Trump will never win the battle from us. We are much stronger than he is
The most powerful drug lord in the world, the son of Joaquin Guzmán, never gives interviews. Until now. Criminologist and Latin America expert Ernesto Rodríguez Amari won his trust and ended up in a world that you only want to know about TV. "Even if the government legalises drugs, a black economy will continue to exist."
Sometimes reality is more exciting than fiction - it is a thought that often came at the head of criminologist and Latin America expert Ernesto Rodríguez Amari during the realization of this interview.
Mexico is in the grip of drugs. Whole cities are dominated by cartels. The police and the army are powerless. Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, is the home of Guzmán, who due to his modest form would go down in history as 'El Chapo' ('The Little One'). The Sinaloa cartel, founded in 1980, is known as the most violent and impenetrable in the world. It operates in over fifty countries and covers the entire drug market: from synthetic drugs for the poor to marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines for everyone, from toothless tramps to the beau monde in the US, Europe and Australia.
That does not happen automatically. The cartel is notorious for the cold-blooded way in which it kills its enemies. It has more than 15,000 security guards, the 'offices' look like military camps, the arsenal of weapons is impressive. The guards claim that they only use force when they are attacked and to protect themselves and their patron. In addition, the cartel charges its hired killers to sow fear and terror. Some have hundreds of deaths on the counter. And the Mexicans? They no longer look up when their street is pinned down for yet another murder investigation. Anyone who could do anything about the murders will be bribed or killed - including the police.
The transport of the drugs to the United States is tightly organized. At first hundreds of couriers drive small amounts of drugs hidden in hidden spaces to transport houses close to the border. From there they cross the border into cars loaded with hundreds of kilos of drugs. Every day, the cartel exports around 500 kilos. The entire border region has been bribed. Once the drugs are delivered in the US, the couriers return with weapons to Mexico. Other methods are more 'traditional': women are sent across the border with half a kilo of heroin in their vagina. Men need a backpack with kilos of marijuana through the desert, for a 300-kilometer trek. Reward: about 1000 dollars a day, but the risk of dying on the go is huge. Cartel members who lose or are robbed of their goods,
In that world, Latin American specialist Ernesto Rodríguez Amari just ended up when, after a long urging, he got a message: Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, the son of El Chapo, wanted to meet him. 'El Chapito' ('The little one'), as he is called affable, runs the Sinaloa cartel since his father was arrested in January 2016.
Rodríguez Amari was not ready for his test piece. Earlier he interviewed Juan Pablo Escobar, son of Pablo Escobar of the Colombian Medellin cartel, and William Rodríguez Abadia, son of Miguel Rodríguez Oreguelo of the competing Cali cartel. The big difference is that Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar took over the work of his father and is currently one of the most wanted drug lords in the world.
The interviews with those big names, as well as the Knack reports about the Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and about his stay in a camp of the Colombian rebel movement FARC, aroused confidence with Ivan Guzmán Salazar. He agreed for his first interview ever.
"Since his father's imprisonment, Guzmán Salazar lives far away from public life," says Rodríguez Amari. 'The conditions for the interview were extremely strict. No cell phone, no camera, nothing but pen and paper, and at a location far away from the civilized world. I agreed with my contact in what I would consider a hotel in onecity. I had to leave my mobile there. I was blindfolded and put in a car. After a long drive I met him: Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar. El Chapito is short of substance: he limits himself to short answers and does not allow him to quickly look at his cards. The weapons in his environment are more shocking than his words. He looks like an ordinary man: money, nice cars and his loved ones are central. ' Guzmán Salazar does not care much about his 'work': everything he says can be used against his father in the trial.
"The government accuses me of killing six soldiers in 2016," El Chapito says. "That may be the reason why I must now mourn the loss of Luis Alfonso Murillo Acosta, my security guard. The last days many people of my organization have been murdered because of those accusations. I think it is unjust: the government knows that I have not done this. '
Mr. Guzmán Salazar, you are called 'El Chapito'. There is no clearer reference to your father. How does it feel to be the son of El Chapo?
Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar: I feel honored and am very happy to say that he is my father. For me, my father is my best friend, and he will always stay that way. His mantra during my upbringing was: family is the highest good. He cherished his family, and did not expect anything else from his children. Everyone talks about 'El Chapo' or 'El Patron' when they talk about Joaquin Guzmán, but I can say 'mi apa' ( Spanish pet name for 'father', ed.) , And I'm proud of that. My father is a man with character, and so the outside world knows him too, but he is also a loving man who was very closely involved with his family.
Last winter your father was extradited to the United States. Images of the moment when he stepped on the plane handcuffed around the world. How did you feel about that?
Guzmán Salazar: I felt tremendous pain. I wanted to cry, but I told myself that I had to stay strong. I do not know if I ever get the chance to see him. My father had placed his trust in the hands of the Mexican government, and she handed him over to the Americans as a trophy. I can never forgive them. I miss my father terribly, and it hurts me to know that he does not get a fair trial in the US.
The El Chapo series runs on Netflix . In it, the Sinaloa cartel is very large and cruelly proposed. Is that consistent with reality?
Guzmán Salazar: I can not answer that. I have not seen the series, nor am I going to ever look at it. The makers like to invent a lot of stories so that their series would sell well.
You speak to the imagination: you are a heavyweight in the global drug world.
"If I were important and had a lot of power, I would not have to hide constantly?"
Guzmán Salazar: Are you sure you mean me? (chuckles) I do not have the ambition to be important, and I do not consider myself important at all. If I were and I would have a lot of power, then I would not have to hide constantly? You should ask my girlfriend how I live.
I will say it differently. There is a violent war between the Sinaloa cartel and the Mexican government.
Guzmán Salazar: Yes, and that will always be so. It is the work of the government to fight us. She gets the commission from the people to fight against the drug cartels. She fights us, but also all other cartels that in her eyes operate outside the limits of legality.
The Sinaloa cartel would have 15,000 security agents.
Guzmán Salazar: I can not give details about the exact number, but there are many people who protect me and my family.
The cartel is known for its enormous arsenal of weapons. Which weapons do you own?
Guzmán Salazar: Someone defends himself when needed, but I do not want to say anything more about that.
In 2016 the house of your grandmother was attacked, there were several deaths. Was that an indirect attack on your father, by wanting to meet his mother?
Guzmán Salazar: People without any respect have tried to touch my grandmother. An attack on a weak person is particularly cowardly. Such attackers have no friendship, no loyalty, no values or norms. Their ambition is so great that they are able to sacrifice everything and everyone. Fortunately my grandmother stayed in good health, that's the most important thing.
You were also kidnapped during that period. Who was behind it?
Guzmán Salazar: I will not mention names - even more, I do not even think about it. The only lesson I learned from this is that I can not trust anyone, not even my own shadow. Fortunately, the people who have kidnapped me have respected my life. That is the only reason why I am still with my family and friends.
Are the rumors that there is a war in progress with drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero? (Quintero is one of the founders of the Guadalajara cartel.) He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1985 for the murder of the American drug agent Kiki Camarena and was released in 2013. He would stay in the mountains of Sierra Madre in Sinaloa, ed.)
Guzmán Salazar: I do not know that man. I have never seen him in the flesh. A lot is told about him, but I do not feel like talking about it since I never met him.
Let's talk about your northern neighbors. President Donald Trump speaks hard language. He wants to step up the fight against the cartels.
Guzmán Salazar: He will never win the battle from us. We are much stronger than he is. If the Americans were to start attacking the cartels in their own country - but of course they are doing everything they can to avoid shooting themselves. They focus on Latin America to distract attention from themselves. The Americans will never take responsibility for the violence and misery you see here.
In large parts of the world - also in Belgium - the legalization of some drugs is advocated. What would that mean for you?
Guzmán Salazar: It certainly will not be for the coming years. A legalization would not suit many parties. There are political and economic disadvantages for both the government and the cartels. Even if the government legalises drugs, a black economy will continue to exist. By that time a new product will be produced that will be traded in black.
Rumor has it that your father has helped some South American presidents to power. Is that right?
