US & World

How 'El Chapo' Guzman rose to power

Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'el Chapo Guzman' is escorted by marines as he is presented to the press on Feb. 22, 2014 in Mexico City. The Sinaloa cartel leader - the most wanted by U.S. and Mexican anti-drug agencies - was arrested early Saturday morning by Mexican marines at a resort in Mazatlan, northern Mexico.
Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'el Chapo Guzman' is escorted by marines as he is presented to the press on Feb. 22, 2014 in Mexico City. The Sinaloa cartel leader - the most wanted by U.S. and Mexican anti-drug agencies - was arrested early Saturday morning by Mexican marines at a resort in Mazatlan, northern Mexico.
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

The reign of Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman ended this weekend after authorities captured him at a hotel in Mazatlán after a 13-year manhunt. 

Guzman's worldwide drug operation spanned 20 countries including the United States. 

Related: Sinaloa cartel drug lord 'El Chapo' arrested in Mexico

Raul Hinojosa, a Chicano studies professor at UCLA, explained to KPCC that the Sinaloa cartels controlled nearly 25 percent of the drug trade into the United States, which translated to approximately $3 billion a year in revenue.

Guzman was considered an "organizational genius" from his early days of flying cocaine from Columbia to California. He later branched out to an elaborate network through money laundering and other illegal operations, according to Hinojosa. 

Guzman, also notoriously known as 'El Chapo,' has been the center of Mexican ballads and songs that have glorified and characterized him as a leader who rose to power. Guzman has often channeled this power as a strategy for "corrupting major institutions in Mexico," said Hinojosa.

But Hinojosa said people are also ready to move on from the era of romanticism in the drug cartel world. 

"There's a long history in the American West as well as Latin America of these bandit heroes, and 'El Chapo' Guzman cultivated this type of an image, as did previous drug lords in Columbia," Hinojosa told KPCC.

Guzman's nickname 'El Chapo,' translates to "Shorty." At 5'6", he is seen as someone who is ironically short against the power and figures of drug cartels, "a small gentleman who literally rose to such huge, vicious power," Hinojosa explained.

Guzman's family had been in the drug business for generations. He began the trade after being put in charge of small farms where heroin and marijuana were grown. After a senior relative — the head of the Sinaloa Cartel — was jailed, that's when Guzman began to emerge as a drug lord. 

Guzman was later jailed in Mexico and threatened to extradition to the United States on a series of charges, Hinojosa said.

"That's when he decided to leave the comfort of his control center where he ran the cartel out of jail and take it back out on the streets, where he remained for 13 years and apparently created an even stronger operation."

Guzman's career outside of custody ended on Saturday morning, when he was arrested by the Mexican marines in a high-rise condominium fronting the Pacific.