Within the bloody churn of the worldwide drug commerce, there are not any fastened, everlasting characters. Cartel leaders are seldom greater than non permanent gamers, rising and falling with unfailing predictability as a brand new solid rushes in to switch them.
So it goes even with Joaquin Guzman Loera, the notorious drug lord often known as El Chapo, who was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday in New York for smuggling tons of medication into the USA and leaving a path of demise in his wake.
The sentencing was the ultimate act for Mr. Guzman, a poor farm boy who turned a small-time drug racket into one of the largest, and most violent, criminal enterprises in historical past. His trajectory was considered one of Houdini-like escapes from prison, mountains of money and bottomless blood lust.
For almost 20 years, his story loomed large in Mexico and world wide, a exceptional stretch of time for him to bask within the doubtful glow of being probably the most acknowledged drug lord on the earth.
Now, Mr. Guzman’s legacy will fade behind the partitions of a maximum-security jail, together with the handfuls of different cartel leaders already confined to historical past.
However for all the general public fanfare of his downfall — the pursuit via the mountains of the Sierra Madre, the slender escapes below the noses of federal authorities, the jubilation at his final made-for-TV capture — the bigger narrative of the drug conflict stays unbroken.
Many right here in Mexico would argue, actually, that the conflict has solely grown worse since his extradition. And judging by the staggering murder figures of the previous few years, which proceed to set information, it’s straightforward to see why.
“We’re experiencing a lot violence,” stated José Luis Córdoba, 47, who works at a non-public safety firm in Mexico Metropolis. “So, no, it positively received’t cease or change as a result of he received sentenced to life in jail.”
Kingpins fall, new ones rise, and the site visitors of medication to the USA continues uninterrupted. Via all of it, the demise toll mounts, particularly in Mexico, the place the vast majority of the blood is spilled.
The lives misplaced within the violence have now surpassed the degrees reached when Mr. Guzman was on the road, overseeing an unlimited empire of killers.
Taking out the drug commerce’s most harmful leaders has not ended the trafficking. It has been all however confirmed that the so-called Kingpin Technique pushed by the USA — wherein the authorities attempt to cripple drug cartels by going after their leaders — has failed.
As an alternative of destroying the cartels by reducing off their heads, the coverage has spawned multi-headed hydras, smaller, less disciplined and often-deadlier spinoffs.
“Sadly, Mexico doesn’t have the capability to take care of the splintering of the cartel and the huge community that’s the Sinaloa Cartel,” stated Giovanni Márquez, 27, a Mexican economist, referring to Mr. Guzman’s cartel. “On the finish, it’s not nice information for us.”
So one of many grand disappointments of Mr. Guzman’s seize is that it has been a significant catalyst of the violence consuming Mexico.
Earlier than his seize, his Sinaloa cartel was the dominant participant within the drug market. With fewer enemies to kill off, homicides have been on a downward glide path till 2014.
However after his seize, the wrestle to problem Sinaloa’s dominance of the enterprise has intensified, serving to gasoline a conflict for management.
In Mexico, a brand new pressure has emerged within the drug commerce, the Jalisco New Technology Cartel, and it’s in a struggle with others for dominance of the commerce routes via Mexico into the USA. Homicides are surging in the entire predictable sizzling spots, together with Acapulco, Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez.
However they’re additionally spiking in previously quiet areas, like within the coastal state of Colima.
“It’s exactly as a result of he was faraway from the sport that we’re seeing the extent of violence we’re seeing now,” stated David Shirk, a professor on the College of San Diego and director of the Justice in Mexico program there. “Had he remained at massive, and the group continued to dominate the drug commerce as they have been in 2013 and 2014, we’d have seen a decline to a number of the lowest ranges of violence in Mexico’s historical past.”
Nonetheless, analysts stated it was necessary to jail leaders like Mr. Guzman, who drugged and abused women as younger as 13-years-old whereas on the helm of his group, in accordance with trial testimony.
“In the long run, not pursuing leaders sends a message of impunity,” stated Jorge Chabat, a safety skilled on the College of Guadalajara.
However his seize has completed nothing to dampen violence, and even cut back the overdose deaths plaguing the USA, specialists stated.
“It’s virtually like a Pyrrhic victory,” stated Tony Payan, the director of the Mexico Middle on the Baker Institute for Public Coverage at Rice Unviersity.
“The basic underlying dynamics of the conflict on medicine have remained the identical for happening half a century,” Mr. Shirk added. “I don’t wish to name it a futile wrestle, however what else are you able to name it?”