Guzmán Salazar: My father helped people, but I can not name names.
"The Mexican government has handed my father over to the Americans as a trophy. I can never forgive them. "
It is sometimes said that the best organized mafia are the Mexican politicians. Do you think that way?
Guzmán Salazar: I do not know if they are the most organized, but at least they are the most legitimate mafia. She has the real power. I can confirm that Mexican politicians use that power for their own sake.
Does the Mexican state have economic connections with the drug cartels in Mexico?
Guzmán Salazar: I do not want to say anything about that, because I have nothing to do with it. This is another example of a rumor that is widely distributed by those TV series.
In early July there are presidential elections in Mexico. Who would you vote for?
Guzmán Salazar: I have no longer the right to vote, I will not see them in a voting booth. (laughs) I can do more for my people without having to express my political preference.
Just back to your father. Despite the many victims of drug violence, he is being carried by many people in Culiacan and other poor regions. How did that happen?
Guzmán Salazar: My father was very loved by the people in Culiacan. He grew up there, he knew the people. Those who could not support his family were helped by my father. The people of Culiacan know very well that he only wants to protect himself and our family. He who did nothing to my father was left alone by him. He is greatly missed there.
You are apparently also a philanthropist. Is it true that you donated $ 1 million to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico early this year?
Guzmán Salazar: A man does what he can, but I have never liked to say what I do. It is normal for a person to help. You should not talk too much about that.
In the El Chapo series , we see how your father scatters thousands of red roses over your brother's coffin when it is carried to his grave. Did your father really do that?
Guzmán Salazar: My brother liked giving red roses to people, he was known for that. When he died, hundreds of villagers have given red roses to my father. And yes, it is true that my father bought all the other red roses that were to be found in the area to rub them on my brother's grave.
Several newspapers write that your family is no longer willing to pay your father's lawyers. What is that about?
Guzmán Salazar: It is not true that we do not want to pay lawyers. The problem is that my father does not get a fair trial. He has not yet had a chance to speak with his lawyers. Only in court did he meet them, as far as I understood them. How can you fall back on lawyers and expect a fair trial if your lawyers do not even have the opportunity to talk to you?
May I talk about your private life? You are wanted by the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, Interpol, and the military, police and intelligence services of Mexico. That is not a life?
Guzmán Salazar: It is their job to look for me, and it is my job to hide. I am aware that this will be the pattern for the rest of my life.
Does anyone like you have a fraction of a family life? Do you have a girlfriend?
Guzmán Salazar: I have a girlfriend - at least, I hope so anyway. She is the daughter of a distant family. She lives in a different Mexican state. Because of the distance and the accusations of the government it is not easy to see each other. Moreover, she has informed her mother about our relationship, and that makes it all the more difficult. Her mother accuses me of human trafficking, and told her daughter that I will kidnap her. A terrible reproach is that. I am against human trafficking, I totally disagree with the way women are treated. I have tried to convince her mother of this, but I have not succeeded yet. I love my girlfriend a lot, and it makes me angry that I'm suspected of making her unhappy. I would never do anything to people I love.
Do you ever use drugs yourself?
Guzmán Salazar: Yes
Would you allow your children to use drugs?
Guzmán Salazar: Never!
What do you deal with during your free time?
Guzmán Salazar: I play soccer a bit - I could do it more often. And I love my Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bentleys. I also love my thoroughbred horses. And as I said, my family is my long life. I like to eat out with them or with friends.
Between us: is it true that you love lions?
Guzmán Salazar: That's right. I once got a cub, and in the meantime he has become a big lion. He is my mascot.
Even if it is fake it still paints an interesting picture of how people view those like Ivan, and how they suspect they conduct themselves. Clearly the writer has some romanticized views as many do on criminal life, as though Ivan is the next Robin Hood playboy philanthropist.
However, who is to say that's not the case. One requires some modicum of intelligence to manage an organization of that size, and philanthropy and image play a central role in winning over public support. It's foolish for those of us on the outside to assume all criminals are uneducated brutes after all.
At which point, if the interview is real - which is clearly unlikely - it certainly sheds some light too.