jail in Puente Grande Jalisco in 2001.

Later in April 2015, it became clear that El Chapo already had entire control of the prison, because people with fake IDs were visiting him. That meant that by then he had already violated all the security barriers in the prison, which is why El Chapo was able to leave in the moment he decided.

RELATED: El Chapo’s escape in photos. Click below to go to gallery

You’ve said that El Chapo's capture (in 2014) was an “undesirable award” for President Peña Nieto, as his capture could have led to the disclosure of corruption scandals; now that he’s escaped, do you think it could be seen now as a defeat for his government?

No, this is much more complex. I think the arrest of El Chapo was never real, it was never a serious thing, that's why El Chapo never denounced anyone. This shows that it was never real, the government never said anything and I have that information in my possession, through transparency reports.

Since El Chapo was captured I started to monitor him all the time, that's why I had access to the information of everything that he was doing.

I requested precise information to the transparency agency and asked them:

How many officials you have arrested for their links with El Chapo? They said none.

How much money have you seized from his accounts? Not a single peso.

“...it doesn't matter which president is in office, these officials remain there because there is a deal that goes beyond any administration.”

The only information I got is that some money was seized from his accounts in 2007 before his arrest; after his arrest they didn't seize anything, not even a cent.

How many companies has the government closed before the capture of El Chapo Guzman?

Who has been arrested, his family members, his collaborators, those who helped him with money laundering, the answer is the same ... not a single one.

So it was not a defeat, because it was never real, it was only another lie from this administration.

He was in jail, but he was never under the government's control, and the government never interfered with his interests.

Can you explain the close relationship between this criminal and the Mexican government?

We have to understand that it is not only the Peña Nieto's administration, we are talking about a very old relationship between the Sinaloa cartel and the Mexican government, with institutions and the officials who work and control those institutions, this relationship comes from the ‘70s.

The Sinaloa Cartel is the oldest cartel in Mexico, its first name was El Cartel de Guadalajara, so this criminal organization has survived the PRI, PAN, PRD and many governments, because it knows how corruption works.

This cartel has the precise connections to conduct their actions, so its members know what to do in order to prevent the seizing of drugs, and their organization is basically untouchable. So the Sinaloa Cartel has paid a lot of money for so many years.

These corrupt officials are still there, it doesn't matter which president is in office, these officials remain there because there is a deal that goes beyond any administration.

The real question is why the government of Enrique Peña Nieto appointed Ramon Pequeño to monitor El Chapo?

Ramon Pequeño has been accused of having collaborated with the Sinaloa Cartel, why, then, did they allow him to be in charge of El Chapo?

That makes no sense, that means they have a deal and they put this official to monitor his chief, El Chapo Guzman, and we should now ask why Enrique Peña Nieto appointed him instead of arresting him. And they knew it, because they knew El Chapo was paying him.

There is a very interesting thing that is happening in Mexico and the world, maybe because of TV and its influence with the so-called “narconovelas,” the image of the drug lords has changed, and it is strange, but El Chapo is sometimes seen as a “cool guy.” Is it because he defeated the government and escaped? Or because he is defeating a president that has a bad reputation? Why does the world respond like this to a criminal?

I think everything is part of a great deception, a great deception by the Mexican government and also a great deception by the U.S. government, because instead of recognizing that it is a matter of corruption, the U.S. and Mexican government prefer to make an invention and say that this guy is so smart and that he can fool everyone and keep distributing tons of cocaine worldwide.

That's absurd!

El Chapo Guzman can barely read and write. El Chapo Guzman hasn’t even finished elementary school, he can't even write a letter.

We are not talking about someone that can create because of his knowledge ... he is not Steve Jobs ... we are talking about a primitive guy! Someone who is a result of the corruption.

He is the best example of the globalized corruption, because his power is not only in Mexico, his power is around the world.

This is a globalized economy, because it is convenient for many countries to have this money circulating.

The Sinaloa Cartel's revenues cannot be transported in a suitcase, that money is transferred trough HSBC, Bank of America, City Group ... and that's proven.

El Chapo is functional in a corrupt system.

“They are despicable people, who only exist because there are very corrupt people protecting them.”

This idea of the cool guy comes because the government can't say: He is not that brilliant, the thing is that we are very corrupt.

I think we lack context in order to understand the primitive mind of El Chapo Guzman.

How can a primitive mind have so much power?

The thing is that El Chapo is only interested in making money, he is not interested in being a hero or transcending history.

He is a man that wants to keep making money with his business, he is thinking how many more women he's going to have.

I guess he is also concerned about his crops, his cattle, but he is the kind of person who only wants to make money … and obviously he wants to survive doing this.

So he doesn't fit with the image of the powerful and sophisticated drug lord.

Of course not, the television distorts the image of these guys, it hides how terrible they are. They are violent.

They are people that can be very irrational, they are very despicable people that have caused a lot of damage.

They are despicable people, who only exist because there are very corrupt people protecting them.

How can we end this image of a cool guy?

I think that this is the part where journalism needs to play a key role, because we are not here to create myths, or to create fantastic stories of criminals without honor or without merit. The only merit they have is to live in a very corrupt country and that there are very corrupt economies that take advantage of that money.

But he has no talent, so the journalists we have to tell the stories just like they are, gritty stories. And in order to say the truth we cannot make El Chapo our principal guy, we have to talk about the real drug lords, those who created El Chapo. The politicians, the governors, the military ... They are worse than El Chapo.

What's next in this case? Are they going to find El Chapo?

His capture is not important, it has been proven before. The government has to dismantle the criminal networks, seize the money and end the corruption.

We have seen for years that the capture of drug lords has no meaning, because the drug trafficking and the violence continue as always.

RELATED: Anabel Hernandez: El Chapo Guzman, a Primitive Hero

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